Paying Attention
Bill McDonald’s Website Newsletter
July 2020 - Volume 20, No. 7
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“Be Safe” - Well-wishing myself in a Covid Age - Part 2 of 2

Generally when I wake up, and once I’ve turned off the alarm, I’ll look to the calendar on my smartphone to see what’s already set for the day ahead. Then I’ll take a quick peek at the morning’s news, assuming that things have probably changed during the time of my sleeping.

This particular morning, the news summaries weighed unusually hard upon me, as if a wave of doom - from which even the promise of coffee was incapable of arising me. (And I do make good coffee.)

Then I considered for many this is an every morning experience. Many of my clients tell me they stay far away from the news. Others will share their near-constant struggle to make sense of it all.

And so this second writing on well-wishing has to do with a larger picture - larger than the 4 5/8” screen of my iPhone8 (even with its retina & zoom features, and a useful new hand-held reader’s magnifying glass from Amazon).

A Three-fold mythic map of the territory

In my last writing (my June Newsletter) I mentioned a pattern involving three layers of life - in a sense three cycles, or a single cycle made up of three parts. Here are the three parts:[1]

Part 1

This part represents an established pattern of regularity. These are the patterns of order. Things are the way they’re supposed to be. Past / present / future - all lined up the way it’s (as if divinely) ordained to be.
Above / here / below:
Plus / zero / minus;
We are born / we live / we die.

These three levels are not co-equal, but the order is right.

One thing I’ve noticed is that whenever the ‘regularity’ is a diad, a double, a ‘Third thing’ needs to emerge to make it work in this worls, to give connection, to give ‘liveliness’.

You’ll notice the ‘threeness’ of my above list.

Why did the Garden of Eden need the Apple Tree?

Our United States government has three equal branches. While our congress has two houses (the “peoples’ branch), each has a third thing called an “aisle”, a place of ‘discourse among equals’, that place where Congress can become effective and ‘lively.’ When the aisle disappears, and is replaced instead by a virtual “wall”, there is no effective government - no cooperation, no conversation, only fatuous gridlock. In psychopathology, when there is no center personality (a fluid integrating function), the outcome is a destructive and chaotic bipolar disorder.

The same is true of human relationships. A third thing emerges, such as a commitment or a marriage, without which there is often little or no ’liveness’ or staying power - or a safe place for the raising of children.

The New Testament ‘Law of Love’,
    “You shall love the Lord your God...and your neighbor as yourself.”
is only a philosophical statement without those ending two words, “as thyself.” That third thing is what makes it specifically both human and divine.

Part 3 (Part 2 will follow)

Part 3 is the perfection and glory toward which Part 1 hungers.

That’s what Donald Trump tries to do with his “Make America Great Again.” The redeeming of that hope is of greater importance for many, greater than any other imperfections and mistakes and sacrificing of the well-being of millions of citizens within and without our national borders. And that which is most dangerous, politically, economically, spiritually, and psychologically is his insistence that he or she alone can accomplish this redeeming dream, if we will but give ourselves to his or her ravenous ego.

Oh but that we had a better memory of the lessons from human history.

From my childhood, comes to mind the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

And the Biblical third temptation of Christ. Matthew 4:8
“Next, taking him to a very high mountain, the devil showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. And he said to him, I will give you all these if you if you fall at my feet and do me homage.”

Human History - It’s encompassing memory

One account of human history begins in a Garden - placed in Eden as a completion of God’s creating work. In the Garden he placed First Man (Adam) to cultivate and take care of it - make it fruitful. And to complete Adam himself, he created First Woman (Eve). Thus the narrative of being human begins - in a Paradise.

But for reasons beyond the scope of this writing, being human took a turn, and the ongoing of life had to take place in the grays of the desert, and the struggles and pains of exile. Yet humankind retained a memory of Eden, a memory of the comfortable afternoon visits for tea with the Almighty, of a complete absence of physical shame, of a happy gardener with his mate.

As time moved on, there emerged a sense of forwardness, a sense of a future, where the memory of Eden began to merge with a future memory, which sometimes is called The Holy City, the City of God. Laws were given to these people by which to remember who they were, where they came from, and of a widely redeeming purpose in spite of themselves.

They couldn’t return to the Garden; and they did a generally poor job of living up to the laws that were meant to hone their memories, their divine identity and purpose. A royalty emerged - and a “messiah” hope.

Collateral with this was emerging the idea of a loving God.

Now for Part Two

This is the capstone of my writing here.

There’s a proverb “It’s always darkest just before the dawn.”

We know the events (we SAW them). We saw the slow death of George Floyd. We saw a policeman, kneeling on his throat there with his hand in his pocket. If that’s what it means as a policeman to protect and serve, something is terribly wrong. If that’s appropriate justice for a man who may have tried to pass a bogus $20 bill. Something is terribly wrong.

At first the Corona virus seems an external force beyond our control. But now we’re realizing we have a president who it now seems purposefully ignored it - to the death of hundreds of thousands. May history not be kinds to him.

When on Memorial Day, we all saw (some in live action) George Floyd being slowly and purposely killed (murdered) by Derek Chauvin, an emotionless Minneapolis policeman, while his cohorts stood by - something snapped - all around the world. Something was terribly wrong here!

Some of us who are white and moderately comfortable can find the resources to stand by and step back. But there, watching by our side, there are those who know these as everyday events. And by some magic of eyesight shift (undoubtedly also a consequence of a worldwide health pandemic and a do-nothing-useful national administration) an empathy emerged, and it becomes harder and harder for us to just slip back again.

As I believe I’ve stated in other places, hope arises in strange places. Often little or unknown places. We’re beginning to hear stories of people caring for each other. People caring just a little bit more than before, or a lot more. There is a native goodness in our people.

As I write this, there’s a new element - a president who insists on crushing dissent (he’s always been afraid of dissent). And in Portland his jackbooted “National Police” are being faced up by a great yellow-shirted “Wall of Moms.”

We’ve come to notice that where there is human goodness, human evil seems to lie close at hand. There are and will yet be many deaths and much mostly innocent destruction. But close by there will be small love bits, and larger love bits and some huge, and usually quiet love bits. And I’m told that in the eyes of the Almighty, each is of equal value. But I’m also told God is most pleased by the little ones.

This is what arises from the struggles and confusions of Part 2.

Remember the well-wishing statement I shared in my last Newsletter.

For you and your loved ones, I (we) wish you: - Continued well-being.
- Protection, and
- Deep community connection - this is the golden gate to Level 3

As you look around,
And until next time,

Pay Attention!


[1] Having a mythic mind, I’m inadvertently inclined to any pattern consisting of the number ‘3’. And I’m audacious enough to believe that, at least in its philosophical corners, the universe agrees with me.

Comments (2)

  • Well done Bill! Love these articles and your insights!

    — Andrea Casey, 7/21/2020
  • so the democratic cities are just under att by evil republicans!

    you are a creative writer and while I agree with the things happen in threes as GOD IS three Father SON and HOLY spirit we are also three body spirit and mind , and the earth is three elements basically earth wind and fire ..

    — BUCK, 7/21/2020

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Bill McDonald
Fenton, Michigan

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