“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.” Mahatma Gandhi
When I was a university student in English Literature, I learned of a literary device known as the ‘Objective Correlative’ in which writers of fiction would create difficult circumstances in the outer world of their story to mirror the conflicts and challenges their main characters were undergoing internally and interpersonally.
I wondered at the time how one could possibly keep the metaphors trapped between the covers of a book. Weren’t all objective events in some way reflective of our conscious or unconscious beliefs –– individually and/or collectively –– just as our dreams mirror our minds?
Then, in 2005, I read a remarkable New Yorker article entitled, ‘Hogs Wild’ about a national environmental catastrophe in which, “suddenly, feral swine are everywhere.” And everywhere they were, the swine lay waste to the environment –– much like what occurs through the unconscionable, insatiable piggishness of predatory capitalism, which a Google search reveals, “refers to cultural acceptance of domination and exploitation as normal economic practice.”
This analogy may seem far-fetched to some. However, at one point in the New Yorker piece, author Ian Frazier described meeting an expert on the wild pig problem who had a large map indicating precisely where these feral beasts were ravenously devouring and denuding the landscape.
Frazier was startled to notice that the wild hog map looked a whole lot like a Red State/Blue State map. The swine were contentedly eating and breeding away in the Red states. And where a state was politically divided, the feral pigs lived primarily in the Red areas. In fact, the presence of the pigs was a highly reliable indicator for the outcome of an election.
Here, at last, was a perfect example of a metaphor that had escaped the pages of a book: An ‘Objective Correlative’ had been unleashed upon the world like a genie from a bottle and was now running rampant, carving a path of destruction across the nation.
Does ‘Reality’ Actually Emerge from the Inside Out?
It’s really quite illuminating when we get to see the degree to which human consciousness affects the environment –– not only through direct impact but also indirectly in ways that can seem both comical and horrible all at the same time.
It is essential, however, to remember that there is no particular political party, religious ideology, nationality, ethnicity or any other category of humanity that is singularly and reliably responsible for all of our problems. It is when human nature, itself, goes ‘hog wild’ that it gets us into so much trouble.
To put it in the language of poetic metaphor –– it is when our needs and greeds grow wild like weeds that they overflow our lives and spill into the lives of other beings like invasive species that overgrow a garden causing everything else to go to seed. This is an unchanging Law of Nature. It is not a law drafted in the Halls of Congress and subjected to a multitude of equivocating, self-interested interpretations and spin.
The irony in all of this is that a feral humanity is an absolute necessity for the creation of unbridled prosperity for those at the top of our lopsided economy. And this clearly requires that we, the people, be continually bombarded and seduced by propagandistic ‘ads’ into believing that we must constantly add to our already too many possessions in order to induce that elusive sense of Feel-Full-ment at least temporarily.
The false belief we have fallen prey to so completely is that with enough ‘goods’ we may one day be ‘good enough’ ourselves. And the result of our wholesale subscription to this costly illusion is that the literal ground of our being is now so completely littered by a toxic heap of abandoned ‘stuff’ that, ‘everything required for just our minimal subsistence has been compromised so thoroughly it threatens our existence.’ [Quoted from Gifts of Presence, my Holiday poem, available on my YouTube channel].
With such upside down and backward programming running our personal ‘operating system,’ we cannot help but contribute to the problems we encounter locally, nationally and globally. For in the words ascribed to Gautama Buddha, “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.’
What this says to me is that we can make a positive –– or negative –– difference in the world simply by what we hold in our own consciousness and empower with the intensity of our emotions in the seeming privacy of our minds and homes. It is the Inner that begets the Outer, which is why the 20th C. British commentator and broadcaster, J. B. Priestly stated, “Like its politicians and its wars, society has the teenagers it deserves.”
Will the World Ever Work for Everyone?
President-elect Joe Biden promised to be an American president –– not one exclusively at the service of his political party’s agenda. Similarly, Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris –– a multi-ethnic daughter of immigrants, married to a Jewish man –– seems to be well poised to represent our colorful nation of immigrants, which includes every non-indigenous one of us even if our forbearers arrived on the Mayflower.
Yet, even if the new administration and Congress were to work together so successfully and idealistically that they were able to create the most enlightened, morally just and benevolent political system the world has ever seen –– it would still quickly rise or fall to match the dominant consciousness in society. And each one of us is a determining factor in that outcome.
Today, the extremely tenuous tenets of democracy that are still operational in the United States are under serious threat of disappearing entirely in the face of decades of wrong-headed, self-interested choices made on behalf of corporations rather than the people who call this nation ‘Home.’ For as the 20th C Italian fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini, so succinctly put it, “Fascism should more properly be called corporatism, since it is the merger of state and corporate power.”
Our new leaders –– if they are actually inaugurated, and if they remain true to their stated intentions –– will be facing powerful winds of opposition as they endeavor to reverse and heal some of the many transgressions committed against the people by a multitude of previous administrations on behalf of their corporate ‘handlers.’
So, as we stand on the verge of what many hope will be a national re-set toward a more equitable and compassionate society, what we need first and foremost to recognize is that, “We the People” are the Saviors we’ve been seeking.
It is up to us to make the difference we want to see in the world. And the most effective strategy for elevating circumstances –– from the personal to the global –– is to endeavor consistently to elevate our consciousness to meet the challenges of our time. By so doing we will better equip ourselves with the illumined insights and heart-centered humility necessary to take direct and effective action in the outer world on behalf of us all and, most specifically, our sorely oppressed minorities.
Cultivating Soul Power
So, here is another interesting and highly relevant metaphor that takes us right back to the Garden: Mr. Biden, as only the 2nd Catholic president in our history, will likely recite the rosary frequently to receive the guidance he needs to effectively govern a nation torn to tatters by divisive and incendiary rhetoric and policy.
The word rosary, which refers both to a form of devotion in the Roman Catholic Church and the beads with which people perform it, comes from the Latin word rosarium, which translates as rose garden in English. Thus, metaphorically speaking, rosaries are, ‘a garden of prayers for the little garden of the Soul.’
By whatever means we each choose to nurture our own sacred Soul garden, the truth remains the same: The more we cultivate the self-awareness that will liberate us from our conditioned and divisive prejudices, biases, judgments and addictive desires –– the more we can live with wisdom, beauty, joy and compassion in ways that enrich the common-wealth of all Beings.
So, here’s a prayer to invoke and share with others (providing the recent election results withstand the ongoing assaults now Trumpeting loudly from Capitol Hill):
May President-elect Biden be so tempered by a lifetime of loss and suffering that his empathy dominates his policy. And may the tenderness of his heart confer the grace and gratitude required to begin healing the great divide not only between the Red and the Blue, but between people of every background and hue –– with Liberty and Justice for All. And may all of our hearts be enlightened through our participation in this restorative process –– in large and small ways –– all the days of our lives.