Sometimes the Magpie gets stumped, and this is one of those times. I didn’t have any idea what I was going to write about for this post, so I asked a bunch of good Facebook friends of mine to throw me a word to maybe spark things off.
And I was given the word: Trust.
So we’ll go with that.
Trust. What’s it all about?
We usually talk about it in terms of our relationships with other people. We believe people will do what they say they’ll do, that they’ll come through for us, that they have our backs – or we don’t. If we don’t, that suspicion runs through our relationships, and makes it hard to interact with others.
Some years back when I was with a fringe theatre company, we used to do exercises to build trust between cast members. Falling back into your group’s arms, that kind of thing. During that split-second when gravity’s doing its job, you learn who your friends are – or who you think they are. Can you relax, make yourself vulnerable, and trust them not to drop you? That’s the real issue, perhaps, in all our relationships.
But really, our trust in other people stems back from an even more basic kind of trust. And so does its absence.
People of a certain age may recall the poem Desiderata (which, totally coincidentally, turned up in my Facebook feed just after I’d written the first draft of this post, in this excellent cartoon version), and its triumphant coda:
You are a child of the Universe, no less than the trees or the stars.
You have a right to be here.
But if a child is raised in a negative, harmful way, they may have trouble believing that they do have a right to be here. Obviously, kids who are deprived of the very basic necessities – food, shelter, safety – are going to have some big issues. But even kids who have their physical needs met can be deprived in other ways. Maybe they weren’t really wanted, or not at that particular time. Maybe they were the ‘wrong’ gender, or remind the parent too much of a hated ex-spouse or relative. Maybe, as they grow, their personality clashes with the parents’, or they’re judged to be physically unattractive, or their interests or career choices are deemed inappropriate, or they choose a different spiritual path, or they turn out to be gay, or….
There are a myriad of reasons why a child may be rejected, by their family or by the world in general – the earlier, the more harmful, but don’t underestimate the damage that can also happen later in a child’s growth. And if you hear the message Don’t be who you are, often enough, and loudly enough, it can sound a lot like Don’t be.
We’re hard-wired, as primates, to cling to those who care for us. Human babies are born with something called the Moro reflex: hold them under the back and lower them suddenly as if they’re falling, and they’ll spread and then clasp their arms. It’s a relic from when our baby ancestors used to cling to their mothers in the trees. Lose your mother back then, in any sense, and you literally died. These days we have a lot less fur to cling to, but the reflex remains.
It does psychologically, too – and that can be disastrous. We have a deep need to believe our primary careers are in control, in charge – that they’re right. So if they’re giving us the message that we don’t deserve to exist – that will be our reality. That they might be dead wrong isn’t something our young brains are built to encompass.
If you think you don’t belong in the world, that obviously makes it hard to trust yourself. And if your very existence is wrong, how can you be sure anything you do is right – including how you relate to other people? But it stems from an even more basic trust, in existence itself. In the Universe of Desiderata, or if you believe, in Spirit, in God.
You may have already guessed that the Magpie was herself one of those bewildered, out-of-place young chicks (I was literally called a cuckoo by someone close to me as a teenager, and half believed it). It does take an awfully long time to drag yourself out of the dark and look on the stars again (to paraphrase Dante, who knew all about being rejected and losing trust). But it’s definitely possible.
In my last post, I wrote about Persephone, someone who’d also been down into the dark places and come out again. I discovered, only yesterday (thanks to the fascinating astrological work of one Demetra George) that I happen to have been born with the asteroid Persephone on my Ascendant. That means that Persephone issues – coming to term with the dark places, finding meaning there, sensing what lies beyond, using those discoveries to bring healing – are pretty basic to my expression of self. (The same point is conjunct the fixed star, Sirius, which is supposed to signify fame and wealth…eh, we’ll see.)
The Greek underworld, like many others, was underground. Chthonic (I love that word). It’s where the dead are buried, but also where organic matter rots down and nourishes new life, gets recycled (which being one of nature’s scavengers, yours truly is all for). And under the surface is also where you find treasure.
Kids often make craft projects from trash. It’s practical; it costs nothing, and it encourages their imagination better than any amount of pre-packaged expensive materials could. William Blake wrote that ‘Eternity is in love with the productions of time.’ I like to think that the Universe that birthed us is, like a good parent, smitten with our small human artworks – the literal ones we construct out of the emotional flotsam and jetsam of our imperfect lives, but also what we make of ourselves (there’s a telling phrase) from our sometimes unprepossessing materials. Who knows, maybe if there’s a cosmic fridge somewhere, our work gets stuck up on the door for parental admiration (with magnets that say ‘Welcome to Alpha Centauri’?). Or the equivalent.
At the very least, creating may help us to metabolise the crap in our lives. It’s now proven that working with your hands, as opposed to tapping away at a computer screen, is good for you. I think it can do more than that: it can connect us back to our Source, give us a grounding in Being that we may have had trouble finding.
And for that to work, we have to trust the process itself. So it looks messy, it looks like it’s not working – carry on regardless. See what you can make of it. And if it really doesn’t work, there’s no shame in starting something new.
I was talking about art there, but it occurs to me that it’s not a bad way of dealing with life, either. At least, it seems to have worked for this blog post, and that’s something…right?