« horses | Main | Shahrazad »

"Why are you so angry?" (trickster part deux)

trickster final. This is a fucking mess. I could have written papers that were cleanner than this, but I needed to start to try.

There was a blank piece of paper and we were asked to add what was missing. Nothing was missing. The paper was perfect and complete. It was nothing and everything…it just simply was. The blank paper was the undifferentiated state. It was primary autism, the single point before the big bang; it was the instant before god did anything. Because they were told to, or for the sake of the game, and when the trickster inspired them, someone went up and drew something. We entered manifestation. One split into two and each could observe the other. Each could tell the other what they were not. As soon as something was written, we felt the weight of all that had not been written yet.
This exercise continued in the classroom long after the paper was put aside. The fight to speak from the gap of the unspoken continued between Allen and Kathleen and Allen and Rabea and also between me and myself. I felt myself ever-ranting but never feeling complete. I saw that same desperate attempt from these classmates. It is as though we are at a boundary—more like the edge of a cliff--where we have to speak up or a piece will be lost. Maybe it’s just emotion, but in these moments, it feels as though we are fighting for our lives. Of course, we could have never touched the paper; we could have never engaged at all. We could have left it perfect and complete, but that is not what happened. Also, we could have stepped out of it and called it finished at any moment; declaring it its own perfection. At any point, Kathleen could have shut up, and eventually she did…and some of us rejoiced at the band-aid.

On a break, after maybe my hundredth rant, Shannon asked me, “why are you so angry?”. I noticed that I was angry, but my only response was, “why are you not?”. There is a life force so big that it rails any category it is given. It seems that when the paper was marked, we entered duality and were forced to be only half. This life force screams for completeness and for all the pieces that have been taken away. Maybe some people have gotten good at accepting that they are only one piece. Maybe some have jumped out of it in the name of transcendence and have walked away from the paper; declaring it its own perfection. But it seems that I am still in it. The paper is in front of me and it seems to matter what mark I make next.
The trickster is that part of us that finds the missing pieces and fights for them. She is the often-unconscious call to adventure that brings people to try to see themselves more fully. Maybe the trickster is seeking a wholeness that can never be achieved. But she is the fire that reminds us to stay in it and stay fighting. Fighting—not for perfection—but for the sake of the fight itself. It seems that there is something to this game. In this paper I will discuss the anger at a perception that seems split by duality. I will consider if duality can be used to reach wholeness. I will address the fact that these are issues of the dirt. Literally they come out of the dirt as they are a questioning of what it means to be here in matter. Metaphorically they come out of the dirt as they relate to—once things split—what we push to our shadow. It is appropriate that I frame these questions through the lens of dirt because the piece my trickster is fighting for is matter, mother, earth…the Feminine.
In The Trickster Makes This World (1998), Lewis Hyde quotes the anthropologist Mary Douglas’s definitions of dirt: “dirt is matter out of place” and “dirt is the anomalous, not just what is out of place but what has no place at all when we are done making sense of our world” (Hyde, p. 176). “Dirt is always a by-product of creating order. Where there is dirt, there is always a system of some kind, and rules about dirt are meant to preserve it” (p. 176). That is to say that, if reality exists as the interplay between opposites, when we choose a stance, there is always an opposite stance not chosen. This becomes our shadow and we do everything we can to keep the shadow in its place because, if it escapes, reality as we know it is over. The fact that the word “dirt” is used for shadow feels very appropriate. When I think of dirt, I think of earth, and it does seem that matter has become our shadow.
Though it feels true, it is kind of mysterious to me why the body, the earth and the feminine have all been linked together and have all been sent to the shadow. It does seem to be an issue of creating order and control. Allen gave the theory that the feminine is linked with the body because it is mother who gave you life and brought you into this material body. And, because this material body once was born, it someday must die. Death is the ultimate loss of control, so mother, the body and the earth enter the shadow.
Hyde described shame as the rule that governs dirt. Rulers have made bodies into traps for souls as methods of social control. The body is called shameful and the body is unchangeable. If you are born into a body that is not the ruling class, there is nothing you can do but accept your place. “The construction of the trap of shame begins with this metonymic trick [equating of the body to the world of social order], a kind of bait and switch in which one’s changeable social place is figured in terms of an unchangeable part of the body…As menstruation and skin color and genitals are natural facts, so the social and psychological order become natural facts” (Hyde, p. 170).
One solution is to ignore the body and go to the spirit. This masculine part is spirit, philosophy and the abstract. It is timeless and eternal. In Psychotherapy Grounded in the Feminine Principle (1990) , Barbara Stevens Sullivan said:
“Where the Feminine accepts the weight of the body, an acceptance that necessarily includes the gruesome ills of the body and its ultimate death, the Masculine seeks to transcend the body and death. Where a feminine viewpoint urges us to emotionally experience our grounding in our physical incarnation, to relax into our being, a masculine approach seeks immortality and achievements that will live after one’s physical death.” (Stevens Sullivan, 1990, p. 21)
So, if we associate enough with spirit, and disassociate enough from the body, we never have to die. Of course this isn’t true…but maybe we can pretend it is. Transcendence has become our goal, but is transcendence avoidance? Someone can be meditating and they can either be fully sitting with what is present, or they can be totally dissociating. That is to say that we can wash our hands of the whole mess at any moment. However, this does not make the mess any better.
“The danger of the Masculine is depicted in Icarus’s fate: in trying to fly too high into the world of spirit, Icarus tried to leave utterly behind his embodiment in feminine matter, and the consequence is his disastrous fall into the arms of Mother Earth and Death.” (p.21)
In the story of the class exercise, we could have called the paper finished and put it away at any moment or we could have drawn endlessly. The students could have shut up at any moment, or they could have argued forever. If there were a real transcendence/actualization/completion/whatever, I’m not sure what it would be, but I don’t think it could float over a step on its way there. If there were a real transcendence, it would probably be quite dirty.
Back to the anger; the bitches and the witches. The feminine is also a social construct and, certainly, part of her shadow are strength and anger. In Mercury Rising: women evil and the trickster gods (), Deldon Ann McNeely said:
“Many women will confirm that experience has taught them that being strong is not acceptable. Women with strong trickster qualities, which always include some authoritarian attitudes and usually lively sexuality as well, seem to raise the defenses of males and females”. (McNeely, , p. 113)
It is important to note that strength is in the shadow of the social construct of the feminine, but is fully possessed by the feminine in general: what is stronger than the earth, what is more powerful than nature? These qualities have been repressed in real women because they remind us of things we can’t control, “they are too reminiscent of Nature herself in her wild, extravagant scattering of expansive libidinal energy” (p. 113).
I have already been perhaps subversive and used the pronoun “she” for the trickster. And I really do think that now the trickster is woman. Our repressed anima is bubbling up from the unconscious quite literally now in our wounded planet and broken logic. “It is a lethal power, this anima that is carried by women. Its deep moods, its swirling clouds of feeling and fantasy, its invitation to the deep stillness of deathly inactivity and contemplation threaten the male spirit of action and understanding” (McNeely, , p.114).
It is important to note that when I say “feminine” I am talking about three different things: there is the archetypal Feminine energy, the social construct of femininity, and real individuals living in female bodies. The archetypal Feminine and the social construct of femininity effect everyone and everything,
“When either a man or a woman is saddled with a gender-based stereotype, his or her humanness suffers. This wounding is deeper than any gender-linked wound could be. Neither the traditional man’s role, nor the traditional woman’s role is desirable when one is trying to become a whole person with access to all of one’s potential qualities.” (Stevens Sullivan, p. 15)
It is impossible to talk about these things without creating names or labels. The delicate line is between when these labels are being used to give words to speak the unspoken and when they are furthering divisions. Perhaps the trickiest element is that there are female bodied people who—like it or not, consciously or unconsciously—carry the archetype and absorb the social construct. Because of this, it is essential to find ways to talk about these things. Before I mentioned that Hyde thought that the rule that controlled dirt was shame. Well, this shame tends to result in silence. Hyde discussed the ambivalence of silence in his chapter called “Speechless Shame and Shameless Speech” (Hyde, pp. 153-172). “You and I know when to speak and when to hold the tongue, but Old Man Coyote doesn’t. He has no tact. They’re all the same, these tricksters; they have no shame and so they have no silence” (p. 153). It is important to note that sometimes silence is from keeping magic secret, sometimes silence is from having been silenced. “It is hard to travel in this fallen world if you lose the power of speech every time evil meets you on the path” (p.154).
When the trickster emerged in the women who spoke in class that day (and often in myself as well), there is a degree to which the strength of their own anima was unrecognizable to them. It is a power that they may have associated with the masculine and put in the shadow. “A soft, frilly pink doll has been left in the place of a vibrant, awesome Mother Goddess. Nowhere is that loss of vitality more clear than in the belief that passivity is feminine and activity is masculine” (Stevens Sullivan, p. 24). And for the female bodied who have absorbed these things and perhaps lost the memory of the sound of their own voice, there is also maybe the cellular memory of a time when they did speak before and died for it.
Dying—literally and metaphorically—is not the property of female bodies. Maybe they have been the container of it or the symbol of it, but death belongs to us all. Also, the death that comes from speaking the shadow belongs to us all. The moments when the trickster emerges and “one risks destroying the cosmos” (Hyde, p.157) and bringing about the death of everything one thought to be true. Things return to that blank piece of paper and wait for the first mark again. Again, must we split the world?
McNeely begins her chapter on Trickster Women by dividing the world, not into masculine and feminine, but into those who are willing to dance and those that would rather things stay still:
“It is said that in times of transition when shapes are shifting, we have to be able to dance. Now we are in a transition, and we have a tension between those who would dance, and those who would hold still and hope to keep old forms in place.
A chasm separates those who feel dance to be the most profound form of worship and those who look upon dance as evil. Can that split ever be mended? It separates us humans into practically different species”. (McNeely, p. 109)
Are we going to dance, or do we need to hold on? Are we willing, are we ready to dissolve the world as it is? And—in this dissolving—somehow step into it more fully? What would that mean?
In the introduction to The Ravaged Bridegroom: Masculinity in Women (1990), Marion Woodman reminded that “if we can stay with the pain of the death of the old, and bear the crucifixion of the transition, eventually we are born anew” (p. 8). She said of her approach, “I try to analyze where the energy is blocked (and, therefore, unavailable to the ego), how it can be released, and where it is trying to go” (Woodman, p.7). Her language feels very tactile and body based to me. It reminds me of McNeely’s idea of the dance and it gives a sense of how transformation happens in this world, instead of through transcending this world. She described in the chapters of this book different ways that our too-solid mythologies have twisted us. She shows how the boundary breaking quality of the trickster comes in when we can withdraw our projections.
“So long as these energies are projected onto others, we rob ourselves of our own maturity and our own freedom. Until we take responsibility for these projections, genuine relationship is impossible because we are entangled in our own images instead of relating to new possibilities that expand our boundaries…Freedom is not license, nor is it selfish egoism. To be psychologically free is to be confident in our own inner world, responsible for our own strengths and weaknesses, consciously loving ourselves and therefore able to love others”. (Woodman, pp. 9-11)
I have landed on an appeal for both freedom and complete embodiment. For individuation and, therefore, relationship. Each of these things only exists through the others. As the quote above suggests, one becomes free through becoming more fully responsible for the truth of their lives as they are, one comes into relationship with another through coming into more complete relationship with oneself. This has been a tricky argument; messy and dirty, especially because it is hard to know whether arguments are creating the problems or if solutions could ever be found. But the trickster insists that we mark on the paper and not stop marking.
I have addressed the trickster’s search for the missing piece through what I see as my own dirt: the feminine, the earth, and the body. These are my shadow, and I think they are asking for attention as they stand in the collective shadow as well. Ideas of earth, body and the matter of life also go towards questions of meaning and purpose. In the stories, the trickster doesn’t fight for individuation, spiritual achievement or understanding. He fights to survive. This is the fight to be here. And, given that we are here, to be here as fully we can. The trickster holds the idea that there is meaning our dirt, that this world is not empty. For me, it is the desire to accept life in all of mysteries, beyond what I could ever understand.

Hyde, L. (1998). The trickster makes this world. New York: North Point Press.

McNeely, D. ( ). Mercury rising: women evil and the trickster gods. Woodstock,
Connecticut: Spring Publications, Inc.

Stevens Sullivan, B. (1990). Psychotherapy grounded in the feminine principle.
Wilmette, Illinois: Chiron Publications.

Woodman, M. (1990). The ravaged bridegroom: masculinity in women. Toronto,
Canada: Inner City Books.


Comments

when S asked you why you're so angry, did she mean at that moment, or in general? When you answered her back "why are you not?" were you implying that being angry and not being angry were two acceptable reactions to the same situation? Or were you thinking that maybe there's something wrong with her if she isn't getting angry? How do you feel when you get angry? Does it feel good? Do you feel guilty afterwards? Anger is a tricky emotion. It's almost always aggressive (except when it's passive aggressive) and that in itself makes it dangerous. The person getting angry feels justified in their anger- that simply stating what they're trying to say isn't getting across to the other without adding some emotion. But to the person on the other side, they're usually going to feel like they're being attacked. I think of anger as a state- usually following a period of feeling inadequate. Feeling angry makes one feel strong and powerful.

"The feminine is also a social construct and, certainly, part of her shadow are strength and anger. In Mercury Rising... Deldon Ann McNeely said: 'Many women will confirm that experience has taught them that being strong is not acceptable. Women with strong trickster qualities, which always include some authoritarian attitudes...seem to raise the defenses of males and females'"

I think it's important not to confuse aggression (and anger) with strength and power. Anger gives us power to say things we might have been afraid to say, but in reaction to our own feelings of inadequacy. To be truly strong is to understand other peoples' sides of things, and anger doesn't allow that. It's purely emotional and it blinds us to other points of view. It's very often misdirected as well.

hmm. yes to all that. Im trying to figure it out better now. I didnt have adequate time to write that paper.
The anger. was not aggression. was the feeling of fire. (we were talking alchemy in that class). the fire that ignites---I like the way you said it gives you the strength to do something you wouldnt otherwise.
the idea the teacher asked me to address was the feeling of a life force so big that is being asked to be only one half (one half of each anything---anger at incompleteness of duality). Of course, if we saw not the duality, there would be no anger.
this is exactly my question---you know, can the masters tools dismantle the masters house: the anger itself is bound to duality and so, probably, the anger will never help us find out way out of duality (or of its anger).

tori said (I remember this from crazy teenaged whatever): anger is a gift, it lets you know when you're decieving yourself.

yup.

and the anger itself is the deception.


problem is: it feels a lot better to be fighting for something. to be edifying a world even if it is imperfect.

Harmonie thinks I should find another word besides "fight"

Post a comment