There are two stages to healing a wound. First, it must be cleaned and covered. Covering serves two purposes. It protects the wound from further wounding, and it puts the wound into darkness. Darkness is the healing space where moisture is preserved in a womb-like environment for the body, mind and spirit to mend what was broken. It isolates the wound so all internal powers can be mustered and concentrated. It also keeps the wound clean and prevents spreading or worsening. During this time, the wound will begin to cover itself with natural defenses and strengthen. The second stage is to bring the wound out of the darkness and into the light, where air allows it to breath and take in healing energy from the sun. Both of these steps are equally important. A wound that is covered and never brought into the light, however, festers. That wound will grow and spread and eventually begin inflicting other wounds. When the time is right, a wound MUST be courageously brought into the light.
John Adams has a wonderful piece called “The Wound Dresser” based on Walt Whitman’s poem of the same name from 1865, inspired by the horrors of treating Civil War casualties.
“I onward go, I stop,
With hinged knees and steady hand to dress wounds,
I am firm with each, the pangs are sharp yet unavoidable,
One turns to me his appealing eyes—poor boy! I never knew you,
Yet I think I could not refuse this moment to die for you, if that would save you.”
Whitman’s poem is a story from a now distant war, and yet what inspires this blog is a young woman I’ve never met in South Dakota, who builds her way back to wholeness from the broken state of a near fatal assault. Her trauma seems to be a manifestation of life as war (see Naqoyqatsi
in the Godrey Reggio/Philip Glass collaborative Qatsi trilogy
). War and battle are the most overused metaphors we have: the war on terror and the war on drugs…we battle cancer and other illness, we even talk about the war on poverty. Perhaps the greatest irony is the “war on crime.” Crime itself is a war, and we fight that war with another war. One Fall, on the cover of my electric companies’ magazine, read the headline: “Time to prepare to battle winter.” War war war. Can we imagine nothing else? Is war so important to us, to pervade every avenue of our lives and society? “Life as war” is so unimaginative. My brother Jon (Peacebuilding Global
), reminded me that the opposite of violence is not peace, but creativity. Time to leave the dogs of war in their kennel and unleash the sprites of creativity. Healing is one of the most beautiful and powerful acts of creativity our body, mind and spirit can manifest!
Whitman’s poem speaks of two kinds of sacrifice: the young soldier sacrificing his life in battle over a cause, carried out through destruction, and Whitman’s ultimate desire to take the man’s place. The latter is an offer of grace bestowed upon youth by an elder. And yet no one can carry our wounds and our scars for us. We must each deal with them on our own terms and in our own time.
We have been trained many generations for war. We remember wars, we study wars and mark our history by them, and we even carry the grudges long after the wars are over. But why?
“From the stump of the arm, the amputated hand…
His eyes are closed, his face is pale, he dares not look on the bloody stump,
And has not yet look’d on it.” (Whitman)
Some wounds are so deep, that we fear to look, as if the only thing holding us together is that we survived them. What is it that causes one race to enslave millions of another? Why do we kill others to defend our own beliefs, as if the the world is not big enough for more than one view point? Why would someone assault and shoot a 21 year old woman in the prime of her life? Why? Because we have wounds in ourselves, so deep, so old, so festered beyond the physical, and so scarred over in every fiber of our existence, that we fear to look upon these: our soul wounds. Culture after culture has re-inflicted their soul wounds: the Egyptians upon Jews, Romans upon Europe, Jews and Christians upon Mysitcs and Gnostics (see John Lamb Lash “Not in His Image”) and finally, the accumulation of all those unhealed and deep soul wounds, came the hell unleashed against Native Americans in one of the largest genocides of all times, followed by the enslavement of millions in the United States. His-tory is littered with these hells on earth, but a new power to heal these wounds is being nurtured in Her-story: the warriors strength is in his tears, not her weapons. Bathe in them, and let the wind dry you off…
Justice and healing will never be served until each of us, and our societies address these deep soul wounds. Unhealed wounds worsen, fester and kill. Incarcerating and executing those who perpetuate them through violence, only postpones dealing with these wounds into the future. And we can no longer afford that because the accumulation of wounds we are inflicting upon the plant is perhaps the most dangerous of all, and one we cannot survive indefinitely.
In a vision during a sound healing for my young friend in South Dakota, the person who assaulted her came into the light. It was more than him being “found”. It was his soul wound being shown light so that it could begin to heal. In another session, I saw him lying in a puddle of his own tears, and then being dried off by the wind. The images were powerful and showed me that it is time to gaze upon our own wounds, wash ourselves with the tears that need be shed, and bring them into the open to recieve the light and air that will heal them, breaking the cycle, and launching us into “Life as Creativity” in the way it was meant to be.
Thank you to all with the courage to heal, and to those who tell the new stories.