a pilgrim: I cannot remember the books, radio programs, newspapers, newsletters, TV shows, movies, videos, magazine articles, photo essays, phone conversations, letters, emails, advertising messages, blogs, online discussions, talking head commentaries, song lyrics…I have input anymore than the meals I've eaten; even so, they have made me.
Note: No wonder Ralph had such profound insight; in his time there was no growing tsunami of information coming at him 24/7 from cradle to grave and no downpour of electronic communication devices that could drown out his inner voice; almost completely silencing it beneath the turbulence. The man could, I suspect, clearly hear himself think, without having to sift through a lot of extraneous noise, throughout his entire life.
I have three anecdotes to share with you. I am adding them to this series at this point, so that they can hopefully be used as points of reference to extrapolate from as we consider various things in part 15. 'Things' that I believe are key to expose and look at so that Fort Smith can get on its way to healing. I began writing this post with the expectation that I could easily fit them all three into one blog but that didn't work out. Just got way too lengthy. Therefore, I've divided part 14 into parts 'a' and 'b.' You might wonder what these anecdotes have to do with this series of blogs, indeed, they may seem, at first, to be non sequitur. But, I expect that you will have no problem eventually seeing in them the metaphors, allegories and the parallels that link to the Fort Smith experience and how they can be used as points of reference. Actually, I am counting on you to be able to connect the dots that appear in these stories with what I plan to be pointing out in part 15.
PROTECTING THE CHICKEN
When I was a little kid (probably around five years old) the people that lived next door had a big garden and numerous chickens that they let roam free around their property. One day, while playing in my yard, I heard this ruckus and saw a dog chasing one of the neighbor's chickens. The fear emanating from this poor chicken as it scrambled by me wildly cackling with the dog hot on its tail feathers, hit me like a wave, and in my feeling this terror wash over me, I was instantly compelled to rescue the chicken. In a flash I was over the fence and off in the direction where the chicken and dog had went (the garden). I found the chicken in an area near the garden. It had managed to squeeze into a crevice between these two big boulders and the dog was too big to squeeze far enough in to get a mouthful. I chased the dog away but I was not convinced that the dog would not come back and figure out a way to get to the chicken. I got a bright idea! There were lots of small rocks around that I could use to cover the chicken with and keep the dog from being able to ever reach it. So, I did just that. It was a great plan that was well executed. My good deed done for the day, I returned home and happily continued playing. in my yard That evening the neighbors paid my mom and dad a visit. They had a story to tell about one of their chickens they had found dead under a pile of rocks. I told them all what happened and how I was protecting the chicken from the dog. From my point of view I was saving the chicken and I just couldn't understand how in saving it I had killed it. They all could plainly see that there had been no malicious intent on my part. They understood and I didn't get into trouble over it. The incident was a wonderful lesson that I didn't really start getting the meaning of until several years later when I literally felt like I was being smothered by all the "protection" I was getting from my parents. Ironically or karmically, whichever way you want to put it, I had become the chicken I had tried to protect so many years before. As it turns out, over the years, there have many layers of lessons to learn from this when looked at from different points of view. It's one of those lessons that keeps on giving. Even to this day.
THE BLACK OLIVE PROGRAM
Again, another story/lesson that began in my childhood. Around the same period of time that I was learning the finer points of how to protect a chicken, I developed a craving for black olives. It's obvious now, but not then, that my body must have had a nutritional deficiency at the time that it somehow mysteriously knew that black olives had the particular nutrient(s) it needed to handle this situation. Thus, my craving for black olives. My mom, although a very intelligent young lady in her mid-twenties, did not connect the dot of the craving with the dot of the nutritional deficiency. Instead, she got some other notion about what was going on and to support this notion, whatever it was, she began to indoctrinate me as to how eating so many black olives was not good for my body and, therefore, to protect me from getting ill from eating too many black olives, she arbitrarily came up with the quantity of five olives as being the safe number to consume at any one given time. She also ensured that my grandparents, who I stayed with frequently back in those days, were in agreement with her creative black olive program that was the made up solution to the made up problem. Fortunately for me, mom, around that same time, took me to see the family doctor (I was not a sick kid but I was always being taken to see the doctor). After that visit to the doctor I started having to take two tablespoons full of this incredibly gross tasting black liquid from a big brown bottle. I loudly protested this daily event but it was to no avail. The fortunate part was that I very quickly, after consuming the "snake oil potion," lost my craving for black olives. So, from that point on, it really didn't bother me all that much to be restricted to eating only five black olives at any given time.
Now, fast forward many years to when I'm in my mid-thirties, have long since been been out in the world on my own making my own decisions and choices including what to eat, how much to eat and when. One day I opened a can of black olives and while I was draining the water from the can into the sink, I suddenly found myself immersed in the long forgotten memory of the black olive craving incident and I was seeing and hearing everything that took place at that time. I felt like I was in the memory but observing what was going on from an exterior point of view. Another way to describe how it seemed would be to say that I was experiencing something like what Scrooge experienced when the Ghost of Christmas Past took him back into the past for a look/see. Only, for me, there was no other entity perceived. I was on my own in the memory. Anyway, I saw how my mom, rather than see a situation for what it was, made up a problem to explain what was going on then made up a solution for the problem she had made up I also saw how I had integrated both her made up solution and problem into my personal belief system that had to do with anything and everything that regarded eating. Then, I saw how this memory soon drifted down beneath my level of awareness and into my unconscious mind. As my attention and point of view gradually came forward in time, inspecting only those incidents along the way that involved my consuming black olives, I was fascinated to observe that I would never eat more than five olives at a given time. Wow! The realization of what had occurred practically floored me. To summarize: as a little kid I, without awareness or understanding, had integrated a problem and its solution that had been made up by my mom (an authority figure), pertaining to eating black olives, into my belief system that I was, more unconsciously than not, constructing around the subject of food and eating. This incident was just another building block that was added to that system. The memory of this incident was quickly forgotten yet the 'problem' and 'solution' regarding the eating of black olives was a continually active program running in my subconscious that, unbeknownst to me, was dictating my thoughts, emotions, and behavior with regard to black olives. By the way, this revelatory experience, occurred in the time it took for the water in the can of black olives I had just opened to be poured out into the sink. It was that fast. Once the water was out of the can I dumped all the olives into a bowl and ate everyone of them. Guess what? There were absolutely no unpleasant side effects for having done so. To this day I continue to have a high affinity for black olives and it is not unusual at all for me to consume all the olives in a can at any given time and never have an undesirable experience.
After an experience like this, the authenticity of phrases like…"that's the way it is"…"that's the way it has always been"…."that's just the way I am"…and so on, become highly suspect. Also, after an experience like this there is, of course, an obvious question for one to ask. That is; how many more programs like this silly one having to do with black olives are actively running beneath my level of awareness and, unbeknownst to me, dictating my thoughts, emotions and behavior regarding specific aspects of my life? Well….based upon my exploration into this question, there are more than one can possibly conceive of. Some of these invisible programs, which have essentially become one's default programs of response to particular stimuli, are quite silly and have no damaging consequences to speak of. Others, depending upon their content, can be incredibly destructive. For example, some of these default programs might show up in one's experience as being their 'bad' habit(s) or benign idiosyncrasies and/or eccentricities while other programs might be dictating that the person behave as a sociopath or psychopath and then there's everything that exists in between.
Fortunately, all that is required to eradicate one of these subconscious programs is that it be consciously and thoroughly looked at (confronted) by the entity i.e., person, group, organization, culture, race, city, sate or nation that it belongs to. But, how does one go about confronting that which is hidden in their subconscious mind? Well, it's not so easy at first. But, a good place to begin is with the construction of a belief system that makes doing so not just a possibility or probability but makes it an expectation. The only reason we have a subconscious mind is because we believe we do. We're the ones that set the boundaries on how far our awareness can extend and where it cannot extend. Experience always reflects belief. The next thing a person can do is to work on becoming increasingly more self-aware (more mindful) of what they're thinking and their thought process realizing that there is no such thing as a idle thought. And whenever they have a knee-jerk response to something, whether it seems to be appropriate or inappropriate to the circumstance, don't just say, "That's just the way I am." Instead, don't accept that rationalization but assume the view that, at some point in time, the knee-jerk response was unconsciously integrated into your belief system, and it's been set up to go into automatic mode the instant its been triggered by some circumstance in your environment. Then, take some time to explore where the knee-jerk response came from and why it was the default response. If it is not clear to you what happened, ask within to whatever higher power you believe in and expect an answer knowing that, in whatever form the answer happens to show up as, you will recognize it for being what it is when it does.
Okay. Onward to part 14 (b) and the third anecdote.