the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window
and a high tide reflected on the ceiling?
There will be dying, there will be dying,
but there is no need to go into that.
The poems flow from the hand unbidden
and the hidden source is the watchful heart.
The sun rises in spite of everything
and the far cities are beautiful and bright.
I lie here in a riot of sunlight
watching the day break
and the clouds flying.
Everything is going to be all right.
- Derek Mahon
There is no irony intended in the title of this writing. I borrow the line from Mahon's poem but with the sincerest of intentions, taking the title and the words of the poem to mean exactly what I want to convey to you.
Yes, we live in the craziest of times when all of our media are dominated by a narcissistic, xenophobic, incoherent, immoral, misogynistic bully. Yes, as of this writing, this most unlikely of candidates for the office of President of our country -- this would-be cartoon character could actually become the leader of the free world and a potential spokesman for western democracy. Yes, many people fall under his dictator-like spell, while saying they just cannot vote for the other person because she lies (an accusation that gains momentum with the "assistance" of the FBI's unethical, incompetent, stupid, or all three combined handling of the investigation of her emails).
Yes, I know. All those things are true and would have been unbelievable only a year ago. But so is the title of my blog also unbelievable, you may think. Is this just an attempt at a pollyanna, feel-good statement? How can I say that "Everything is going to be all right"?
Before I answer that question, however, let me tell you what I think has happened to us. You have heard about or have witnessed a group of people who collectively become agitated, irrational, and extremist in their behavior and speech, e.g., "mob violence," lynchings, book burnings, and other bizarre group phenomena. The dictionary defines these as "mass hysteria" or "collective hysteria," which is a kind of collective obsessional behavior. Carl Jung would call them a collective complex. They arise in groups where there exists fear, vulnerability, deprivations, and the need for some person or group to assume a role of savior, offering a better way of life as well as the defeat and banishment of persons or groups seen as outsiders, aliens, who have caused the suffering.
As with the individual psychological complex, the collective complex, or mass hysteria, is a form of psychic possession. The ego that acts like the executive function of the individual is taken over by a sub-personality, a "splinter psyche," in an individual, leading to a psychological complex. You are familiar with the examples: the inferiority complex, power complex, mother or father complex, etc. These strong "moods" are emotionally toned psychological states that carry their own ideas, images, memories of hurts, rejections, traumas, and profoundly emotional occasions in the individual's life. In such a state of mind, the person may say things like, "I'm not myself today," "I don't know what got into me," "Something led me to do or say that."
But in the state of mass hysteria, it is as if there is a psychic infection in which members of a group collectively become "carried away" with some deep emotion, image, and idea. Usually those individuals are driven by a common fear, a sense of danger, an explanation for their situation, a common charismatic leader who fans the flames of their emotions, offers up other persons, groups, or races to blame, and calls for obedience and commitment to himself/herself as the "one" who can save them.
This is a form of "bewitchment." The collective group is caught in a "spell," a state of enchantment, mesmerized by the "ring master" who charms, appeals to their lower instinctual life, energizes the frenzy of the people with incantations in a liturgy of deliverance, and assures them that He/She alone understands them, cares for them, and can make possible a better life for them as they collectively rid themselves of the inferior elements that threaten their way of life.
Do not expect to reason with an individual in a personal complex, or any member of a group caught in the bewitching ideology of mass hysteria. Do not expect those persons to be able to consider alternative ideas. Do not expect them to be able to reflect upon themselves, their feelings, their beliefs -- no matter how irrational and dangerous they may be.
So why do I offer this hope for us, "Everything is going to be all right"? Let me answer metaphorically first. Only in the darkness can we see the stars, and the greater the darkness, the more brilliant the stars. And this is who we are, star gazers. Throughout the eons of time on this earth, human beings have taken comfort from the stars. Over the seas, through the deep forests, across the dry sands of the desert, stars have shown through the darkness to guide us toward our destiny.
This "darkness" I am referring to metaphorically is composed of the deranged political madness filling our media 24/7, the religious fundamentalist dogmas, the seemingly insatiable greed for money and things, the talking-heads that divide us with their pseudo-knowledge, and the deliberate abuse of our natural habitat. All of these are anchored within the mass hysteria that has possessed our people, but more and more these toxic elements of our common life are being seen for what they are. As they spend themselves in the reckless exhaustions of their ultimate triviality, this mass hysteria will collapse, dispelling the darkness.
And the stars. They are the beacons that have brought us along thus far: reason, compassion for fellow human beings, a love of Mystery, a drive for the creative interaction with our social, spiritual, and natural environments. These make up what it means to be human. They are the stars that will eventually win out and appear with their centuries-old brilliance, guiding us on past this moment that will linger only as a fascinating, somewhat humorous, somewhat scary chapter in our book of history.
And when the stars appear, we will be able to take care of those issues that have been obscured by the darkness of our collective hysteria: our racism, the gap between rich and poor, the destruction of our environment, the collapse of our infra-structure, the decay of our schools, the loss of an appropriate balance between state and religion, etc.
"How should we not be glad to contemplate the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window... ?"