The Bunny in the Bramble Patch
The Blog March is on! Organized by Robin Renee, we are blogging in celebration of freedom of expression, knowledge and information.
Each Day in May, a new writer will join the March. Visit Robin Renee’s blog to read more about the Blog March, and find the master list of blog marchers.
I’m the marcher for May 2. Thanks for marching along with me.
Yesterday was May First. Celebrated as International Worker’s Day, it’s the cross-quarter day between the Vernal Equinox and the Summer Solstice.
When I was a child, we celebrated May Day by creating paper “May baskets” and hanging them on the doors of neighbors and loved ones. Later, I discovered this tradition was a holdover from the Pagan celebration of Beltane, or Beltaine.
As a young adult, I began celebrating Beltane with my friends, complete with a Maypole. When my son was born on May 4, Beltane became a time to celebrate his birthday, too.
For my son’s third birthday, my friends and I agreed to gather at Kettletown State Park in Connecticut for a celebration. There would be birthday cake and games for the kids, guitars, drums and wine for the adults, and a pot luck picnic for everyone.
We all brought colorful ribbons, and my friends who had a truck brought a large pole.
The Maypole dance was the focal point of the day. We laughed, danced, drummed and chanted our way around the pole, weaving the ribbons in and out. Kids blew bubbles and pulled their younger siblings in wagons around the outer circle, joined by our family dogs, gleeful to be part of the festivities.
Afterwards, a few of us walked up to the meadow beyond the space we had claimed, where we saw another group also celebrating Beltane.
This group was dressed all in black and white robes. Their Maypole was a solemn affair, with black and white alternating ribbons. They moved with precision, creating an equal balance of light and dark as they danced silently with each other.
We marveled that, in this small Connecticut town, there were two groups celebrating Beltane in the same park. Our two groups could not have been any more different. One, somber, precise and traditional, in black and white. The other, playful and colorful, in tie-dye.
At the end, one Maypole stood woven in black and white, the other was a mishmash of rainbows.
Neither of these was the right way to celebrate Beltane, nor was either the wrong way. One way appealed to my friends and me, the other way appealed to our new friends.
Our two groups enjoyed a conversation and a beverage together, and then we each continued our own celebrations.
We didn’t argue about the one true way to celebrate Beltane, nor suggest that anyone’s deities or ancestors might be offended. We shared a drink, enjoyed our commonalities and honored our differences.
Folks all around the world seem to have a hard time doing what we so naturally did that day nearly 23 years ago – enjoying the things we have in common and finding ways to work together despite our differences. In some ways, our divisions seem to have a dangerous new intensity. Worse, those divisions seem to be fueled by the proliferation of fake news and alternative facts. When truth is only a matter of opinion, it’s easy to confuse people into swallowing a party line rather than making reasoned decisions.
There are many unprecedented components that seemed to have contributed to our current state of division, as a nation and as a planet. Digital media, the 24-hour news cycle, and significant wage disparity all seem factors in our growing division and distrust.
There is also a longstanding aspect of human nature that may require some evolution if we are going to become a peaceful planet with a sustainable future.
That aspect is our binary world view. We are trained to view everything in terms of good versus bad, and us versus them.
Binary is a basic concept of our existence. As young people, we learn about opposites in absolute terms. The black and white ribbons and robes of the Maypole express this energy of balance between opposites.
When we look at today’s problems, and perhaps, our problems throughout history, we see that much trouble may come from that polarity of our thinking which naturally divides us.
Sometimes we don’t find solutions in the black and white, we need to look to the full spectrum for answers.
We see the obvious problems with a binary world view in our own American two-party political process. Perhaps America is too complex to be labeled as simply “conservative” or “liberal”, “red” or “blue”.
That polarity led us to our unwinnable election. With all the talent and intelligence in the United States, we ended up with a choice between the Pumpkin and the Pantsuit. It may as well have been a choice between Zap Brannigan and Mom from Futurama, or President Snow and President Coin from The Hunger Games. South Park echoed our frustration with a plot line about an election between “Giant Douche” and “Turd Sandwich”.
Maybe the system of absolutes, where your only options are on or off, one or zero, male or female, up or down, doesn’t always work in a diverse world.
Perhaps as we evolve as a species, binary needs to break down. Perhaps we need more than two major political parties. Maybe we need to find fluidity between two poles, rather than being stuck on one end or the other.
That fluidity can be helpful in navigating the wide set of human experiences. When it comes to separating fact from fiction in our world of fake news and alternative facts, though, fluidity doesn’t seem to serve truth.
One of the greatest of all binaries is true versus false. It also the one to which people are most likely to add artificial fluidity when it serves their agenda.
There are different kinds of truths, too.
There are quantifiable truths, such as how many people attended an event.
There are philosophical truths such as “all people are created equal” which, clearly some do not hold as truth.
There’s the truth of what happened in a particular moment, where each person’s perception colors their version of the event. We see this on a grand scale when we watch the news-as-entertainment cable stations each highlight and present news stories in a way that obviously favors their political leaning.
We all experience things differently, and perceive things differently.
Pete Seeger used say that truth was like a “rabbit in a bramble patch.” You can point at it, you can circle around it, you know it’s in there somewhere, but it’s impossible to get your hands around it’s furry, squirmy body.
That we can’t always identify truth scares some people. Those people often find comfort in dogmatic religions and authoritarian leaders – the very things that suppress the truth by feeding us doctrine.
As a society, we complicate our search for truth by raising our children to confuse myth with fact, training generation after generation to believe the fantastic over the logical.
There is something within us that causes us to long for answers, to feel safe identifying with a group, and to cling to stories that support our beliefs, even if neither the stories nor beliefs reflect actual truth.
In the end, our survival as a species may depend on our ability to move beyond our “us and them” mentality, and to understand that we will never all share the same perspective, and we will never agree on what is true. Yet, we can still find a way to live and work together.
As black and white breaks into the spectrum of rainbow possibilities, there is only one binary set that remains. It’s not the eternal struggle between good and evil – that has always been a false construct based on perspective.
The one binary that becomes defining of our precarious future is love versus fear. These are true opposites.
If we focus on fear, those loose boundaries will terrify us, perhaps, ultimately, to the point of our own extinction.
If we focus on love over fear, we can maybe agree on the important truths, like basic human rights. We can learn to tolerate our differences around the smaller truths, like how we worship and what we value.
That future vision turned out not to be so one-size-fits-all.
Now, when we look to the future, our vision of utopia needs to be replaced with a new paradigm where we simply get along and respect each other.
Perhaps, If we each strive to love more than we fear, we can end this time of division, and all agree that the bunny is alive and well in the bramble patch.
Thanks for joining Blog March 2017! Make sure you march along each day this month to see what all the contributors have to say!