Thursday, March 22, 2007

On Freedom and Call -- The Jonah Complex

Why did Jonah run from God? This is never explained. However from the afternoon Eve and Adam awoke from their blissful unconscious state and hid themselves in shame, humans have avoided responsibility and the work of the soul. God gave our primordial ancestors the work of tilling the garden in Eden. It is interesting to me that the word therapeuo (the origin of the word therapy) means "to dig in the ground" (as many can attest to the stress relieved by gardening).

Most of us do not want life to be a great adventure whatever that might be. We might like to hear about it -- at the movies -- but participate, "no, not if it requires us inconvenience". Joining the French Foreign Legion is not likely even after our heart is broken by young love and joining up at the baptismal covenant for more than lip service to a cultural Christianity seems wrongheaded and a little extreme. After all we have to be practical and think of our future, the challenges of family, work and the demands of a society that tolerates no extremism other than that which helps business. This can make for a pale, anemic faith. JWS
""The psychologist Abraham Maslow calls spiritual and emotional truancy the Jonah Complex: 'The evasion of one's own growth, the setting of low levels of aspiration, the fear of doing what one is capable of doing, voluntary self-crippling, pseudo-stupidity, mock humility.' No matter how sophisticated or ingenious the avoidance, Maslow says, it is still a cheap adaptation to the implorings of personal evolution, and it reminiscent of a dire old joke about two clerics who are the first to witness the return of the Messiah. when the younger one frantically asks, 'What should we do?' the older one tells him, 'look busy.' 'The guilt of Jonah,' says Arthur Koestler in The Act of Creation, 'was that he clung to the trivial, and tried to cultivate only his own small garden.' " [Callings -- Gregg Lavoy pg. 180]
" The meeting of the tragic and trivial planes. It's basic pattern can be roughly described as follows. Under the effect of some overwhelming experience, the hero is made to realize the shallowness of his life, the futility and frivolity of the daily pursuits of man in the trivial routines of existence. This realization may come to him as a sudden shock caused by some catastrophic event, or as the cumulative effect of a show inner development, or through the trigger action of some apparently banal experience which assures and unexpected significance. The hero then suffers a crisis which involves the very foundations of his being; he embarks on the Night Journey, is suddenly transferred to the Tragic Plane -- from which he emerges purified, enriched by new insight, regenerated on a higher level of integration. ... The journey always represents a plunge downward and backward to the sources and tragic undercurrents of existence, into the fluid magma, of which the Trivial Plane of everyday life is merely the thin crust." [Arthur Koestler The Act of Creation pg. 358]

The Captain calls on Jonah to rise up and face the situation. It is a useful spiritual exercise to inventory the captains in our life -- those who have in moments of spiritual stupor called on us to awaken and rise up/grow up and get with it. We may not have known it at the time or we may have resented it but nevertheless there is a second call. Such calls often occur in a crisis but nevertheless there it is a second chance. On a small easel on a table in my office is a farmed statement -- "O God of second chances and new beginnings here I am again." I find such a declaration worthy of continual contemplation. JWS

We so want security. We so want to avoid danger.

In the early 1980’s a young couple in New England decided to give up the “rat-race” of modern life. So they begin to look at what they could do. For a year, they researched the world, examining the laces best suited for raising a family away from society’s pollutants. A place where they could get a new start. A place that would be free from the economic rat race, where their children could get a quality education, where they all could develop to their full potential in a healthful, environment. Finally they found and they left in January of 1982 for a small, isolated island chain off the coast of Argentina: the Falkland Islands. And, of course, in April of 1982, the Falkland’s War began. JWS

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” -- Helen Keller

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