How long ago was it that a generation of young adults listened to Simon and Garfunkel sing about life’s patterns?
The night sets softly
With the hush of falling leaves,
Casting shivering shadows
On the houses through the trees,
And the light from a street lamp
Paints a pattern on my wall,
Like the pieces of a puzzle
Or a child’s uneven scrawl.
Up a narrow flight of stairs
In a narrow little room,
As I lie upon my bed
In the early evening gloom.
Impaled on my wall
My eyes can dimly see
The pattern of my life
And the puzzle that is me.
From the moment of my birth
To the instant of my death,
There are patterns I must follow
Just as I must breathe each breath.
Like a rat in a maze
The path before me lies,
And the pattern never alters
Until the rat dies.
And the pattern still remains
On the wall where darkness fell,
And it’s fitting that it should,
For in darkness I must dwell.
Like the color of my skin,
Or the day that I grow old,
My life is made of patterns
That can scarcely be controlled.
Is it necessarily true that we are trapped in the established patterns of our lives? Or is there an effective exit strategy we could adopt? Through that strategy may we come closer to solving “the puzzle that is me?”
The tale of Tarzan tells of the experiences of a man raised in the jungle by apes from boyhood and then later transported as an adult male to live among humans in a society supposedly more civilized than the apes enjoyed. The man Tarzan struggles to adapt to his new society’s rules, roles and rituals after having learned the apes’ rules, roles and rituals by heart. The apes’ 3 Rs had become engrained into his nature and controlled his thoughts and actions. They did not necessarily mesh well with how humans expected Tarzan to think and act. Tarzan’s story is about the choice to extend unchanged into adulthood patterns learned in childhood or to transform patterns and mature as necessary under changing circumstances.
As we are born into an ego’s jungle-like culture, we are raised by egos to conform to the ego’s rules, roles and rituals just as apes raised Tarzan to conform to the apes’. Both egos and apes seek to survive amid competitive pressures by other life forms. For any of us to become members of a culture other than the ego’s culture we must re-examine the rules, roles and rituals we adopted under ego’s training and change our patterns of thought and action to reflect the changed dominion under which we choose instead to live. In this case, to “change” is to intentionally nurture greater developmental maturity.
Without intending to disparage apes, I suggest that egos are a less desirable role model for human thought and action than apes are. We can do better than mimic apes or egos. To be more than the rat in a maze about which Simon and Garfunkel sang, we need to move beyond the choices that Tarzan faced to struggle with a more radical choice of altered life-orientation – a more radical process of intentionally nurtured maturation that excels beyond the ego’s orientation of arrested development. There are patterns we must follow to remain loyally conformed to the ego’s orientation as mere immature survivalist who manage to hang onto life long enough to say we lived a long life.
If it matters that we attain a quality of life more enriching than the egos’ quality and express our capacity to share such a more satisfying life sustainably together with all of us “naked apes,” the ego’s patterns of arrested development will not work. It’s time to admit that the ego requires that we dwell in darkness as if destined forever to scramble and claw blindly along confusing paths in a maze of futility — while seeking endlessly for that never-to-be-discovered, elusive cheese. With all of the ego’s patterns, the outcome ultimately is a decreasing quality of life coupled with an increasing sense of life’s being helplessly out of our control. Must we end up being the cheese that stands alone?
To emerge from darkness, we need to let go of all aspects of our egos and allow the alternative to ego’s orientation to express itself progressively into more complete maturity or wholeness in our lives. So long as we cling defensively to our egos and the ego’s patterns, in the deepening darkness of fear’s increasingly rigid grasp we will dwell. We each have within us the power to rise into the light instead. Our individual and collective choice of radically upgraded meaning, purpose and direction for our lives makes all the difference! Without intending to offend farming lifestyles or any other traditional lifestyles, we need to intentionally develop a culture for humanity that does not eventually relegate some its members to its margins as lonely chunks of cheese.
© Art Nicol 2016