Things Are as Good and as Bad as They Seem

By Candace Peoples

No rug, no walls—but there's fire and there's blood. 

Things are as bad and as good as they seem. 

You are as bad and as good as you seem, but everyone wants to be bad. A white-collar criminal, an assassin, a thief. Bad, bad girl. You naughty little thing. Every single one of us likes getting away with bad things. Some of us like to conceal our wolf instincts, while the rest of us, people like me, would like you to be crystal clear about one very important thing: try me, and you die. Being "good" just isn't any fun. I was listening to a podcast with three Jungian analysts who, in this episode, discussed authority complexes. And guess what—(sings) we all have them.

Authority is a fact of life. 

The trick is to wrestle, come to terms with, and claim authority for ourselves. This means we own the power and autonomy that comes along with authority and the responsibility to care for ourselves. We each have a part of us that is over submitting somewhere to some person, place, or thing. When we have not claimed or satisfied our own need for authority, we do exactly what astrologer Chani Nicholas tells us not to do, we give our power away. We obey in advance, as Timothy Snyder, author of "On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century" would say.

I can be guilty of what Pema Chödrön calls a deep-seated conviction that there's some hand to hold—that if we just do the right things, someone will appreciate us and take care of us. It means thinking there's always going to be a babysitter or magical parent when we need one. Maybe there is a hand to hold, sometimes, but it's most reliably my own. Just like the whole of life, babysitters and parents, lovers and friends, come and go. Neither is good nor bad. Pain is not a punishment; pleasure is not a reward. Everything simply is before we project our own beliefs onto it. Not saying I'm i-n-d-e-p-e-n-d-e-n-t. I mean, I am—but more than that, I'm connected. I'm a part of this world and highly relational, but I ain't no damsel.

I am responsible for my own life.

At times, we can become bewitched, seduced, even possessed, by what we perceive as being of service to a cause, relationship, government, or idea. "Patriotism is an idea," writes Min Jin Lee in Pachinko, "so is capitalism or communism. But ideas can make men forget their own interests and the guys in charge will exploit men who believe in ideas too much." Ideas can inspire a person to give up their autonomy. Autonomy means self law. Beware. The key is not to get too hung up on who you think you are. Don't fall for it. Righteousness will not save you. Neither will rules, neither will ideas.

Are you waiting for your government to take care of you? Are you waiting for your dad to? Mom? Lover, maybe? Do you feel powerless, and how does powerlessness look to you? Are you tangled up in ideas of being deserving of something better or of something more? Have you outsourced your life force? If I've answered yes to any of the above, I am sure of one thing: something has died. The word "deserve" is complicated. I don't know what I deserve, or what anyone does for that matter, because it's none of my business, but I do know what I want and I own that. My desires are not only my birthright, they are my responsibility, my fire. My blood—my inner knowledge and instinct, my mortality—is my power.

Fire is self-perpetuating. As long as there's fuel and oxygen, there will be fire. As long as there's oxygen, there will be blood.

I'm watching a show where a 40-something-year-old white, male, criminal billionaire deported an undocumented Guatemalan woman to keep himself out of jail. He destabilized an entire town's infrastructure because he didn't want to accept a short term loss. A man died from cancer earlier than he had to because, hey, we can't have him living to testify against the pretty little big billionaire being clocked by the Feds. I've been asking myself why am I obsessed with this show? It's simple: power, not to be confused with the abuse of power, is alluring. It's erotic. It's alive. It's transcendental, risky, and exciting. It's dangerous and destructive. Destruction is seductive.

Sometimes, I look around and all I see is what's missing. People who didn't have to die, trees that didn't have to burn, fires that didn't have to start. And then I think, maybe they didn't have to but because they did, what am I going to do now? Because it's happening, and there's nothing I can do about that. What can I preserve? What can I create?

Just like billionaire Bobby Axelrod, you must know this—you are a difference-maker, not a god, and thank god because we don't need any more gods. We have plenty. But we will always need difference makers. Maybe not the criminal kind like Axe, but the kind who know that when power is wielded correctly, the entire kingdom flourishes. 

Defy, rebel, and be brave. Try your best not to submit to the delusion that the world has ended. Let things fall apart, then you will know what to do. Holding on to anything blocks wisdom. Instead, will you kindly turn yourself inside out? Have an appetite for groundlessness and be the kind of person who ain't got any floors to put a rug on? Be the kind of person who's short on walls, too? Then, build your fire. Remind yourself that you are home and safe through the night. Things are as good and as bad as they seem. Like Pema says, "In continuing to pull out our own rug, we understand the perfection of things just as they are. We are challenged to stay with the heart throbbing quality of being alive." There is wisdom in the fire, but if all you do is stare into hell, you will become ashes.


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