Tuesday, June 25, 2019


The invisibles are back and they have made our garden verdant.
The Forget Me Nots are done and into seed. The Roses have just passed their prime. The Day Lilies are soaring toward the Sun. Tomatoes are fruiting. The Raspberries have not begun. The Elderberry flowers are in white unopened pods.
     Even this far north in Vermont at summer Solstice, the life force is driving us all.  Inwardly, with the days longer than the night, we can’t but feel stimulated, feel so alive. And, our communities are alive, too. People walking in bright shorts. On porches. Sun bathing in swimming pools. At night I smell skunks.
     The single-mom next door took her 7th and 8th grade son and daughter to national sporting competitions. They are nice tweenagers. They are excellent athletes. But, she is a single mom, and really doesn’t have the money to put out for gas, hotel rooms and meals. But, she said must go because they are fully alive, and to say “no” might be at risk for that energy getting misdirected. Their dream deferred. She worries about what would happen if she didn’t sacrifice. They will share a room with another single mom and kids. Take a toaster to eat bagels and cream cheese.  Hot dogs in a crockpot.
     The one invisible force of life was called by Freud, “Eros”, a name picked up from the ancient Roman God. “Eros”, the life force, is an invisible force which enwraps us all - teenagers, mothers, watchers like me, trees, the entire earth. It can’t be denied. It can’t be stopped. It must be served. All plants serve the life forces. Tweenagers try to cope with “Eros”. Hormones go wild. There is risk. There is danger as to where plants will grow, teenagers will meet or experiment with drugs.

“Eros” is stronger than we imagine.
     Army Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, a military psychologist and researcher into warfare, in his book On Killing, lays the fundamental resistance humans have to killing one another to the invisible force of “Eros”. He says: “In each of us, at some gut level, we know we are somehow interconnected with each other, with life.”
     But, the military, in order to get humans to kill one another work with another force Freud identified: “Thanatos” – the death instinct. The military, and militarism, glorifies death over life. This is not without cost to us all. The resulting conflict between these two invisible forces within us which struggle and result in all sorts of psychological anxieties, fears, stress disorders, depression, addiction, conflict, trauma between couples, and so on leading to social and individual insanity – “Thanatos”, the death impulse. Coming soon to a corner near you. If not there, then how about a matinee?.
     These struggles are Grossman’s area of expertise. His career was built on attempting to help soldiers, and citizens, to heal after mass shootings or war, and attempt to resume a “normal” life. And, a “normal” life is a life devoted to “Eros” – to life. Life devoted to life and living, why does that sound odd?
     It sounds strange to say or write because we may know in our gut that killing goes against our in-built orientation for “Eros”, for living or life in all manifestations, but we also have another cultural invisible which is our need to say what is socially acceptable. Integrity, truth is weaker than social forces.
     Our culture, our society cannot face the difficult task of introspection. Soldiers, police officers, threatening spouses, “high” or drunk neighbors, accidental shooters who kill a family member, suffer. Our communities suffer. We know this. We know the results. Yet, we give the answers we think people want to hear. The conflict between these two invisible forces results in the answers that fit the image of violence which is offered by a third invisible - television and film. An empire of forces of illusion invisibly enwrap us.
     Why are we given these powerful invisible forces and a militaristic culture which promotes them?  To resist. According to Grossman’s research there is an even stronger force asleep within our nature waiting to be released.

One part is a social alogrhythm scientists have identified in flocks of flying birds. To keep from flying into one another, they triangulate off one another. When one moves, a group of six or seven adjust themselves to the movement. Family therapy based on Systems Theory says something is similar within families as well. Or, neighborhoods. Or churches. Or shops. Businesses. Work teams. We adjust to one another, invisibly. You change. I adjust.,
     A second part is the force of courage. Now, the media or pop culture glorify violence by feeding us a steady diet of fear. We may cause us to live in fear. All sorts of fear, big and small, live in us. Fear of being embarrassed to help a single mom. But, courage can overcome that fear – any fear. Courage to ask: “How about I feed your cat?”
Dave Grossman’s research says kindness is a far stronger force. And, he offers us a poem written perhaps 100 years ago:

“They Take Not Their Courage From Anger”
In a vision of the night I saw them
  In  the battles of the night.
‘Mid the roar and the reeling shadows of blood
  They were moving like light...

With scrutiny calm and with fingers
  Patient as swift
They bind up the hurts  and pain-writhen
  Bodies uplift...

But they take not their courage from anger
  That blinds the hot being;
They take not their pity from weakness;
  Tender yet seeing...

They endure to have eyes of the watcher
  In hell not to swerve
For an hour from the faith that they follow,
  The light that they serve.

Man true to man, to his kindness
  That overflows all,
To his spirit erect in the thunder
  When all his forts fall, --

This light, in the tiger-mad welter,
  They serve and they save.
What song shall be worthy to sing them –
  Braver than the brave?

The Healers by Laurence Binyon, World War I veteran“

ON KILLING, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, Little Brown and Company, 1965

© Copyright 2016, Jean W. Yeager
All Rights Reserved


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