On wholeness in the cultural discourse


When I hear stories of wholeness I see an inclusion of all parts, a natural, radiant acceptance of all the pieces that make up the colourful patchwork that is human kind. It makes me feel resourced and supported.

So when I saw a preview of Blackkklansman last Monday and heard its director, the brilliant Spike Lee talk about it afterwards, I was confused.

It tells the true story of the infiltration of a local chapter of the infamous Ku Klux Klan (KKK) by Ron Stallworth, the first black policeman and later detective to join the Colorado Springs Police Department in the 70s.

Yes you read well, quite intriguing indeed, and the plot thickens when you find out that Stallworth contacted the KKK using his own name and then asked a white colleague to do the actual undercover work on his behalf.

As if this were not enough Spike Lee spices up the original true story by granting Jewish credentials to the white detective. He also cunningly inserts a Black Panther love interest, who is targeted for bombing by a particularly nasty element of said Colorado chapter of the Klan.

This makes for quite a colourful patchwork but this one does not tell a story of wholeness, quite the opposite.

You might say well this is true to life and reflects the extreme polarisation of the US social minefield. But what is the point behind such a 'black versus white' story?

Spike Lee spoke afterwards of the duty of responsibility of film directors and producers. He mentioned Birth of a Nation, a film about the American civil war, originally called the Clansman, which, he reckons, rekindled the fires of the Klan and revived far right nationalism in the US when it was released in 1915.

I thought of what he just said and felt: “well, what have you just done if not enhancing hostility against the KKK and portray something simply reflecting a divided and racist America.” There is nothing there pointing towards a possible story of wholeness, of healing, only one of disconnection and separation.

At one point Stallworth rings David Duke the federal head of the KKK and Duke answers; the two get on eerily well over the phone. Later in the film the same Stallworth is asked by his boss to provide security for Duke on his visit to the Colorado chapter. You can imagine that the quality of connection was not the same.

The friendly phone conversations are the only scenes conveying a possible (if under a farcical pretence) bridge between the two 'clans' and of course this is because Stallworth integrates/mirrors Duke's“hate language”. Of course Lee's narrative disrupts the usual American cultural discourse of evil black gangster/criminal versus good white cop but his is still a somewhat pointless story of opposition and separation.

This deeply rooted polarisation in our Western cultures between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ goes back to the rise of the Devil as a separate figure embodying and 'em-spiriting' all evil qualities. In the Old testament, the old God/Yahweh is beyond good and evil because he is at once both darkness and light as are most divinities in ancient traditions like Shiva for example in Hinduism and Zeus in ancient Greece.

“The Christian figure of the Devil, from the late Middle Ages (…), assumed a different character to the earlier biblical Satan, who was merely a consort of Yahweh rather than having the wholly evil and demonic character we now commonly associate with the Devil. ”(from The Dark Spirit in Nature, C.G. Jung and the Spiritual Evolution of our time, Kieron le Grice)

In the same essay, Le Grice very interestingly notes, “Within Christian orthodoxy, sexuality, instinct, the bodily urges and passions (relating to Pluto) were seen as inherently sinful and evil, and thus excluded by the Christian moral separation of good (light, Christ, God, spirit) from evil (dark, Devil, nature, instinct). Good and evil, God and nature, Christ and the Devil, were conceived as absolute opposites. People were taught to put themselves exclusively on the side of the good in the fight against evil. Accordingly, the Christian ethical distinction between good and evil meant that natural human instincts were often denied expression. As Friedrich Nietzsche realized, this brought a subsequent loss of life power and vital energy across a culture shaped by Christian morality. As Joseph Campbell points out, our usual understanding of the meaning of the word demon is illustrative of this point. Rather than signifying an evil power, the original meaning of this term, coming from the Greek daemon, is the dynamic of life.”

In my mind as we reach wholeness, we rise beyond good and evil, to a place where these distinctions are of no import, in a state of effortless non-judgemental self-acceptance.

If indeed film directors and producers have a duty of responsibility as Spike Lee tells us, then I feel that they ought to show us more stories of wholeness, of what the potential of togetherness, of bridging across divides hold in today’s profoundly sick world.

We do not need so many stories of ‘separation’ about the ‘fight between good and evil’, of ‘crusades’ and ‘jihads’…

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that we should deny what is there but why don’t cultural mavens and super talented directors like Spike Lee mirror a different story, which also exists: one of healing and meeting our trauma, the darker parts of ourselves and the ensuing shining from within, one of reaching out, reconnecting... Why don't they inspire us with stories of community-building, of differences reconciled, of restoring our kinship with our natural environment, stories about the wonders of our universe…

As Charles Eisenstein says in The More Beautiful World our Hearts Know is Possible, "Evil is a response to the perception of separation", and it is the "othering that allows us to harm."

He quotes Goethe,"The way you see people is the way you treat them, and the way you treat them is the way they become."

Have you felt the differences within yourself emotionally and physically after watching truly inspirational films like, As it is in Heaven, by Kay Pollac, and Won't you be my neighbor? this gorgeous new documentary about the wonderful Fred Rodgers, or the beautifully-filmed Human by Yann Arthus Bertrand -- freely available on youtube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vdb4XGVTHkE

For "Seeing others as interbeings who desire deeply to give and be of service, we will engage them accordingly, holding the space for them to see themselves that way too." (The More Beautiful World our Hearts Know is Possible, Charles Eisenstein, 2013)


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