Friday, September 25, 2009

Choose Your Fairy Tale


We have a neighbor, up here on this rugged East Bluff, who built a home shortly after we moved into our place. He's a retired dairy farmer, a bachelor, a curmudgeon, clever-minded, hard-working, helpful and dead set on his opinion of how the world operates. Most of the time we get along just fine and we humor each others differences. But sometimes he loses his temper with me, typically when I try to explain why I interact with horses the way I do in response to him telling me I should handle them more like he feels "livestock" should be handled. I suppose my failure to embrace his experience with cattle as something transferable to our horses seems like an insult to him and this is what makes him hot-headed. Surely, I have no desire to insult anyone and sometimes (like this past Sunday) I am surprised to find that I have provoked his ire.

The half-Sorraia yearling colt, Animado

While attempting to explain the subtleties of herd dynamics, especially when a stallion is present, anger flushed over him--he cut me abruptly off with a spurious ranting. Among a spewing of dagger sharp words he aimed at me were these: "You read too many fairy tales!"

I was not so much slain by the words themselves, rather, it was the strange vehemence in his eyes as the words were spoken. I realized, fully for the first time, that this man finds me absurdly incompetent.

I'm nearly 49 years old and unaccustomed to being harshly scolded like a misbehaving child, but there was no point in arguing with him. And anyhow, he is right, I do read "fairy tale" books...but that doesn't make my interactions with horses wrong.

The half-Sorraia yearling colt, Interessado

Many philosophers and esoteric sages tell us that humans create their own realities, in that the morals, ethics, religions, lifestyles, etc. are agreements made by a collective of humans which aim to explain the natural phenomenon of the world and provide structure and meaning to their daily lives.

Historically, every culture has its myths, superstitions and irrational suppressions which modern humans tend to think of as primitive, quaint, out-moded expressions of a limited reality. After the Renaissance, the "Age of Reason" propelled the collective mindset into a belief that science could provide humans a more accurate accounting of the world--and so it indeed seemed to do, with gnomes, fairies, ghosts, demons, gods and goddesses vanishing like a dream from which we'd awakened. Empirically gained insights were replaced with rationalism, deductive reasoning supplanted sensory perception and the long-held hierarchy of male domination knitted these into a new reality which we find ourselves perpetuating even today.

The half-Sorraia yearling filly, Fada

But is it not simply a new mythos...this supposed rationalist reality? Just one possibility of the way things appear to be? It seems to me that superstitions and irrationality are as much a feature of our rationalizations and scientific methodologies and take us even further away from whatever universal truths there might be.

Recently, I heard a CBC radio news program alert its listeners that new evidence has been discovered that there are a myriad of microbes living in bathroom shower heads which scientists now believe are responsible for a great number of human ills. We are being instructed to get into the routine of replacing our shower heads every three months. Our demons have become the bacteria we have coevolved with hundreds of thousands of years, our gods have become the manufacturers of the medications and appliances that will protect us from the harm of these evil organic entities.

The half-Sorraia yearlings, with Mistral, at the mineral block

I'm not denying that there are germs that are harmful to the human body, but I am opting out of a collective mindset that is creating a reality that we must chemically armor ourselves against the natural world. Our hyper-sanitation habits are making us unfit to cope with organic living. It is a myth to think we are safer today from germs than we were even just a hundred years ago. We've exchanged one type of hobgoblin for another. What we believe in strongly enough has a knack of becoming our reality and seems to represent the "truth" of things. But is it?

My neighbor sees the world as belonging to humans, which have earned the say on how to best make use of all that surrounds us. Animals are brutes that must be controlled and put to use to further the cause of mankind. He is not seems most of the humans walking upright around this earthen sphere have decided this is the true reality of things and that it is in our nature to behave in this way. Archaeological discoveries have been presented to us in such a way as to have us believe that cooperative societies were rare and dominator societies, based on meat consumption, patriarchy and violent power grabs represent what is normal behavior for humans. The actual science behind such summations is as reductionist as any primitive cosmology. This "reality" we have been cultured into is based on a limited view of the world and its potential. It is just one of many "fairy tale books".


I'm chosing to read different fairy create and live a different reality (in as much as I can and yet participate on the fringe of modern human society). In my reality, horses come alive with personality, feeling, dreams and desires. The horses are beings with whom which I can have relations based on sensory perception, rational deduction and the development of a coexisting intellectual communication that incorporates body, mind and spirit. Why limit it to brute force and hierarchical domination--that is so prevalent in the "fairy tale" my neighbor subscribes to?

At the mineral block, with Zeus, too

Remember there was a time when the collective beliefs of many humans determined that Afro-American slaves were incapable of higher intelligence and that "coloured" humans were inferior. It would seem that the current President of the United States decided to believe in a different reality, a "fairy tale" begun by others who declared that certain beliefs were unfounded and dedicated their lives to releasing themselves from such limitations as were created from that type of thinking.

I'll keep on living as if "once upon a time" we had a beautiful relationship with the entire world, and it smiled on us with great fondness--so far this is the reality I'm experiencing. It's a good fairy tale and I'm sticking with it!

The Kiger Mustang mare, Ciente


Kris McCormack said...

For some reason this entry reminded me of the work of Byron Katie (author of: 1000 Names for Joy, Loving What Is, I Need Your Love - Is that True?, and others. Katie sometimes asks: Who would you be without your story?

It's an interesting question to contemplate, isn't it?


Lynne Gerard said...

Kris wrote:
"Katie sometimes asks: Who would you be without your story?

It's an interesting question to contemplate, isn't it?"

It certainly is, Kris.
I think it is important to recognize where we come from (cultural upbringing) what our predilections are (things we are drawn to, choices we make, etc.) and how this comes to represent our "identity". It is even more important to not be so wedded to our identity so that when a major change alters the common features of our life (like losing a long-held career position, or suffering illness or accident that makes us unable to do what we used to do) we can create a new story for ourselves.

I believe the sages call this the "art of non-attachment" (which is just one meaning of the term).

Anonymous said...

G.K. Chesterton is the great modern exponent of realizing the fairy-tale-ness of life. I think we all need to realize that we are living in a fairy-tale - each one of us is some weird character in that story (mermaid, old-hag-who-turns-into-beautiful-damsel, goblin, .....) and we all have some fairy-tale task or burden or gift, and the ending always involves a transformation l......

Anonymous said...

At a church discussion group, for some reason we got onto the topic of animals, and I discovered that most of the group members believed that the plants were put here to feed the animals and the animals to feed us. I pointed out that this is not the case in Genesis - even after the Fall, all creatures are still vegetarian. It's only after the Flood that we find the (albeit permissible) mutual exploitation of animals for meat. The group members were surprised by this - your farmer probably thinks that the utility of animals is their primary reason for existence. But that is Plan B. Plan A was a mutually harmonic and respectful co-existence, with Man as the leader perhaps, but most certainly not the oppressor or exploiter. Unfortunately, we simply can't live like that anymore. Every step we take crushes insects, etc. But our modern relationship with horses is not one based on pragmatism or need - therefore we are free to aim higher.

Lynne Gerard said...

June wrote:
"Plan A was a mutually harmonic and respectful co-existence, with Man as the leader perhaps, but most certainly not the oppressor or exploiter."

Keeping in mind that Christianity is also a human constructed "fairy-tale" (and mostly constructed upon elements of other, more ancient fairy tales), it would seem that your brief description of "Plan A" is a reflection of Jainism--though lacking the greater emphasis on universal egalitarianism and the belief that all living things have spirit and therefore the potential for transformation and enlightenment, hence the emphasis on living harmoniously and respectfully among all other entities.

"Unfortunately, we simply can't live like that anymore. Every step we take crushes insects, etc."

For myself, "intent" lies at the heart of living harmoniously, which also accepts there are times of chaos and seeming disorder. It would seem to our senses and perception that it is impossible not to do harm to other living beings, because as you note, just the act of walking can unwittingly kill insects-- but I think it is the content of our intentions as we move through life that determines whether or not we express holism or duality. Aren't we simply part of a flowing reality that comprises life/death/life cycles and what brings us to greater harmony is the quality of our intentions?

Isn't it a bit of a cop-out to suggest humans cannot live harmoniously any more?...we can choose to make our intentions always of the highest order and our actions will follow this path.

"But our modern relationship with horses is not one based on pragmatism or need - therefore we are free to aim higher."

Most of what we humans do is mindlessly attached to a sense of pragmatism and distorted need. The fairy tale of modern man has created quite a economic illusion that we all continue to prop up...and we've made our "needs" incredibly more than what is necessary or healthy. We may not presently see a way out of it (and some don't even want things to be more harmonious) but that doesn't mean that it cannot be done.

Thank you, June, for your provocative comments. You always bring an interesting point of view to the Journal of Ravenseyrie.

Eileen O'Connor said...

Beautiful photos and prose. I was taken or captured by horses, perhaps as a girl, and am now completely in their thrall. I started out wanting to know everything and to gain competence and to solve "problems" but now I am simply imagining a "string of horses" stretched from sea to sea, and dedicated to finding my place in that imagining.

The story you tell of your neighbor perplexes me. I too have seen this "vehemence in his eyes," (and sometimes "her" eyes) and rage expressed by people who seem to feel challenged by the way I feel about horses. I have sometimes thought the lash would fall on me just as readily.

I am working with others in the United States to address the situation involving America's "free, wild-roaming horses and burros" (they are being rounded-up and torn from their homes and bands with increasing vehemence). A part of this struggle that I feel needs to be addressed is the latent, sometimes patent, rage (paranoia, fear) of people like your neighbor. I wonder if you have more to say about this.

Lynne Gerard said...

Eileen wrote:
"A part of this struggle that I feel needs to be addressed is the latent, sometimes patent, rage (paranoia, fear) of people like your neighbor. I wonder if you have more to say about this."

Whenever I find myself in the presence of this type of individual, I remind myself that there is no wall between us...there is no "them" and "us", no duality, no separation. And most often I realize that within the type of closed, angered attitude of another person I can see a bit of my own self, perhaps as I once was regarding some issue I didn't understand, or some concept I feared, and I ask myself, "How would I like to be treated when I am mistaken and acting out of fear and anger?" I would like to be empathetically shown a different way, not punished or ridiculed for my lack of understanding.

Thinking further on what you said reminded me of something I'd read long ago in a book by survivalist Tom Brown, Jr. titled, The Vision.

During a vision quest inspired by a befriended Native American he calls Grandfather, Brown heard the voice of an elder provide insight into dealing with people who are caught up in destructive thinking and actions.

I'd like to quote some excerpts for us to contemplate:

"People have lost their connection to the wilderness but desperately need its power. They have strayed from the earth and all the purity of Creation. Their souls so desperately search to fill the void. At once the earth intrigues and nurtures them, but their toys and gadgets, whether of play or religion, for they need some of their external distraction and reality to hold on to. That way they will never be forced to confront themselves, or the lies of their fleshly lives."

But how can I reach them? I asked. "Some you can reach, more you cannot," the voice said. "Their fear is too great, their insensitivity too strong. Their belief in external riches far outweighs any promise of spiritual fulfillment. They seek only the instant gratifications of life and will never slow down long enough to look inside themselves, especially deep enough to find the purity of 'oneness.' It is beyond their comprehension." Is there no hope? I asked. "There is hope," the voice continued, "but we much reach them on a level that will affect them the most. We must teach them first, then allow the heart to lead them back to the earth. There is always hope, for in the heart of each person there is the place of connection to the earth. You cannot force this change on them with hatred and violence, only with patience and love.

Much of human misunderstanding and deleterious actions comes from living superficially and perpetuating unexamined habitual behavior. Perhaps our roles, Eileen, are to simply illuminate different paths, different habits, different interactions and to do so from the heart of love and nurturing...circumventing direct confrontation, yet persisting in demonstrating the potential for more holistic living.

Thank you for taking time to leave your comments here, Eileen. I appreciate this very much!

JEN-SKA said...

I love your fairy tale Lynne! What a heaven on earth are you living in <3

Thank you for your blog, it is full of wisdom (and wonderful pictures!)! I found it from Stormy's blog and it has been very harmful for my work in past few days as I've mostly been reading this, not doing my job.. :)

Jenny from Finland

Lynne Gerard said...

Thank you for following the link in Stormy May's blog which led you to Ravenseyrie and to reading this journal entry.

Every time I get a comment coming in on an older journal entry, it gives me an opportunity to revisit what I've written and view photos that were taken during that earlier time and see what still feels relevant and what may have evolved for me already.

The concept of choosing how we prefer to perceive our lives remains a viable concept for me, even though sometimes life seems overwhelming with difficult choices.

Thank you so much, Jenny, for reading and taking a moment to leave a comment. Good luck keeping a balance between work and reading!

Believe in goodness prevailing.