A Dialogue About Violence

December 2009

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In my last post in this series I described the opening of a portal (opportunity for growth, in this case associated with transiting Mars conjunct my natal Pluto) that began with a Facebook status update. I had written: “I am returning from an Andrew Harvey workshop on Sacred Activism pumped up with a renewed sense of the possibility of making a difference in this whacked out, wobbly world.”

No sooner was this update up than I received a reply from a friend and astrological colleague of mine, B___, who was apparently triggered by it. He wrote:

“It has always been and will always be a whacked out, wobbling world, chaos in praise of the source, peace brings stasis and stagnation, the universe trembles in violence and discord and the world celebrates.”

I argued back that I didn’t think violence was ever anything to celebrate. He responded:

“Violence has allowed for the creation of the universe, the creation of stars and their cessation, the creation of land mass in volcanic eruption, the marvelous new beginnings that occur with tsunami, hurricane, earthquake, tornado, wildfire, and the grand expulsion from the uterus. Creation is not a fluffy, namby-pamby, easy-going process. It is generated from the tormented artist, the suffering composer, the angst ridden writer in the midst of ecstasy and chaos.”

While I agreed with B___ that creation – neither in nature nor through human endeavor – was a pastime for sissies, I could not agree with him that nature was violent.

In May of this year, I had just experienced an horrendous storm – a derechio, or inland hurricane – that devastated the forest home where I live. In a mere 20 minutes, it had uprooted hundreds of old trees, and knocked out power and phones for miles around. I had to cut my way out of the house, when one huge tree blocked our door, and it took twenty of us two full days of work with chain saws to clear the dirt roads connecting our 1000-acre land cooperative with the nearest pavement. As I wrote to B___ later, I experienced this storm as awesome (in a spiritual sense, not as a synonym for “cool”), beyond comprehension, and unbelievably powerful, but I did not consider it violent.

Violence, it seemed to me, required intent. The first definition for the word “violence” in my dictionary was “physical force exerted for the purpose of violating, damaging, or abusing.” The third definition allowed for the kind of violence that B___ was ascribing to nature – “intensity, or severity, as in natural phenomena; untamed force.” The hurricane had certainly been an untamed force of unprecedented (at least in my experience) intensity and severity. Still, I felt the need for a different word to distinguish the kind of violence that humans were capable of in their worst moments from what nature did, as a matter of impersonal course, without intention.

Astrologers will, of course, recognize a discussion of the nature of violence to be germane to a Mars-Pluto transit, since this particular combination of planetary archetypes has been noted by astrologers to be implicated in the charts of both victims and violent offenders when acts of human violence are committed. But the discussion was not merely academic to me. It was, in fact, at the core of what drove me to Andrew Harvey’s workshop in the first place. In his book, The Hope, Harvey says:

“If you and I are not outraged by what is happening everywhere in our world, we will remain where so many find themselves, in paralysis, apathy and denial. Yet if our outrage masters us, we may become irrational, violent, and destructive in our turn, inwardly ravaged by rage at, and hatred of our opponents that will not only dehumanize us, but also cripple our effectiveness.

If we work with this anger and outrage, however, without repressing or judging or denying it, within the crucible of spiritual practice, it can be transformed into a reservoir of purified passion, compassion and wisdom that will give us power and stamina.”

It was this promise that drew me to his workshop, and this possibility that still burned passionately within me at the beginning of this new Mars-Pluto cycle I had entered at the ripe old age of 60.

The next post in this series is My Chronic Mars-Pluto Angst.

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