Friday, February 13, 2009

The Gift in the Wound

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," Charles Dickens famously began his Tale of Two Cities. "It was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness."

Words like these may be spoken about our current condition. In the wreckage of our economies, people are struggling to make ends meet. Wars rage and worse conflicts are threatened.

Yet in the life of a society, as in the life of an individual, deep crisis can produce new growth. In the midst of cynicism and despair, a new vision dawns and a new sense of community emerges. When old ways of thinking fail, we reach for new ways to understand and to change the world.
This is a time to dream, not only for ourselves and our families, but for our communities and for the Earth. Dreaming will get us through, as it has done across the whole course of the evolution of our kind on this planet, a story we were not taught in school but need to learn and apply today. The dreamer's way, in everyday life, is to read patterns of connection, to work consciously with the interplay of mind and matter and to step beyond the victim mentality by always testing the limits of possibility.

For me, one of the primary rules of conscious living is this:
Look for the gift in any challenge.
This can also be stated as follows: Look for the opportunity in any setback.
Or: Whenever a door closes, look for the door that is opening.

This can be terribly hard to do when the world seems cruel and indifferent, when you have lost your job or your body is sick or you can't pay your bills. But it is precisely when things are tough that it is most essential to play this game. And at the same time to be open to new sources and resources emerging in unexpected ways, sometimes through night dreams, sometimes through the play of coincidence, which is often wild but never truly random.

We can take courage and guidance from a story from American history about finding a gift in a wound. When she was just twelve years old, a little slave girl in tidewater Maryland was almost killed by a two-pound lead weight flung by an angry overseer. The blow laid open her skull. She bore the mark all her life. After she recovered, she would be seized by the irresistible urge to take a nap, frequently at the most inconvenient times. During these sudden sleeps, she dreamed and she saw things she had never seen with ordinary eyes. She flew like a bird. She saw a road to freedom in the North. Later she followed the aerial maps form her dreams, but returned to the slave South again and again to conduct others to freedom. Her name was Harriet Tubman.
However hard the challenges we face, do they really compare with the plight of a girl who could be raped, beaten or killed at the whim of a master, who lay dying for days - before she emerged as one of the world's great dreamers, who could dream liberation for a whole community?

Let's learn from her example to look, always, for the gift in a wound. When a road is closed, let's look to our dreams for the map that will put us on a new road and open new life possibilities.
This is a poem I wrote for Harriet Tubman when I was researching my chapter on her in The Secret History of Dreaming:
Glory Falls (on Harriet Tubman)
Because you could fly
you made us stand up and walk
and become self-liberators
even when fear tore at our souls
rougher than the spikes of the gum nuts,
winter’s nail bed of pain.
You rode the wind on hawk wings
and saw roads out of the shadow lands
and made maps for us from your flights.
When we were too scared to trust you,
you sang courage back into our hearts.
You guided us through the night woods
on leopard feet, vanishing and reappearing,
never bound to one form. Through your pain
and sudden sleeps and the terrible wound
that branded you, you taught us
that gifts of greatness are in our wounds.
You led us into the province of wonder.
The engine of your fierce intent carried us
to where glory falls on every thing.


Tiffany Osedra Miller said...

Thank you for writing about the magnificent dreams of this powerful black woman leader. As a black woman living in the U.S., Harriet Tubman's example inspires me deeply and reinforces for me that as long as I keep active, open, dreaming, and focused on my biggest visions, and no matter how hard things may seem at times, my life and the lives of those I come into contact with will continue to yield rich rewards - sometimes beyond our wildest dreams. The notion of an open door is quite a liberating one. I find myself decorating it in my dreams and will return to this image when I have tired of mentally traveling along well worn paths in my mind. I will focus then on this beautiful door opening far and wide and make note of all of the wonderful things that are just over the threshold. Your post also reminds me of a quote from Viktor Frankl, "What allows me to survive is the strength of my imagination." I'll dream to that! Thank you for all of the wisdom and hope you inspire.

Robert Moss said...

Hi Tiffany/Osedra - Thank you for your fine fierce words and your readiness to open the door of imagination. May your paths be open!

Donna K said...

Robert -
Thanks for this reminder that everything is part of a larger cycle, and that LEARNING / working with the gifts from our experiences/wounds/'setbacks' is crucial to moving forward. " is precisely when things are tough that it is most essential to play this game" indeed. We must find courage that we didn't think we had, and stand strong when these winds of change buffet us from all sides. I’ve always loved that Santayana quote “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. We must Learn! Open our eyes to ALL these lessons...

Unknown said...

I had a dream last night that I was looking or observing someone pulling back hair on a black dog that had been injured. The wound was healing very nicely.

These black dogs have appeared outside my kitchen door and have come into my house causing disorder and mayhem......