Back in Santa Barbara, a friend of mind talked about what had happened in Hawaii a month earlier, when an alarm went everywhere about incoming missile attacks. For 38 minutes Hawaiians thought they had only a small pocket of time to prepare for death coming in the form of nuclear weapons delivered by missiles. Afterwards, when the cause seemed to be a combination of human error and technological glitch, the media and government lambasted the event, i.e., who was the moron who did that, who designed such dumb systems, that’s the problem with idiot technology, etc.
Actually, said my friend, they missed the point. Nuclear war is unimaginable, so the rest of us go about our lives happy not to imagine it. It’s not that we don’t know what would be the results for ourselves, our families, communities, and country, we just prefer not to think about it. Our government, which likes to talk about a nuclear option with limited liability, is happy to leave us in our ignorance and delusion.
Then an error occurs, a message goes out, and people start coming to grips with what a nuclear missile attack would mean. Best thing that could have happened, said my friend.
In Zen we say that everything is right here—God, the absolute, Nirvana, essence, Being, the deepest meaning of life—and we’d see it if only we could get out of our heads. But getting out of our heads is not so simple given that, at least in the case of humans, our heads are attached to the rest of our bodies.
From my earliest years of practice I’d hear Bernie say that there are no secrets. How could there be, he’d say, if we’re all really One, if it’s all one great functioning. Trying to figure this out in my early days, I’d envisage some massive piece of machinery stretching throughout space and time, where one infinitesimal cog keeps a secret about another infinitesimal cog from the rest of the machine. But that would cause things to malfunction, I thought, and already I knew there was no such thing as malfunction in the One Body, so the metaphor would collapse in my head.
A few days ago I blogged about my childhood when I’d been beaten by my father even as in the outside world he was a highly respected and deeply loved educator. I wrote about what it is to be the holder of the secret, because make no mistake, it’s not the perpetrator who holds the secret, it’s the person who is hurt.
What makes it so hard to reveal the secret to others? Why is it, as comes up again and again, that women wait so long before they come forward to talk about these things?
When you’re a holder of a secret you have one foot in one world and the second foot in another. You stand and live in a world that, for good and valid reasons, respects a particular person for skills, talent, personality, and accomplishment. But you also stand in another, more private world, shared only by you and him, behind closed doors and windows, where abuse, cruelty, and helplessness reign.
It’s hard enough to make sense of it as an adult, never mind a child. It plunges you into enormous confusion, you develop doubts about the authenticity of your personal experience, and often the safest thing to do is fold it inside yourself and keep it secret, even pretend nothing happened.
When you hold that secret you are frightened by the power you think you have, because with just a few words you could bring that external world of good times, faith, trust, love and friendship crashing on everybody’s heads. Ain’t no one going to give you much credit for that, believe me. Whoever it is—Rob Porter, Bill Cosby, Bill Clinton, one’s parents—the world wants to keep its delusions intact. In fact, we fight for our delusions as hard as we can.
Bernie says the world knows. People around me may not have known, but the windows I loved to keep open and now were shut down knew. The bed that held me knew, as did the pillow beneath my head. Perhaps a doll knew, or a stuffed animal, and later on a desk promising to be there years later for the notebook or computer absorbing a much older woman’s memories and impressions. There was clearly a witnessing; no one said it had to be human.
Integrity—which could be another word for wholeness—and brokenness are two sides of the same coin. In a way, the more we break, the more integrity we uncover.
You don’t want to believe that people with greater power can hurt people with far less? What world do you live in?
Human error and technological glitch may have caused the alert of incoming missiles in Hawaii, but I call it Bodhisattva action, one of Kwan Yin’s many hands acting with full compassion. We label it idiocy or madness, a bizarre joke, but She’s just pointing to what is.
I’m still with Bernie. There’s revelation everywhere, no secrets at all.
So what do you see?