THE BLOG
08/31/2011 06:37 pm ET | Updated Oct 31, 2011

Cows on the Beach: Exposing Our Political Shadows and Lessons on Sharing

It is true. There were cows on the beach -- on a beach of a deliciously gorgeous, multicultural, blue-violet-turquoise sea in Corsica, the French island. As you might imagine, our first sighting of the cows was a curious one. There were three of them, two lying by the sea and one standing. They were pretty, and the children who arrived for their first time cried out to the adults at the sight of them. As our walk continued, the people we encountered just seemed in love with this setting.

It was so magnificent, and yet the presence of cows made me wonder who owned this beach and for whom it was meant, and then to ponder the ultimate sharing of the resources of our Earth. And, of course, I pondered one of my favorite topics, sharing in general. The cows had a right to be there, so it seemed, or so it was decided by agreement of the "owners" of the property.

My visit to Corsica induced me to wonder how the environment and human resources -- those services available to living beings -- are meant to be shared. I thought about how the concept of sharing is one of the first things we teach our children. In fact, to my mind, we teach them that way too early, because if we never have a sense of belonging in our own skins and having some sense of ownership of feelings and some things assigned to us, then it is harder to give up ownership as a rule, at least in Western cultures.

And apropos of the West, this thought came to me vividly: just how much our "civilization" is based on conquest. Corsica is, of course, the home of Napoleon. The island was fought over for years, finally being "won" by France. On the way here, we stopped at the Tuscan port town of Livorno for a night, and we ate dinner with two women from Madrid. We discussed the history of conquests in Spain, ending with the reign of Catholic royalty, the expulsion of the Arabs, Jews and gypsies, and, of course, the devastating Spanish Inquisition. It all came together with recent headlines as a backdrop: Republican nominees' threats to close down environmental controls, which they see as unnecessary, and their longing for life without social services.

Quite simply, humans are meant to share. We need each other. We need community. Certainly we and our environment are interdependent. And even if various religions preach human domination of the Earth, if this domination is not handled with care, it will crack and break and be finished. Without sharing with other human beings and coming to grips with our own individual contributions to strife and battles and conflicts, and with our need to be superior or forever on the seesaw of victimization and abuse, then we will perish.

Which brings up the question: are Americans really considering handing our government (or the power to cancel that government) over to people who exist in their own bubble, who feel that they are in charge of knowing that Armageddon will strike, so there is no need to grow up in the meantime?

It would seem so, and perhaps these things need to be said and spelled out, to make clear that the constitutional separation of Church and State is being bypassed. Somehow a few people in power have decided to sell us on believing in the validity of one Bible as the way we must function as Americans.

You might say this odd Calvinist bent mixed with "positive"-psychology framing has been brought together to imply that whoever does well in life is deserving and that nothing can serve as reason for enough compassion or to provoke us to want to share.

Of course, in much of Europe the very idea that Americans have doubts about universal health care is absurd. For them it is a simple right of people to get their bodies and minds cared for. Not to idealize the Europeans in any way, but it gives one pause whenever we are confronted with people who don't take for granted the same ways of thinking -- or the same superstitions that we follow.

I have heard many people say that neuroscience has shown that we are wired for connection, which implies sharing, as well. Developmental psychology has taught us that trust and mutuality -- attachment, in essence -- are crucial for the sound development of a human being with the capacity for real empathy. In my work and in my writing, I tend to focus on the shadow, the Jungian need to know and integrate those parts of ourselves that we hate, fear and shut away. Most of us, however, may think of the shadow as negative, as the fiercer emotions that threaten to destroy. However, it surprises most to discover that just as often, the shadow reveals the more tender sides that are covered up by the need to show strength and to conquer.

The shadow has never before been so evident on such a public stage. Today's roster of Republican leaders, Evangelicals and other religious followers have expressed a desire for a God who who shows favoritism and harshness rather than one who is forgiving and caring. Psychologically speaking, one could say that this reveals a fear of their own vulnerability as part of their shadow. On the other hand, many liberals have had as part of their own shadow a fear of power, of anger, of building the strength to strategize rather than bending or bending over.

Let's consider, if you will, the definition of "to consider," one of which is "to think carefully about." While consideration implies careful thought, it also requires respect. At a time when so many of us act out of superstition rather than consideration, we might take a step back and look at the cows, look inside, and ask ourselves if we are old enough to share. And then to seek some remediation if we need it -- and to give it, as well. You know to share in the process.