The Great Matrix of Inter-Being

 There is no such thing as society.

                –   British PM Margaret Thatcher, early 1980s

 

As anti-psychiatrist Ronnie Lang remarked at the Dialectics of Liberation symposium in London in 1967, the most difficult thing to see is the obvious. Obvious to many may be German poet Goethe’s remark that we simply can’t, as parts of the universe, by definition, fall out of a universe that IS precisely nothing but its parts. However, perhaps less obvious, albeit equally fundamental to sanity and bone-deep faith, is the fact that not only is there not (in Margaret Thatcher’s immortal phrase) ‘no such thing as society’, but that there is in a sense nothing but ‘society’ in the universe.

Each one of us, for example, is, biologically, an immensely complex ‘society’ of organs, organisms, bacteria. All these are themselves made up of immensely complex ‘societies’ of cells which are also made up of immensely complex ‘societies’ of chromosomes, nucleic acids etc. Thich Nath Hanh’s pithy engaged-Buddhist summarization of this ‘obvious’ reality is that we all ‘inter-are’. He demonstrates this by holding up a sheet of paper and asking people to think why there is also literally a rain cloud in that sheet. He could have used anything of course.

We know we are literally one with each other, one great family. We know we all contain atoms that once were in Christ or Genghis Khan, or that all men’s DNA can be linked back to one common ancestor only 60,000 years ago. We know that once we have been together in a room for a short period our molecules will already have started mingling via our breathing process.

As in our relationship with ourselves, this is all so very close to us that we may not easily be able to see it:  there is a Great Upholding, a Great Matrix that is the universe itself, and thus us. The metaphor is, of course, inescapably maternal. We are contained, held, even as we contain and hold. We are under-stood, ground-ed in the womb of Emptiness, the Void, the Buddhist sunyata, the tao, just like the huge Black Hole at the centre of our Milky Way galaxy, just like shining galaxies making up the 5% visible universe are contained in the immeasurable and utterly unknown 95% that our physicists honestly and helplessly call Dark Energy.

We know that ecologically an invisible Great Fungal-Bacterial Net in the soil symbiotically upholds most vegetation and thus most life on this planet. It is the true World Wide Web which the cybernetic one merely mimics. We know that our shiny (mostly male-run) formal economies are but the tip of a huge submerged, unacknowledged iceberg of (mostly female-run) informal, upholding and ‘black’ economies without the often under- or unpaid services of which they would collapse. We also know that anthropologically the Great Genetic Net of our ancestors stretches away into the mists of time, running through our bodies like interwoven necklaces of eternal jewels regulating our deepest somatic and psychic functions.

In regard to the latter, we also know that our very individual identity-feeling or ‘psyche’ – that ongoing cohesive awareness of our many-facetted, constantly fluctuating feelings, memories and thoughts – that all this is upheld by and securely contained within a mysterious universe of Dark Energy we call the Body and the Unconscious, both personal and collective. As we mature, we can thus choose to widen our identity from ‘psyche’ or ‘ego’ to that of the ‘self’ (or ‘Self’) understood as an expression intended to encompass this Dark Energy, embracing the totality of both the conscious and unconscious psyche.

If we choose to do so, then (as C.G. Jung stresses[1]) the ‘self’ must necessarily remain a transcendent ‘borderline concept’ like Kant’s famous ‘thing-in-itself’ (Ding an sich):  a reality which we can assume and posit but about which we can, rationally, know and say nothing. While the totality, The Matrix, can define the part, the part cannot, by definition, define the totality. The tip of the iceberg can know nothing of the immensity of itself beneath the surface. The tip is an expression of the immensity, not the other way round. Thus, in so far as the Dark Energy, the unconscious, exists, nothing can, by definition, be said about its limits or contents except for those parts that surface into consciousness (and these surfacings, while interacting or ‘constellating’ with consciousness, are not decided by consciousness itself).

If this is so, then it also follows ‘it would be wildly arbitrary and therefore unscientific to restrict the self to the limits of the individual psyche (…)’.[2] In that sense, one may speak of an illimitable ‘objective unconscious’, a collective unconscious, of which the empirical eruptions and manifestations in dreams and symbols, art works and diseases thus also bear all the marks of the numinous and transcendent, ‘all the marks of something illimitable, something not determined by space and time.’[3]

In our individual existence before our birth we physically and psychologically swim (if we are fortunate) securely contained within our mothers, who in turn are, ideally, supported and contained by the social matrix of a loving husband, family, midwives, community. Constantly in dialogue with her, we learn our first deep shape and (pre-verbal) self. Post-natally (if we are fortunate), we further inter-bond with her warm containment, her secure holding, responsiveness and loving acceptance, thus forming our own secure Basal Pattern or psycho-behavioural matrix for our adult life and shaping our very voice, our Mother Tongue.

From this biological, ancestral and maternal basis of love and security, social cooperation and security may then unfold, the invisible division of labour, competition, mutual aid and symbiosis that under-gird our material and spiritual existence. The global Great Social and Economic Network is as spiritual as the Great Fungal-Bacterial Net, the Great Genetic Net, the Collective Unconscious, the Great Matrix of the universe itself. On the social and economic level, Dark Energy takes the form of the countless acts of – in all hierarchical, caste- or class-based systems like the present capitalist one – mostly made invisible, unrecognized, un-honoured labour that keeps the whole industrial machine running. This upholding labour has long been global in scope. And since the end of hunting and gathering society, it has always been in the form of caste- and class-based oppression, exploitation and servitude. And yet it is the ‘Necessary Work’, the ‘one breathing body’ that is the Great Matrix.

 

The Necessary Work

 

6.45 cold mountain air breathing

down from the Gib first life swelling

dream-webbed lungs again

this commuter walks to the station

 

along Boolwey Street greet the chief town planner

often disagreed with returning

from the newsagent with his big hairy

third-of-a-frosty-night kind of a dog

 

greet the Council street sweeper

contemplative pipe and congruent smile

cleaning up what the anarchist currawongs

on Corbett have liberated from the bins

 

a friendly glance to the contract window cleaner

at the Health Insurance, Charcoal Chicken shop

attacking his panes with the force

and precision of a Zen archer

a Hercules in shorts and Reebocks

dreaming of Olympian gold

 

or the woman in Janek’s

peeling avocadoes simply

peeling avocadoes

 

the station-master in his glass fortress

for whom I’m Return Concession Central

and on whom all my sly propaganda

falls like a hot lead balloon sinking

slowly ripple-free in some indifferent sea

 

suddenly, there It was

as simple and real

as the silver coffee tables

perfectly arranged by the fountain

hit by the early morning light

 

brothers, sisters, relationship, river

love absolutely alone and one

wholly free and bound in one

breathing body of the Necessary Work

 

as necessary as the currawongs on Corbett

                      (1998)

 

The Holding

       
 
a mother strokes the hair

of her asthmatic child at 3 am

her nerves are screaming out

pain, love and bone-deep exhaustion

to a pale indifferent moon

 

a rain-soaked father turns

moth-soft eyes

and a smile of welcome

to his nine year old

dragging his slow defeated boots

back towards him through

the football field’s slow sucking mud

 

a circle of twenty women

from under-funded welfare agencies

in a dingy church hall

with triumphant missionary

posters on the walls

quietly report on business

holding lives together

on shrinking budgets

holding each other up

with soft voices

that weave silent nets of holding

 

the two men I greet

each early morning

carefully sweeping Corbett and Bong Bong

among the bin-marauding  currawongs

 

the men that build our houses

drive our community bus

fix our cars, fight our fires

repair our roofs and dunnies:

the invisible heavy work

the strong soil of the community tree

 

Penrose community hall, packed

to the rafters. Anti-mega-dump.

Sweaty words, pollies eeling their way out

concerned residents fearfully

half-opening to a new threshold:

active citizenship. The snail

pulls in its feelers again

and democracy is back in its shell

until the next tide

 

the environmentalists, the social activists

standing forlornly among rushing consumers

handing out little leaflets no one reads

 

the public tree planters

that are the willing tools

of our common future’s mighty trees,

crystal air and sweet birdsong

breathing through our children’s

children’s drawings and dreams

                                 (2002)

(For the public launch of the philanthropic Wingecarribee Community Foundation, Bowral Memorial Hall)

 

Interestingly, the word ‘therapist’ or ‘therapeut’ derives from the Greek word for servant, the one who supports, serves, the one who upholds. The working people of our nation and the world are thus our unacknowledged ‘upholders’, our ‘therapeuts’ that have been made invisible. How therapeutic it would indeed be for all – including the ‘therapeuts’ – if they were lifted into the light of conscious day, if the Dark Energy of this labour (as that of the fungal-bacterial net and the great photosynthetic proletariat we derive all our food from) were acknowledged and honoured as central to all existence. Of course this would be near impossible to do authentically within a capitalist system that is necessarily based on treating workers and everything else as market commodities, as things. To really deeply honour our collective debt to our past and present invisible ‘therapeuts’ would entail a spiritual revolution of sorts. And we never know where those kinds of things could lead, do we?

Meanwhile, we can only write poems.

 

The Therapeuts of Inter-Being

To the Compassionate Ones

the Great Proletariat we busy ones ignore

the blue collar Boddhisattvas of the factories

the green collar photosynthetic factories that feed us all

the dark moist world wide web of invisible fungi

(the collective unconscious of planetary life)

the sleepless mothers rocking babies in the night

the volunteers that woman the pumps, canteens and fire-hoses

the fathers whose big hands bring home the bacon

and nurse window-stunned magpies back into flight

the men who haul away corpses and garbage

the nurses and doctors and cleaners in the hospital machine

the men and women who start non-violent revolutions

by speaking bone-marrow truth,

not getting up in buses

or taking salt from the common sea

To the man, the woman, the child, the weed and worm

that sing the dance of life that inter-is

with moon and snail and chainsaw

all subtly enfolded in this white poetic sheet

(now faintly trembling in your ancient hand

in-formed by claw, paw and non-opposing thumb)

that contains the gentle sky raining mercy

upon our parched and waiting fields

we sing praise

                     (2005)

 

 


[1] C.G. Jung, ‘Individual Dream Symbolism in Relation to Alchemy’ (1952), in Dreams, p. 256. 

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

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~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on December 13, 2009.

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