I Wish You Whole
It’s time we stopped allowing society to curb our souls
I’ve just released what feels like a pivotal single.
Pivotal for me, at least — up until now, all of my work has been looking outwards, trying to make sense of the world around me as it appears to fall apart.
The systems that govern our lives have been in decline for some time now but most people are still reluctant to admit that we’re coming to the end of an era. Like Monty Python’s famous Black Knight, we seem to be losing our metaphorical limbs and yet still insisting that everything is going to be alright. Perhaps it’s easier to cling onto what we know and allow ourselves to be swept into the abyss together rather than looking up and leaping away into the unknown.
Existing systems are on their way out
The trouble is, once you’ve acknowledged that systems are on their way out, you either resign yourself to atrophy or you start to look for alternatives. And it turns out that there are many wonderful, creative and plausible ideas that humanity could use as a basis for organising and conducting itself. And many of these would be likely to bring prosperity for humans, non-humans and the poor, beleaguered planet that we’ve been abusing for hundreds of years.
So, if there are better systems out there than the existing capitalist one then why are we not starting to explore them? Well, for a start there are powerful vested interests throughout the current establishment that have been actively suppressing any alternatives to the existing system for many years. And the closer we get to collapse, the more authoritarian and draconian the controlling powers become. But, even more profoundly, the existing system is so ingrained in each and every one of us that to question it is to question who and what we are. Our identities are intimately intertwined with this system. It’s intensely personal.
Consequently, when you start to unpick the system and see it for what it really is, what ensues is a process of unpicking yourself and seeing yourself for who you really are. The deeper you delve, the more you realise that all the external problems that you are so critical of in wider society also exist within you because you are part of this system, you were raised by this system and you are still existing within the system, even if you might be starting to pull away from certain elements of it.
This is what I’ve now realised and what is coming to the fore with the release of my latest single, Whole. The song deals with the question of how we can throw off the shackles of our social conditioning and become more “whole” as individuals.
What is wholeness?
But what does this mean? What is “wholeness"? For me, it means embracing every aspect of ourselves — good and bad; easy and difficult; aspects of ourself that we’re proud of and aspects that we tend to suppress or deny. We’ve all been conditioned to present an over-simplified, one-dimensional version of ourselves that fits in with the reductionist, mechanised society that we are part of.
And what this does is cut us off from all the other elements that make up our true selves. It curbs our souls. We are so much richer than the caricatures that we all present to the world. Yes, I am a musician and writer and husband and father. Those are all significant elements of my identity. But these four labels don’t even begin to reflect the richness of my self in all its glorious complexity.
The labels are not bad in themselves. They can be a useful introduction to what we’re about as people. But when we start to identify with just the labels and exclude all the other facets of our lives and selves then we end up in a small box of separation, cut off from a significant portion of ourselves and also cut off from each other, the rest of the living world and the wonder and awe of life itself.
This is where we are now as a society. There is an epidemic of mental health issues because we are disconnected from ourselves; the fabric of society is crumbling because we are disconnected from each other; our disconnection from Mother Earth and the web of life is leading us down a perilous path towards multiple ecological and environmental problems that could threaten our very future on this planet.
We’re not whole as individuals; we’re not whole as communities; and we’re not whole as members of the living world. In fact, I’d say we’re pretty dysfunctional on all fronts at the moment!
So where do we go from here? I’ve spent the last few years shouting about the fact that we all need to change. But it turns out that people are not that receptive to being told what they should be doing. Therefore it feels like most of the people who have resonated with my work thus far have been those that were already some way along the path of change that I’ve been advocating.
What I’ve realised, and the reason why this single is pivotal for me, is that the only thing you can truly change is yourself. You can influence others to change, but that influence will be hollow if you’re not making the necessary changes within yourself, and ultimately others will only change if they want to.
The Hero’s Journey
The desire to persuade others to change is a course of action primarily driven by our own ego. It may be underpinned by altruistic motivation but the underlying reason is that you want to fulfil some kind of “Hero” role, persuading others to change their ways for the greater good of society — as if we’ll only get to where we need to be thanks to your supposedly selfless actions.
The hero archetype is deeply embedded in our society and in the psyche of every one of its citizens. It’s the perfect apotheosis of individuality and Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” has become a symbolic framework for a successful life. The idea of a brave and gifted individual who must overcome a series of challenges and difficulties to attain a coveted goal and make the world a better place (all single-handedly) is a familiar archetype that I’m sure we can all identify with.
The trouble is, this archetype has taken over, just like individuality and separation has taken over our culture. Sharon Blackie has recently written a fantastic critique of the Hero’s Journey and all the issues that have arisen from the elevation of this archetype over all others.
Once again, what we are dealing with is a caricature — a representation of life that lacks depth and the multifaceted wholeness of true life.
The Eco-Heroine’s Journey
What we need now in order to regain our wholeness is to reawaken the dormant aspects of ourselves — our humility, compassion, empathy, vulnerability — all characteristics, many of them feminine in essence, that have been swept aside in favour of a highly-skewed version of masculinity. People are realising this, whether consciously or subconsciously, and it feels like we’re on the verge of a new era where the more feminine aspects of our being will be reawakened and balance restored.
Sharon Blackie suggests that we now need a Post-Heroic Journey as an antidote to the now-ubiquitous Hero’s Journey. In her seminal book, If Women Rose Rooted, she describes an Eco-Heroine’s Journey that strikes me as a perfect roadmap back towards wholeness:
“…a path to understanding how deeply enmeshed we are in the web of life on this planet. In many ways, it is an antidote to the swashbuckling action-adventure that is the Hero’s Journey, with its rather grandiose focus on saving the world. … This path forces us first to examine ourselves and the world we live in, to face up to all that is broken and dysfunctional in it and in our own lives. Then it calls us to change – first ourselves, and then the world around us. It leads us back to our own sense of grounded belonging to this Earth, and asks us what we have to offer to the places and communities in which we live. Finally, it requires us to step into our own power and take back our ancient, native role as its guardians and protectors. To rise up rooted, like trees.”
I wish you whole
So, I’m not going to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do, or what you should or shouldn’t think. What I am going to do is continue to work on becoming as whole as I can be, and help those around me to do the same. And I will continue to offer my thoughts and creations in the hope that they may be of service to others.
Other than that, I wish you freedom from control, I wish you fullness of the soul.
I wish you whole.