The subersive act of Grief

It might seem counter intuitive to imagine that grief can be healing, but at our workshop on Saturday, Gathering the Bones, we took our fingers our of the dam that had been holding back some surprising and overwhelming emotions. The word “emotion”, contains the word “motion”, something that must move through us or get stuck, paralysed or calcified. Just because we don’t let it move doesn’t mean it isn’t there, a darkness that suffocates us at 3 a.m.  Someone said that grief is the other side of love, love for something we have lost or something we are losing. 
Joanna Macy, (The Work that Reconnects) declares that grief is deeply subversive. The Industrial Growth Society does not want us to grieve or feel our pain. It wants us to numb it by offering pharmaceutical remedies, retail therapy, a package holiday, all of which require that we keep on earning, suffering and consuming. It is a horribly cruel system that keeps us captive. We “came to terms” with it on Saturday, naming it and putting it firmly in our view, and thought how important it is to keep talking about it because until we become conscious of how poisonous the Industrial Growth society is, it remains a dark blur in our peripheral vision, disappearing the moment we turn our heads to look. 
We got into pairs, one of us being a person in the present, one being a person 200 years in the future. The person from the future asked us questions like this: “Ancestor, how good it is to meet you. We have stories and songs about you. We re-enact your deeds. I really want to ask you, how did you keep on going when there were so many obstacles, so much loss and discouragement. What inspired you to continue standing up for species and future generations you will never meet?” These questions brought motion to our emotions and also tears, relief and a fresh determination to continue walking towards a new humanity and a new vision of the future. We will offer the workshop again, so if this is something that you feel might be helpful to you, please come along.

Rapunzel – What a Tangle.

It was quite a sight this morning, seeing the scarecrow model of a prince, climbing up the church tower on a long braid of Rapunzel’s hair. It is St Mary’s Scarecrow festival in Linton,  and the theme is Fairy tales but you should always be very, very careful with your Fairy tales because they are mythic, and myth always points to deep and unsettling truth.  The myth of Rapunzel, sanitised first by the Brothers Grimm, then by Disney (Tangled), is a story that would make a gangster blush. Briefly, Rapunzel’s Mum, pregnant with Rapunzel, had a craving for rampion, (from which Rapunzel’s name is derived) so her husband steals the herb from the neighbouring witch’s garden. This infuriates the witch who demands that once the baby is born, it must be given to her. The parents agree (!) and the witch imprisons the girl in a high tower that has no stair or door. The witch brings Rapunzel all she needs by climbing Rapunzel’s long hair. One day a prince hears Rapunzel singing, climbs Rapunzel’s hair and has sex with her on his many visits. The witch finds out, throws the prince from the tower who falls on a thorn bush and gouges out his eyes. The highly pregnant Rapunzel has her hair chopped off and is banished to the desert where she gives birth to twins and years later the blind prince and Rapunzel meet again, she weeps magic tears into his eyes, he regains his sight and they all return to a rapturous welcome at the castle. (All this wildness desported on the church tower as I arrived at the 8am church service this morning was quite diverting, and I am sure the creators of the scarecrows were thinking of a different version than the original.)
Rapunzel is a tale of the imprisoned feminine, fortified against unwanted impregnation and not trusted to take responsibility for itself. The high tower signifies the mind, the cerebral and dominant left hemisphere of our brain where we acquire knowlege without being grounded in intuition and wisdom. Knowlege, as we witness in our disconnected world, is the rampant need for information, the dangerous intellectualising of things without the compassion or imagination to apply knowlege for the well-being of all that is created. Rapunzel is disconnected from the real world high up in her tower and In her naivete, she does not understand why her waist band is getting tight. She pays a high price for her naivete. Presumably she learns very rapidly how to find food in the wild to nourish herself and two babies. The crisis forces Rapunzel to connect with the ground, the earth, and the sustaining elements that means she will survive in the wilderness. She evolves from a coiffured pet in a tower to a hunter gatherer mother, fierce and strong. If she refused to evolve, she and her children would die very quickly. Evolution is like that…transform or die but essential to the process is a threat to life. 
It is a fascinating tale on so many levels and there are many more truths that this myth points to. However I really resonate with this intellectualising of Rapunzel. How many talks and meetings have you sat through where you are inundated with information, when what you actually wanted was to have your heart set on fire. You wanted to hear a story. Almost the minute the speaker begins, you are bored and you shut down. I sometimes give a talk for Extinction Rebellion called “Heading for extinction and what to do about it.” It is a talk full of very good information but I know that if people have got as far as coming to hear this talk, there is a fair chance that they already know a lot of information. What they actually want to hear is how to hold this information, how to bear the grief and how to walk on with “new sight”, the new vision of a frightening future.
Rapunzel stands for our society, trapped in it’s mind, disconnected and unearthed. We are ‘fed’ by a malevolent entity (the media) that reaches us only because of our full cooperation in letting it climb up our hair (read: high speed internet cable) to our head. The world we receive is entirely mediated by this malevolent entity that keeps us absolutely imprisoned but fed and watered . The significance of Rapunzel singing, is that any activity, singing, dancing, drumming, meditating, compells us to take up residency in our own body. These days, apart from sport,most physical activities are consigned to the edges and attended by those hippy types: Drum workshops, freedom dancing, singing groups. They are few and far between unless you go to a houseparty, a rave or a concert.  But significantly Rapunzel’s singing leads to sex, a potent way to reside in a body, then to pregnancy and childbirth. She transforms very rapidly from virgin intellectual to ravished hunter gatherer. Mind you, there is a lot of suffering. The blind prince stumbles around in a forest for years, Rapunzel is banished to the desert. Suffering is a powerful transformer, but true and lasting change will never occur if we find ways of avoiding or numbing the pain by substance abuse, vengeful bitterness or by sheer busyness. Grief is a deeply subversive act. The Industrial Growth Society does not want us to grieve or feel our pain. It wants us to numb it by offering pharmaceutical remedies, retail therapy, a package holiday, all of which require that we keep on earning, suffering and consuming. It is a horribly cruel system that keeps us captive.