Suspension of Skyfall
I watched the new Bond movie, Skyfall recently. After the film, I was haunted by one thread in particular. It was a short thread in the middle of the film, in which Bond promisses to protect a woman if she helps him. She accepts, helps him, and he allows her to come to a horrible end, proving seconds later that he had the heroic power to save her. He shows no remorse for his failure; in fact, the woman is never mentioned again. He goes on to leave a trail of bodies behind him until, in the climactic scene, he exacts lethal revenge against the villain for a murder that occurred just before the opening scene of the film. By this point, I too had forgotten about the woman and found myself cheering for the big red balls of fire and the aforementioned act of lethal vengence.
Afterwards I thought about the woman and felt angry and let down. Not just by Bond but by my own mind. How could I have sat through that film and allowed those images to seep into my poor elephant? What did they do to him? We know from studies published since the late 1980's (at least ones that I found on the net) that depictions of sexual violence against women decreases empathy for victims of sexual violence. As a member of the SolSeed movement, I allowed my elephant to be exposed to scenes that drain its empathy. How can I counter that? And worse still, I actually cheered for the big red firefalls and for vengence. These are the very downward spirals that Paul Krafel warned me about.
Yet these stories are all around me, on my friends Facebook pages, in advertisements on the bus, in novels, in television shows, in movies. How my elephant must be being beaten over the head with messages telling it that violence, and venegence are wonderous, and that life is expendable and with cynical messages that the world is doomed and there is nothing I can do to save it? Sometimes it feels like I have to delude myself in order to maintain positive energy. But what if I am being deluded by all these messages? Wait a minute! I know I am being deluded by at least some of these messages. Violence and vengence are not wonderous, they are dirty downward spirals that I should not be allowing my soul to touch. Life is precious; not expendable. So why should I believe the cynical messages?
Moreover, if I am deluded at a deep visceral level, how can I clear away the brainwashing. Especially if it keeps flowing in every day. In a downward spiral friends become enemies. It is true. Colleagues at work say things that espouse cynical values. They have been sucked into the sink hole of the downward spiral and are trying to pull me after them. To counter this I need to bathe my elephant with the values I aspire to hold. I need to use the tools that work on my elephant; the same tools that our culture is using against me. I need stories and music and heroes that teach my elephant the values skepticism about cynicism, hope, individual empowerment, possibilities, love on the widest possible circle of care.
But the widest possible circle of care is abstract and my mind is socially evolved to love individuals not abstractions. This is why humanity invented God. To personify the abstract and allow them to gain a personal relationship with the abstractions that matter. Yet we needn't believe in James Bond to be affected by his story so why should we have to believe in Gaia in order to be affected by the story we choose for her to tell? We suspend disbelief for Bond why should we not suspend disbelief for Gaia. Please join me for a guided meditation:
Please close your eyes and imagine you are in a rich green forest. Dappled sunlight filters down through the thick boughs above you and plays on the bracken by your feet. Dark green moss coats the tree trunks. There is a lake nearby and the light reflected from the waves dances about in the trees echoing the sunlight on the ground.
Your elephant is grazing on the abundance beside you. You can feel his warm rough flank with your hand. He looks at you with his keen grey eye and you feel his love for you. Look into his eye and feel your love for him. You are him and he is you and your love for each other is your self love from which wells up all your compassion and caring for this forest.
Now you notice the moss on a nearby tree has shadows in it that resemble the form a strong, proud woman. The shadows shift as you walk toward the moss, accompanied by your curious elephant and you see that they are not projected onto the moss but that the moss itself is in the shape of the woman. But as you step closer, you see that your eyes were fooled for there is a woman standing half in the moss and she is looking at you. Now she steps toward you with such grace and power that you know you are in the presence of someone more noble than anyone you have ever met before. But you feel no fear or intimidation for she is so full of love and caring that you can feel it exuding toward you. In her presence, your breath feels clean and pure, any thirst or hunger you felt is satiated and replaced with a feeling of calm joy.
And you speak to her, "Gaia help me instill in my elephant a deep respect for all the Life that struggled through eons here on Earth to create all the Life that is. Help us to love, with every instinctive reaction, all the Life that is, not only the oaks and whales and gibbons who feed our imaginations but also the poison ivy and leaches and lice which challenge the borders of our circle of care."
And she speaks to you, "Well spoken little one." and she turns to your elephant, "You know in your heart that when you act out of respect for all life that is, I approve. You know that when you slip and consume more possibilities than you necessary or cheer for a downward spiral, I am here to clean your soul and gently guide you back to the right path. You know the right path and you can anticipate my approval when you think about walking it. You desire my approval so strongly. Let that social desire guide your step."
Your elephant is enthralled by her speech and her beauty and her nobility. You speak to her again, "Help us to see with every glance not just what is but what can be. Remind us when we see some wiggling, creeping creature scurrying across the ground that our ancestors were once vermiform some 500 millions years ago. Show us what possibilities 500 more million years might draw from that tiny being."
And Gaia replies, "You know your history, brave rider." and she caresses your elephant's forehead as she speaks, looking directly into its eyes, "Can you imagine the miraculous possibilities that I can bring forth in far less than 500 million years?" She reaches into the thick leaf mold on the forest floor and holds up a millipede, "In 100 million years, I could shape this tiny crawler into a majestic flyer with wings wide enough and breasts strong enough to carry even you aloft, elephant." She snatches a fly out of the air and opens her hand. The fly contentedly cleans its eyes with its forelegs while resting on her graceful hand. "In 50 million years, I could teach this little flyer to build computers and rockets and compose operas." With the slightest undulation of her palm, she sets the fly aloft and then she reaches down and picks a seed from a poison ivy plant, "In 10 million years, with the help of minds like yours, I can teach this seed to grow almost anywhere in the universe."
Your elephant trumpets proudly. You speak to her again, "Help us to relax our worries about the atrocities that humanity might inflict upon alien worlds if released from the gravitational bonds of Earth."
And Gaia replies, "The enigma of my power is that I work with life and death. I cannot stop atrocities any more than I can evolve a new species without killing those I do not select. Instead feel the feverous desire I am instilling in your belly, to enable a future for those majestic descendants of your vermiform cousins, a future of ever growing possibilities, a future of Viventibus Galaxia."
Your elephant trumpets again. But you feel that it is time to say farewell, "Thank you Gaia for this visit. We will hold it in our memories until you can visit again. My elephant will await you in this lush landscape which we must now allow to fade into our subconscious minds."