At one level this article may look like a political statement, but it is not in that vein that I present it. All social animals e.g. Wolves, Apes, bees, ants, porpoise, human beings, etc. have some kind of cohesive principle, some kind of leadership, or coordinating system. In large social systems anarchy just doesn’t work. Scientists have even found this principle at the molecular level–most of us would not be able to survive for very long if our internal systems didn’t have a coordinating system and/or if the system were to become polarized and its parts weren’t willing to cooperate with each other.
From the very beginning of recorded western thought philosophers like Heraclitus and Hippocrates believed that there was “one common flow, a common breathing. Everything is in sympathy. The whole organism and each one of its parts are working together for the same purpose.” The Roman scholar, Agrippa spoke of an essence beyond the four known in his day as water, earth, air and fire and that it held existence together. He called it the World Soul. A more modern thinker, Carl Jung, called it the Anima Mundi. It was the glue that kept existence together, the balancing effect that kept everything on an even keel and in balance.
In The Archipelago of Dreams Robert discovers that the balance that keeps the world functioning has been dangerously tipped and that he has been conscripted to help in bringing the world back to equilibrium. But his own fears and the fears of others muster powerful physical and psychological forces to prevent him in achieving his mission. These same forces are acting on all of us on a daily basis and at an intensity that endangers the fabric of human life.
I’ve said this before; fear affects decision-making, what I haven’t said is that it kills as well. It not only kills innovation, but the body also. When there is a threat to the body the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis (HPA) kicks in and all systems are diverted from growth and development to reaction defense mode–fight or flight. Adrenalin pours into the system and mobilizes the body for action. The immune system is repressed because right now the external world poses a greater threat than the inner and the forebrain, the center for reasoning and logic, is slowed–no time for thinking, gotta act. Vascular flow is limited to the limbs, for running or fighting and conscious volitional action is curtailed, better to let the instincts take over.
Now under normal circumstances this state of affairs only lasts for a few minutes at best, just enough to survive an attack. And thank goodness, because the body begins to deteriorate after awhile when on high alert. The HPA is an excellent system for responding to immediate threat, but it was not designed to be activated continuously. Hyper vigilance eventually dissociates the body from the mind and the community from its leadership.
This kind of hyper-vigilance eventually wreaks havoc on the health of the body. When the immune system is suppressed all kinds of viral and bacterial bad guys can attack and take over–while focusing too much on external safety a fifth column of micro-nasties compromise your health. When the body is reflecting on the external too much it neglects the internal and is thrown precariously off balance.
In our society fear, or its smaller cousin, anxiety, has at some level become de rigor, the emotion trend du jour and we find ourselves constantly on alert. Since 9/11 we have entered a continuous state of protection and our quality of life has become impaired. A constant background state of fear (exploited politically) keeps the HPA system activated and our lives become more reactionary than thoughtful–you can’t think straight when emotionally involved. After a while the body habituates and it sees fear, or something to fear, everywhere. One of the first things to happen under these conditions is that we lose tolerance for anything that is different, because “different” often translates to something threatening.
Lack of tolerance leads to an impaired ability to cooperate for it might be ‘every man for himself.’ We see this intolerance and lack of cooperation in many social contexts, but most notably within our political systems that really only reflect ourselves. In an environment of fear reactionary opinion trumps reality and the rational takes a back seat to self-protective beliefs–clear thinking becomes a victim and the society begins to dissociate which is a fancy psychologists word for separating from one another–to disunite. Nothing can be more debilitating for a community whether it be a community of biological cells, animals, insects, a business corporation, or people in general.
Continuous fear consumes our energy toward getting our needs met as well. We seem to live in a constant state of being out of control of our destiny and as we throw up more walls and fences to keep out what threatens us we begin to lose independence, autonomy and ultimately our ability to enact free will. On an individual level we become sick and vulnerable to diseases or just a lack of focused attention that can affect us creatively. On a national level we see our ability to innovatively compete globally impaired, and on a global level the reaction to our inability to get our needs met can be seen in the Arab Spring, and the protests in Greece, Russia and the United States. The “Year of the Protest” may very well be a correction toward the extremes perpetrated by those in power. Would that these powers could see that it is in their best interest as well to let this correction take its course. In the short run things may look scary, but healing isn’t always pretty–sometimes you have to scrape the scab to let what is underneath it “breathe.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt said after the last great attack against our country that, “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself!” Truer words have never been spoken, fear can kill us–it can destroy the genius of the country and sicken its society. The very essence of the World Soul is in jeopardy because it has become every man for himself as we belittle the efforts of our leaders and refuse to listen to each other. The scale that keeps the world in equilibrium is way off center. It is imperative that we rediscover our balance–a center of being from which we can manifest our broader, deeper, truer nature!
In the Archipelago of Dreams Robert learns what needs to be healed in order to bring humanity into equilibrium and in the process learns how to heal himself as well.