It has been a busy summer; not much time for reflections. It started in June with a trip to Sudbury, Canada to present a performance of Imagining the World of Carl Jung, and a workshop on personal myth. July we were on the road again to a meeting of The Hymn Society in The US & Canada in Columbus Ohio for Nancy to present a workshop.
This past week we returned from a vacation in South Portland, Maine. We have logged seven thousand miles in the car over the past two months. This brings me to the subject of driving: I want to do all of the driving. I am not a good passenger. Nancy is a perfectly capable driver. The fault is mine. Nancy suggests the problem is my lack of trust in others and my wish to control everything. I defend myself by saying: I just want to control my life. I do not need to control the life of any other human being. The rub comes for those who chose to share a life with me.
This brings me to the main reason for our just completed visit to Maine. My son, Matthew, and I have a long history as father and son — coming up on forty-eight years. Because we share a common passion for film making and telling a good story, we have worked together on many projects over the years. Two years ago we were working on a documentary film when the question of control and sharing the direction of the project met the stumbling block of two Gray men who had different ideas (amazing that it took so many years for it to happen). So, until last week, we had not spoken to each other for two years.
There is a story from India’s Panchatantra called, The Lion and Rabbit, that helps me to reflect on these subjects.
There once was a lion who ruled over all of the animals of the land. The animals lived in continuous fear because the lion hunted them all for his food.
One day the animals came together to discuss their problem: the life of every animal was controlled by fear every day that the lion would eat them. They found a solution to the problem. They agreed to take turns sending an animal from a different family each day to be the meal for the lion. And this worked out well for the animals and the lion. The lion did not have to use his energy and time chasing after his meal; and the animals enjoyed less fear and control over their lives.
This solution to the problem of fear and control worked fine until it came time for the rabbits to be the lion’s meal. Now one chosen rabbit was not about to go quietly into the mouth of the great lion. On the appointed day he took his time going to the place where the lion lived. And when he arrived the lion was very unhappy.
What is this” roared the lion, “one measly rabbit and you arrive two hours late for my meal!”
The clever rabbit responded, “I am so sorry my lord, lion, but I was delayed. You see I was one of six rabbits sent for your meal, but we were attacked by another lion. This great, ferocious beast ate my brothers and sisters, and only I escaped to tell you this terrible news!”
The lion roared loudly, “you tell me there is a thief who has invaded my land and he has eaten my meal for this day?”
“I am afraid so”, said the rabbit”, and this is the truth. He appeared out of a hole in the ground, and with a great roar he ate most of your meal for this day.”
“This cannot be. This is my land and I control all that happens here”, roared the lion, “take me to this place where you saw the thief”.
So rabbit led the lion to a place where water collected in a hole in the ground. The great lion looked down into the hole and saw his own reflection in the water. He let out a great roar, and naturally the sound of his own voice echoed back to him. Mistaking his own self for his enemy, he leaped into the hole to do battle. And so he met his own end of life.
Rabbit turned from the hole, and with a sad look on his face, he said to himself, “if I were really clever, I would figure out a way for lions and rabbits to live in harmony.”
Please forgive me for a different ending to this ancient story from the Panchatantra, but it reflects my struggle with the lion and rabbit in my own self. My rabbit thought himself very clever when he contacted Matthew a few weeks ago and said he was coming to Maine for a vacation. He did not ask to stay with Matthew, just to have a visit. He planned to rent a house , not too close and not too far away. He hoped for multiple visits over the week when they could talk and mend the relationship. One good visit did happen, but then Matthew was unexpectedly called away. There were no more visits. The lion in me roared, “hey wait a minute, I drove all the way up here for a visit, how can your business be more important than a relationship with me. I am the lion, the king of this land!”
At this point I was in need of a little wisdom. If we were carrying our story of lion and rabbit further, I would introduce elephant, the animal that helps lion and rabbit to discover a middle ground, and a sense of harmony. Elephant would remind me of a time when I was younger and intent on building a career and relationships separate from my family of origin. Then I could grant Matthew the same right in his life. I could say, ok, the visit we had was a good visit, be patient and allow life to follow its normal course.
And this brings me back to where we started this blog: does lion need to control everything in his kingdom? Does elephant have any wisdom about driving Ms. Nancy? Elephant might remind Ray that he wrote a blog about this subject more than a year ago in which he decided to slow down and drive in the right lane! He might actually practice relinquishing control. Nancy could drive and Ray could be a passenger. Elephant might even suggest that the day will come when both Ray and Nancy will need to allow someone else to drive or they will take public transportation.
Consciousness is about being aware of the lion, the rabbit, and the elephant in ourselves: honor them all and find the balance among them. It is a stretch for me, but I try.