Jean Yeager: The Invisibles Are Back (memoir)
The Southern Legitimacy Statement: Born in San Antonio, TX but now live in VT. “You can take the Texan out of Texas, but you can’t take the Texas out of the Texan.”
The Invisibles Are Back
It’s June. The invisibles are back and they have made our garden verdant. The Forget Me Nots are done and into seed. The Roses have just passed their prime. The Day Lilies are soaring toward the Sun. Tomatoes are fruiting. The Raspberries have not begun. The Elderberry flowers are in white unopened pods.
Even living as far north as I do, in Vermont, at summer Solstice, the life force is driving us all. Inwardly, with the days longer than the night, because we are alive on earth, we can’t but feel stimulated, feel alive. All of living things in our hemisphere react. At dawn, I smell lingering skunk scent, mating I guess. People walk in bright shorts. We sit on porches. Some sun bathe on decks around above ground swimming pools. The 20-something girl next door mows her lawn wearing a thong.
The single-mom next door takes her 7th and 8th grade son and daughter to national sporting competitions. They are nice tweenagers. They are excellent athletes. But, she is a single mom, and really doesn’t have the money to put out for gas, hotel rooms and meals. But, she says she must go because they are fully alive, and to say “no” might be a risk because that energy getting misdirected, their dream deferred. She worries about what would happen if she doesn’t sacrifice. So, they will share a room with another single mom and kids. Take a toaster to eat bagels and cream cheese. Hot dogs in a crockpot.
The one invisible force of life was called by Freud, “Eros”, a name picked up from the ancient Roman God. “Eros”, the life force, is an invisible force which enwraps us all – girls in thongs, teenagers, mothers, skunks, watchers like me, trees, the entire earth. It can’t be denied. It can’t be stopped. It must be served. All plants serve the life forces. Tweenagers long to fully experience something they can’t describe, well, “Eros”. Hormones go wild. Hands are held, strolls happen. Risks arise.
Army Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, a military psychologist and researcher into warfare, in his book On Killing, attributes the in-built, fundamental resistance humans have to killing one another to the invisible force of “Eros”. He says: “In each of us, at some gut level, we know we are somehow interconnected with each other, with life.”
But, the military for which Grossman works, in order to get humans to kill one another, works with another invisible force Freud identified: “Thanatos” – the death force. Older people know that in middle age, we the long, natural trajectory toward dying. Our life forces begin to fade. It’s called “aging.”
The military, and militarism, glorifies death over life. Honors killing. Trains killers in order to overcome “Eros”. This is not without cost to us all. The result is conflict between these two invisible forces within us. We all have to deal with death everyday in our culture. Death is made easier with “open carry” laws. It is in our FaceBook posts about amendments. It is as common as moms taking their kids to sport events.
This struggle, results in a range of psychological anxieties, fears, stress disorders, depression, addiction, conflict, trauma between couples, and so on, leading to social and individual insanity. “Thanatos”, the death impulse, coming soon to a corner near you. If not there, then how about a matinee? A mall? A kindergarten?
These struggles are Grossman’s area of expertise. His career has been built on attempting to help soldiers, and citizens, to heal after killing and attempt to resume a “normal” life. To attempt to restore a genuinely human life devoted to “Eros” – to life and living.
We may know in our gut that killing goes against our in-built orientation for “Eros”, but that is not what is socially acceptable. “Thanatos” is our social norm, not “Eros”. Integrity, truth in this knowledge of this life-death struggle in society and ourselves is than the desire within us to say what is socially acceptable even if it is not the truth.
Our culture, our society cannot face the invisibles and the difficult task of introspection. Soldiers, police officers, threatening spouses, “high” or drunk neighbors, accidental shooters who kill a family member, suffer. Our communities suffer. We know this. We know the results. Yet, we give the answers we think people want to hear.
The conflict between these two invisible forces results in the answers that fit the image of violence which is offered by another invisible, non-human force, technology, television, film and streaming media. This empire technology from satellites to fiber-optics delivers illusions which invisibly enwrap us, just as surely these days as the forces of solstice and equinox but there is no let-up in their onslaught, no winter or summer.
Why are we given these powerful invisible forces and a militaristic culture which promotes them? According to the research of psychologists like Grossman, and spiritualists there are even stronger forces asleep within our nature waiting to be released.
One part is a social algorithm scientists have identified in flocks of flying birds. In order to keep from flying into one another, they triangulate off one another. When one moves, a group of six or seven adjust themselves to the movement. And, this adjustment causes an adjacent group to adjust, adapt. Family therapy based on Systems Theory says something is similar within families as well. Or, neighborhoods. Or churches. Or shops. Businesses. Work teams. We adjust to one another. Just like we adjust to seasonal change, put on our shorts, sit on porches, silently you change. You change, I adjust.
A second part of Grossman’s insight is the force of courage. Now, the media or pop culture glorify violence and independence and feed us a steady diet of fear. This causes us to live in fear, to become fearful. All sorts of fear, big and small, live in us. Everything from fear of intruding on someone’s freedom to fear of what will others think of us, to fear of violence in our neighborhoods.
My wife and I had the “fear of being intruding”, the fear of being perceived as a “pushy neighbor”. But my wife asked “why should we feel embarrassed to help a single mom?” So, she overcame that fear and found the courage to ask: “How about I feed your cat?” One small worry gone.
Dave Grossman’s research, and religious practices for centuries have said that kindness, not hatred or anger, is a far stronger force. And, Grossman’s book offers us a poem written during World War I, perhaps 100 years ago:
“They Take Not Their Courage From Anger”
In a vision of the night I saw them
In the battles of the night.
‘Mid the roar and the reeling shadows of blood
They were moving like light…
With scrutiny calm and with fingers
Patient as swift
They bind up the hurts and pain-writhen
But they take not their courage from anger
That blinds the hot being;
They take not their pity from weakness;
Tender yet seeing…
They endure to have eyes of the watcher
In hell not to swerve
For an hour from the faith that they follow,
The light that they serve.
Man true to man, to his kindness
That overflows all,
To his spirit erect in the thunder
When all his forts fall, —
This light, in the tiger-mad welter,
They serve and they save.
What song shall be worthy to sing them –
Braver than the brave?
The Healers by Laurence Binyon, World War I veteran“
ON KILLING, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, Little Brown and Company, 1965