The Oldest Story

“When we quit thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness.” ~ Joseph Campbell

“Power focuses on self-preservation; principle focuses on making ideas successful.” ~ Dan Webster

Barry and I binge watched Victoria this long weekend catching up for the season finale next week. Two of the episodes were eerily similar to what’s going on now. The first, which was the most emotionally affecting for us, was about the Irish Potato Famine. It centered around Robert Traill, a Protestant vicar in Cork, a mostly Catholic region, who feels the plight of the people most deeply. Most are poor and starving as a result of the potato blight and the unwillingness of the landed gentry and the Protestant clergy to help them. Traill can’t stand by and watch innocent people die. So he writes a column in a London newspaper hoping to get the government to act. Queen Victoria reads the article and invites him to come to the palace so she can understand what’s happening and try to do something to help. She sends some of her own money to feed people, and she enlists the help of Prime Minister Peel to sway Parliament to do something. But it’s too late. One million people die, including the historical figure, Reverend Traill. Two million Irish emigrate to the U.S. The arguments are the same as now. “The poor need to work harder, they need to stop taking charity, they need to … blah, blah, blah.” I was weeping by the end of the episode. Why are we so callus and lack empathy for our fellow human beings?

The next episode takes place shortly after the Irish crisis and is about repealing a bill that benefited the landed gentry and took food out of the mouths of the poor in England. At one point speaking with her Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel, in reference to the repeal of the Corn Laws, Queen Victoria says, “Nobody likes to give up what they already have …” It’s so true and sad that we haven’t progressed past that.

Her comment points to the oldest story of human history, the world is dangerous and we must be about preserving ourselves and what we have. We gain a little wealth, power, and things and we don’t want to give them up because we think the things we’ve gathered will protect us. Look at our myths both ancient and modern. What is the main theme? Superpowers, or magic, or super heroes, or being physically strong, or having the best most modern weapons will save us. But they won’t because the problem isn’t outside ourselves. It’s inside and some of us are just now beginning to realize that fact.

We hear it all the time. “Guns don’t kill people, people do.” That’s right. Frightened angry people hurt other people, but we need to take the guns out of the hands of frightened angry people to begin to protect the innocent. Then we need to address the underlying fear and rage that has brought us to this place.

Amassing great wealth won’t protect us either. The scriptures of every major religion encourage us to love and take care of one another. But even as I awaken, I feel the tension between self-preservation and using my resources to help others. One of the most profound lessons in the sacred books I’ve read is that God is our protection. Hearing or reading those words, my mind says “Yes!” but letting that sink in emotionally is a different story. It has taken me many years to even come close to letting go of the idea that if I don’t protect myself, no one else will. I’m just now beginning to understand that God, or Higher Power if you prefer, has my back.

I think our present upheaval and debates on gun control, human rights, and the rest are a great opportunity. Gary Zukav says that human beings learn through crisis. We don’t take action, or change our minds until we’re forced by circumstances to do so. Hopefully we’ve come to the edge where we will finally let go of self-preservation, fear and anger and allow ourselves to feel and build something new.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. I appreciate it.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, and print-on-demand at Amazon and other fine book sellers. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Published by lucindasagemidgorden

I grew up in the West, the descendant of people traveling by wagon train to a new life. Some of their determination and wanderlust became a part of me. I imagine them sitting around the campfire telling stories, which is why I became first a theatre artist, then a teacher and now a writer. They are all ways of telling stories.

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