Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Awakening of Adonis

John William Waterhouse

Crisis and change. The one begets the other. This is how things evolve. It's a curse when you want to hold on to something good, and a blessing when an untenable situation gives way.

The word “crisis” comes from the Greek krisis which means turning point, the point that Hippocrates thought was decisive to one’s surviving or succumbing to an illness. Crisis is the harbinger of a cure whether that cure is life or death.

An existential crisis is essentially creative in that it can give rise to a more concerted engagement with a bad situation, as a quest for its resolution or for salvation. Sometimes it culminates in a conversion or rebirth.

Sometimes, though, a bad situation just stagnates, giving rise to that oppressive sense of being "stuck” (like a baby whose head is engaged but cannot descend into the birth canal). It is a dire predicament in which the parties involved, instead of feeling a sense of urgency or crisis, are subjugated by ennui or inertia. In a way, they do not suffer at all but hover above themselves half-alive (or half-dead), as in a coma.

When you can see this from the outside-- that someone is stuck in a disastrous situation, and might even die, but they cannot move-- how can you help? What can you do?

Induce more suffering.

Traditional ways of taking someone out of his comfort zone use isolation, ritual and initiation, forcing confrontation. These are still used effectively in many drug/alcohol rehabiltation programs.

In Zen, koans are used to arouse the mind, seducing rational thought into resolving a quandary that has no logical solution. When the usual solutions are blocked in this way, a radical departure from old ways of seeing is the only recourse.

Meditation is an effective purge. So is love. If I lay down my defenses and love you unconditionally, you can no longer deny enmity as a projected phantom dissimulating your own demons.

Sometimes even the poison is administered as the cure, flushing out a crisis by making a bad situation worse.

The decisive moment in every crisis seems to be the relinquishing of defenses against pain and suffering. Only then to discover that there is nothing getting in the way of transformation and recovery. The light is there prior to shadows like the child before the adult and opening before closing.

Suffering exposes the raw material of being, the wet cement prior to any permanent impression.