Sunday, 17 December 2017

Voices of dominance and submission

Things come and go in one's life, don't they? It's that way with me, at least. My awareness intensifies and then fades. It reminds me of sheep in the fog, where you know they're there but don't really see them, until suddenly one emerges and is right in front of you — they were there all along, but you see them now. Though sometimes you hear one cough.

So it is with elements of interpersonal relationship, or the spiritual patterns and dynamics underlying life — they are there but buried until your attention is attracted by something at the very edge of your field of perception — something coughs — and you turn and it stands forth and you see.

Spiritual path involves a lifelong process of clearing and simplifying, lifting out reality from all that buries and obscures it, allowing what is real to emerge and truth to appear. This develops peace, even at the same time as it usually provokes resistance and opposition. When you make truth appear, things start snarling and upheaving. Still you press on.

Back in the day, my first washing machine was a twin-tub (yours too?). How they worked was by twin compartments, one being a spin-dryer, the other a large tank for washing. The washtub had flattish rotary vanes built into one wall to agitate the water. You put in the water with a hose provided — either your own hot water from the get-go or else it had its own incorporated heater, which took awhile. You chucked in the soap as it filled. It drained off into your sink using the same hose, I think — I can't clearly remember now.  Must have done.

Anyway, there you were with a big tub of soapy water with your washing in, and at some point you turned on the rotary vanes and the whole lot started churning round and round. Then came the phenomenon I call "socks in the washing". Sometimes there'd be a thing you inadvertently put in that should not be there — a non-dye-fast garment rapidly turning everything blue/purple/pink, or a pair of cashmere socks that should have been handwashed. As the washing churned around, if you were watchful you could spot the item you wanted to remove and snatch it out as it went by.

And again, this is the same with interpersonal dynamics, the things that catch your attention as life churns around. Every now and then something comes to the fore and you get the chance to pluck it out of the mix — if you don't it submerges again, but it continues to work its alchemy, staining your whole life airforce blue. If you see what I mean.

And something I'm becoming aware of, as I watch the sheep loom in and out of the fog and the socks emerge and disappear in the churning washing of my life, is (or should that be are?) the voices of dominance and submission.

I notice the ones who like to say "No!" in a strident tone (just as an integral part of their regular conversation), the ones whose transactions are bully-or-be-bullied, the ones who put you down once they gain confidence, the ones who shut you down or shut you out, who scold you and humiliate you, who get you where they want you, who turn away in scorn from you, the ones who understand conversation as thesis-antithesis-synthesis. Or proposal-antagonism-struggle-loss/victory. I notice the authoritarian note in the voice and the corresponding meekness of uncertainty, in the same person.

In myself, I notice the desire to say, "I started it / lead it / thought of it / said it first."

I don't like it in myself, the harsh voice of dominance, laying down the way-it-is, sounding impatient. I don't like it when I catch in others the meekness of submission, when someone rolls over and shows you their jugular vein as a plea for mercy because they think you're winning, because your knowledge/skill/power is superior. 

There's something jangly in these interactions, commonplace as they are. Seeing them offers the chance to subtract some socks from the washing.

And then, also: "I'd go a little further up the mountain, if I were you," advises the inner sage. "Say less, be a little less mixed in. Watch more. Volunteer your opinion less. Walk the quiet tracks."

"The ancient masters were subtle, mysterious, profound, responsive.
The depth of their knowledge is unfathomable,
all we can do is describe their appearance.
Watchful, like men crossing a winter stream.
Alert, like men aware of danger.
Courteous, like visiting guests.
Yielding, like ice about to melt.
Simple, like uncarved blocks of wood.
Hollow, like caves.
Opaque, like muddy pools.

Who can wait quietly while the mud settles?
Who can remain still until the moment of action?
Observers of the Tao do not seek fulfilment.
Not seeking fulfilment, they are not swayed by desire for change."

(Tao Te Ching Ch 15, tr. Gia-fu Feng and Jane English) 


Deborah said...

It was 2 hoses. One to put on the tap to add the water and a 2nd one to pump the water through into the sink...Mum had one. I never used it though I did like the plastic thing you put over the clothes in the spinner to keep them in place :-D

Pen Wilcock said...

Oh, yes. Thanks for the reminder!

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a thought provoking post. I love your sock analogy!I guess recognising the offending sock is a good start, even if it does remain in the hurly burly of the cleansing suds. I sometimes recognise the sock of judgement bob before me and I wish I could remove it; it's ugly. And yet sometimes, when I've quelled judgements, I've gone on to make some of the worst decisions in my life ( although, painfully,they are the ones I've learnt the most from...).
Perhaps the acknowledgement of wisdom you desire stems from being a natural born leader and thinker? Perhaps it's ok to think,to have ideas,to have them validated, and even...gulp... to make judgements. Perhaps the key is to execute these things with grace, like the ancient masters described in the Tao
"Watchful, like men crossing a winter stream.
Who can wait quietly while the mud settles?
Who can remain still until the moment of action?"
I can't help but think that even peaceful, gentle people like Ghandi must have had strong ideas, but rather than force them on the world like other leaders might, he climbed further up the mountain with grace.
Just a few thoughts!

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Deb


Gandhi is one of my all-time heroes, and yes he did indeed have strong ideas. He wrote a book called My Experiments With Truth, that brings out clearly his decisive nature — a real initiator. I've always been very interested in the relationship between Gandhi and his wife Kasturbai, because he imposed upon her the outworking of his own ideological convictions and impulses, and she certainly had a lot to put up with. The perspective of those in the intimate circle of spiritual giants is very instructive, I think. x

Rebecca said...

Yes, indeed! "Things" DO come and go; ebb and flow....leaving their marks on us, those near us, and even folks we never actually know. Like strata in earth's shell, there to mark change, they ultimately shape us.

Buzzfloyd said...

I like that thought, Deb. That it's OK and right to be ourselves and to have our gifts, but we must take care in how we treat others and behaving gracefully. There are different ways to do everything.