ear Miracles, crisis
If you ask me to pick a word that our culture both overuses and misuses more than any other word, I would choose “crisis.” The state of public education? Crisis. Unemployment numbers (regardless of whether they go up or down)? Crisis.
Corruption on Wall Street? Crisis.
Deceit and ineptitude in Washington? Crisis.
Western Culture and “the West” as well as Europe, Asia, Africa, and of course the Middle East? Crisis, crisis, crisis.
And those are just global considerations. Let us not forget the whole host of personal crises to attend to as well: from food that is no longer actual food to marriages that fall apart, jobs that destroy our vitality, and children who shoot to kill. To read the news and most non-fiction bestsellers in any given year is to come up against and lock horns with crisis over and over again. The word, and all of the weight it carries surrounds us, pours into our ears, sits on our tongues, and covers our skin in a fine film of fatalism.
Words matter. From the promises, prayers and spells we make, the names we call ourselves, to the stories we listen to and tell, words make up a big part of who we are and how we understand. Especially in the digital age. For the soulful seeker, to reclaim certain words, to save them from misuse and overuse, is nothing less than to reclaim our own autonomy or sovereignty in the 21st Century. To my mind calling back our autonomy and sovereignty is one of THE goals for sacred arts and for education generally speaking. Sovereignty that is deep and rooted as the most ancient tree. Autonomy that stands and shines out like the clearest star. How do we make our way back to these things? One way is to begin with what is closest to us, the words we speak, the words we hear, every single day.
So “crisis” sells, doesn’t it? As a consequence, we are left feeling that both our world and our personal lives are on the brink of some dire catastrophe all of the time. In that belief, that feeling, and that space we are at our most vulnerable. We are all too willing to follow the next shiny guru promising an easy and risk-free way out, the next celebrity, business, or literary trend that swears to have figured out the whole puzzle if only we will contort ourselves into stranger than fiction shapes and do/be/say/think in this one, exacting way, or happy to look for ways we can outsource our troubles and anxieties to someone or something else. In other words, it is when we are fed a diet of constant crisis that we are most likely to give up our sovereignty, lose our autonomy, and place ourselves in a position to be taken advantage of. In these moments we are thin-skinned or even skinless, tender, exposed and we want nothing more than to feel safe, protected, and secure once again.
But let me let you in on a little secret: crisis? It’s nothing new. We were on the brink of crisis a century ago in 1915 as Europe continued to be pressed in the vice of mechanized and chemical warfare. We were on the brink fifty years ago, twenty-five years ago and two thousand years ago too. Crisis, it seems is both something more and less than what we usually think. Like our shadows it follows us faithfully through the millenia. Perhaps it is time to get to know it, and in so doing call back our sovereignty and our autonomy.
The word “crisis” is overused but the word is also misused. Language is a living, growing thing, and if you look back far enough, you can uncover its essential root stock which, just as in the world of plants, often carries the most nutrition and medicine. “Crisis” originally was introduced into English as a medical term meaning that protocols around diagnosis and treatment were at a crossroads and a definite decision needed to be made (one that would take other possible decisions off the table). But the root of the word “crisis” is derived from a Greek word (over 500,000 modern English words derive from Greek!) and the root carries the meaning of decision, choice.
So it is that the word “crisis” tends to get our heart rates and blood pressures up, our adrenal glands pumping on overdrive, and our breaths becoming short and shallow. But it should actually encourage the opposite reactions: concentration, focus, clarity, and the summoning up of all our intellectual, emotional, physical, and spiritual gifts to assess the situation we find ourselves in and then make the wisest decision regarding the best possible course of action. In crisis, there may be danger, but there is still hope. With intelligence, action, courage and patience, something can be still done. But not only that, something will be done. To be in crisis too is to be at the crossroads, that liminal place where heaven and earth, this world and the imaginal realms, intersect, where everything is possible and all journeys begin.
The great question now, and it is one we will be unfolding over the next two lunar letters, is how the soulful seeker stands at the crossroads. What does she actually do at the crossroads, facing the crises so interwoven in the fabric of any human life? Where does she go to find healing and wholeness, and how does she carry those gifts back into the everyday world?
And so the question to ask right now under the Full Moon in Aquarius on 1/23 is
What do you need to know to begin your journey?