MICHAEL MEADE

Mosaic Voices

ESSAYS

March 21, 2017

February 16, 2017

January 18, 2017

Folk tales and fables used to be understood as containers for the psychological truths and deeper ideas needed to understand the recurring troubles of this world. “Nothing new under the sun,” they seem to say; what seems unprecedented now may have appeared before in a different guise. Thus, the old tale of the emperor without clothes has made a big comeback lately. Yet, other old stories can more precisely reveal what is trying to be covered up in the struggles behind the throne. An old tale, perhaps ironically translated from the Russian, involves an emperor called the Czar Trojan who loved nothing more...

Most people are familiar with the fairy tale of The Emperor’s New Clothes, where the vanity and self-involvement of the king become evident to everyone as a result of a fraud becoming public. In older versions of the story however, the issue is not simple vanity, but a deeper sense of self-aggrandizement and delusion that endangers everyone. An old Spanish version of the tale begins with three impostors convincing a ruler that they can fabricate cloth so fine that only the legitimate son of a noble father would be able to see it. Anyone who was illegitimate, even if they believed themselves to be legitimate, would be unable to see the cloth...

Originally, the word inauguration meant: “to install and consecrate under good omens.” The time for an investiture would only be set after an augury or reading of the flight of birds revealed good omens for the occasion. In the modern world important dates tend to be set far in advance and the omens, good or bad, only become revealed as the day draws near. On the eve of the presidential inauguration there is more than politics involved and the omens do not look good. Rather than an occasion that ratifies the unifying sense of “we the people,” it is easy for people of good conscience to feel disheartened by the amount of resentment, hatred and division that has been stirred...

December 19, 2016

The time of winter solstice has come round again as the sun reaches its extreme border and the light of day seems about to be swallowed by the sea of night. Solstice means “sun stands still,” as if the warmth and radiance of life itself hangs in the balance at critical points in the course of planetary existence. Traditional cultures around the world imagined that the midwinter sun needed conscious help from people in order to avoid being devoured by the expanse of darkness that nips at the edges of life.  Ancient people imagined that the extremes of darkness harbored a rebirth of the sun in which the warmth and generative power of life shifts from...

December 6, 2016

Since the recent election I have encountered many people, young and old, who feel deeply disheartened by all the resentment, hatred and division that have been stirred up. Many also feel discouraged by all the false promises, “fake news” and betrayals of the public trust. Amidst the distribution of outright lies, I keep thinking of an old story from India about the spread of poison and the need to tell the truth. The tale begins when a child, playing with a ball, is bitten by a poisonous snake. By the time the parents arrive the venom has spread, leaving the little one unconscious. With no doctor near, they carry the child to a local monk and implore the holy man to save the youngster...

November 29, 2016

We face overwhelming problems that affect the entire global community; yet we are becoming increasingly alienated and at odds with each other. It’s not simply that the country is divided; not just that people feel themselves on opposite sides of increasing problems; but also that the center has gone missing. We now live in a gap of culture with opposing sides that appear to be entrenching ever more deeply. More and more people live in fear of being marginalized, whether on the basis of race or gender, economics or religious belief. Under the spell of demographics and the statistical world view people tend to pick one set of facts and reject others as being unreasonable or even insane...

November 17, 2016

A frequent explanation for the unexpected election result is that this was a “change election” in which a majority of voters wanted some kind of sweeping change at the national level. Disruption is another word being used to explain both the method and the aim of the Trump campaign. The new leader represents the energy of disruption that will shake things up and turn things around. Part of the problem lies in the fact that disruption comes from the root rupture which carries troubling meanings like “tearing asunder, breaking apart, splitting up and breaking to pieces." When it comes to change the old warning is ‘be careful what you wish for...

September 20, 2016

An old idea suggests there are but three kinds of people in this world. The first kind of person tends to be preoccupied with self-interest as everything refers back to “I, me and mine.” At this basic level the world can be divided into winners and losers as self-assertion rules the day and excesses of aggression and rule-breaking can seem justified. Often, the only restraints on self-aggrandizement become the fear of public shaming or the threat of condemnation and punishment by law...

 

August 10, 2016

The old Greek word tyrant could be applied to despotic kings, but was also used to describe popular usurpers who arrogate to themselves authority they have no right to use. In modern usage, a tyrant can be any imperious or domineering person who insists on complete obedience from others. And there lies the rub, for tyranny is not something simply imposed upon people without their agreement; the rise of tyranny requires consent from those about to be victimized...

July 29, 2016

July 20, 2016

December 17, 2015

The conventions of both major political parties have taken place, not only amidst overheated political rhetoric; but also in the midst of what promises to be the hottest summer in recorded history. For the first time on record, every inch of all 50 states is forecast to see above-average temperatures for the entire period leading up to the election. In the Middle East, where extremism and endless wars can seem like “hell on earth,” temperatures have reached as high as 129 degrees...

Amidst the speed of changes occurring in both nature and culture it takes very little to tear the skin of civilization and reveal massive and festering emotional wounds full of fear, rage, resentment and vengeance. We are not just in the midst of an unusual election or a surprising political period. We are not simply in the middle of the hottest summer on record. We are in an extended period of the radical churning of the world in which all the toxicities and poisons that are usually held back appear on the stage of life at the same time...

In the modern world the common connotation of the word friend might be “a contact associated with through social media.” Yet, online connections and the use of contemporary verbs friending and liking may have nothing to do with actual friendship. The older, deeper sense of friend comes from the root verb ‘fri-’ meaning “to like, to love, or be affectionate to.” As with anything meaningful, connection in depth is required for friendship; the lack of it leaves people more isolated and leaves the world with less genuine presence...

Myths are not part of the past; but a way to see universal truths playing out in the present. Myths are the inside story that make meaning of the outside world. For instance, Donald Trump desperately wants people to believe he is a modern Prometheus; not just a would-be king, but a culture hero for these dark times. For the moment, he may represent the anger and resentment of those who feel tricked or mistreated. Yet they will only be tricked again as "the Donald" embodies the old French word tromper which means “to mock and demean”...

 

A society is playing with fire when it neglects the needs and desires of its young people; not only are natural talents wasted, but a sense of desperation grows in the shadows. Young men in particular can feel driven to desperate acts if they do not feel welcome in society and valued for who they are in their essence. Most people have heard the old African proverb that “it takes a village to raise a child.” Fewer know that the second part of the proverbial statement suggests that if young people are not fully invited into life they will burn the village down. It takes a village to raise a child, but once childhood is over...

December 19, 2014

As a piece of “living philosophy,” golden repair suggests redemptive practices through which the damages of history and the tragic mistakes we make with the fragile vessels of both nature and culture might be repaired. Like any genuine process of healing and making whole again, golden repair requires that we first acknowledge and carefully study the exact faults and divisions that damage the shared vessels of our lives. If we see the globe of the earth as a living, sacred vessel that needs artful repairs we might imagine ways of helping it heal....

 

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