April 2011

Dear Friends,

“Yes we can”, “together we will achieve”, “the united country will not be defeated” and so on: we all remember similar slogans and they are certainly true, in part at least and when related to a given situation. Such statements appeal to our sense of community and to our will to live and function together. I think the controversy also starts exactly there. Do we want it or don’t we? The answer is always a conditional “yes” and a conditional “no” depending on the issue at hand. So, are we ambivalent, selfish thinkers or are we thriving on the spirit of an assembly?

We live with this very problem ever since our birth. Is life better on the inside or on the outside? Are we viewing life from the inside or from the outside? Do we feel more comfortable alone and independent or in the midst of others as part of a group? Do we live by our crowd instinct or as fierce individuals? There is no simple and outright answer. It is always both and that complexity causes so many struggles with us and others. Families, couples, nations, political factions, religious ones and the professional teams all argue and debate their views about this subject matter. We therapists would have a lot less work if these same individuals wouldn’t come to us with their queries of how to live better with each other. None of us can run away from the problem. The way our life on Earth is implies that we must deal with the confusion in order to live a relatively peaceful existence.

My challenge around the togetherness topic came up the other week while donating my blood plasma. The nurse explained that my precious fluid and potential healing solution for others is not kept individually. I was told that plasma is stored in a pool, with plasma from other donors with the same blood type. It is then treated and only after this process made into different types of medication. I was amazed. My donation therefore becomes part of a collective cure. It was instantly clear to me how important it is to work together on things that matter. It is also quite apparent that it is impossible to claim your own blood back from that pool! You could only get some back from other donors and only if you needed it. The old adage that “you can only receive when you give” is beautifully demonstrated with this example and seems quite obvious!

What does belong to us and what is for others of ours and theirs? I am sure you gather that I am not talking only about material possessions.

We are constantly challenged how to position ourselves with questions like: how much do we give, how big is our contribution and on the other hand how much or how little do we keep for ourselves? The answer should ideally come from our own decision. Isn’t the most important issue our personal freedom, however we define it? Happiness comes with autonomy and it is up to each one of us what our definition about this word is, changeable in every circumstance. Freedom can be achieved in surrender, no matter how controversial that sounds. I am sure we all of have examples of life situations where freedom meant one thing to us and something completely different to others. Vive la difference, as we say in French!

I shall leave you now to your own considerations about it all, wishing you good luck with the outcome!

As a story for this Newsletter, I have chosen THE LAST FREE MAN, by Kimberly Schimmel
“Someone was knocking on the door. He was not surprised. He rose slowly, walked to the door, and opened it for the men. He assumed they were federal agents. He stood in the doorway, calmly looking at the men, but saying nothing.

The silence was uncomfortable for the agents. Their leader cleared his throat and began, “Mr. Smith, we’ve been sent here to help you.”

“I did not request any help,” Mr. Smith replied. “Who sent you?” Mr. Smith already knew the answer, but he wanted to make the men answer.

“Why, the people, of course. Your fellow citizens are concerned that you are still living outside the collective.”

Mr. Smith, of course, was fine. He needed no collective. He grew his own food, had a well with fresh water, and had built a fine house. He had once been the most brilliant engineer in his country. He was still brilliant, but the collective had confiscated the factories and machinery he had designed and maintained. He had retreated to his remote home to try to live in peace. Other engineers had moved to the collective but, over time, had lost their desire to innovate. Perhaps being surrounded by all those “people’s representatives” and federal agents did not inspire men to put forth their best efforts.
Mr. Smith, after another long silence, responded to the agents. “The citizen’s concern is unwarranted. I am fine. Now, if that is all, I’ll say good night.” He turned from the door, knowing the agents would not leave.

“Mr. Smith,” said the leader, “We came to take you with us.”

“Why?” said Smith. He knew the answer, but wanted the satisfaction of hearing it spoken out loud.
“Well…we…need you, Mr. Smith,” they admitted.

“I see. All those drones in the collective and not a one of them can keep your economy going? So you’ve come to drag me away to save you all, after you’ve stolen everything I ever invented?” Smith waited for their next move.

“We wouldn’t exactly say that. You will come, won’t you? We didn’t plan to use force.”

“Of course you didn’t,” said Smith, “but I can’t help but notice you are all armed.” He paused for a moment, appearing to consider their request. At last, he answered. “If you gentlemen will be so kind as to let me gather my books, I will meet you at your car.”

The relieved agents went to their car while Smith went back into his house. Smith called his dog, grabbed a pack he kept in the closet for just such an emergency, and slipped through a trap door
in the bedroom. When he was safely on his way through his carefully engineered tunnel to the forest, he pulled a detonator from the pack. All the agents saw was Smith’s fine house, blown to bits. They assumed Smith had committed suicide, just as Smith had known they would.

The collective held a meeting that night to decide what to do. Winter was coming, and nobody had enough ambition to fix the heating system or preserve the food. The rusting factories were filled with drones, waiting for the collective to tell them what to do. They were waiting for the collective to save them. They did not realize that they were the collective and they would not save themselves. They had forgotten how.”

As a photo, please look at this picture: how to make the most of a barrier.

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In love and light and reflection
Mariana