09/23/2009 08:30 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

How Civil Are You Being To 'You-Know-Who'?

"Where I was born and where and how I have lived is unimportant. It is what I have done with where I have been that should be of interest."
-Georgia O'Keeffe

It's unclear whether it was today's news, or the enjoyment of the theatrical production of "Wicked," a few days ago, that most prompted this piece. The musical expresses the age-old story of betrayal, and redemption, coupled with the reality that things are not what they may seem to be. Who's 'good' and whose 'evil' is not so clear, just as is the case in breaking news. Of course, human ego clings to the belief that 'we' are the ones in the 'white hats.' But, heroes and villains are likely to be the underbelly of one another.

Recall the enduring myths of our times. They are so compelling, because they reveal the bones of the human psyche. Throughout the Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling, there's an abundant reference to 'You-know-who,' a very scary 'Dark Side of the Force', (as it was known in the, "Star Wars" epic). Our tendency is to see the unpleasant and frightening as 'other,' beyond our control, and external, which only the heroic dare confront. Archetypal characters like Harry, Ron, and Hermione, take on what the Muggle in us avoids, winning our hearts through their undaunted courage and human frailties. They challenge themselves to face their fears, demons, and recollect their projections. Their devotion to becoming all that they can, by serving what is greater than fear, makes us cheer them on, while appreciating their frailties. Their 'civility project' begins with that face staring back in the mirror.

Part of the brilliance of transformational stories is that they frame the real struggle as an 'inside job.' This could not be further from the case in most of the daily news, which explains why it is so depleting. In our Muggles world, finger pointing, blame, and even worse, forms the norm. When 'hot buttons' are pushed, as with the description of new terrorist plots amongst us, raw, unprocessed feelings threaten anyone in their way, much as the devastating Georgia floods these past few days. Beware what is in the path of unbridled elements. Signs of the 'Dark' side of "You-know-who" abound. Look at the reports including the mother of five, and her children are found slaughtered in Florida. Across the country, in Washington State, a Spokane hospital housing the criminally insane decide to take inmates on a fieldtrip to the county fair, whereupon one of them, who'd murdered an elderly woman brutally some years back, escaped the grounds, eventually. Over a week ago, two anniversaries came and went: the first anniversary of the downhill economic spiral, beginning with the crash and burn of Lehman Brothers, as well as the 8th anniversary of 9/11. While a great deal of press focused on them, the crucial question was not addressed. Who're we becoming from these events? Who're you today that differs from one, or eight years ago? How have we grown from the challenges, or how have we stepped backwards, like our Muggles friends, into smaller, more mechanical, gray ways of passing through the days?

Option One. One popular approach to the unexpected is recent outbursts. The cries of 'foul ball' come from endless characters on various stages: U.S. Rep Joe Wilson's at the President, Serena William's at the referee, and Kanye West's at Taylor Swift. It's easy to ask: 'what's with these meltdowns?' It's also easy to judge and enjoin the other to 'take a chill pill.'

Reactionary Choices, Muggle Moments. The truth is that all of us have our moments when our 'Muggleness' sticks our foot 'in it,' unleashing words that do not show us at our best. Perhaps our meltdown moment is not even a public affair, and nobody else knows that we've attacked our very own personhood. This does not make self-attacks one iota less toxic. Turning against the highest in our nature, we find ourselves attacking others as though we were unconnected. When I attack the dignity and humanity of another, I am attacking the Spirit. There's no one else 'out there.'

One thing is certain, however. Meltdowns come when whatever's been brewing has insufficient time, space, and reflection to channel upset into the productive action. Civility is an inside job. Outbursts reflect a reactionary stance.

In her interview on C.N.N., Serena describes herself as "...playing from anger." Apparently, this is how she organizes herself to focus her reserves when she is on the court. Joe Wilson plays from accusation. Former President Jimmy Carter plays from challenging us with uncomfortable questions, enjoining us to look more deeply at our own secret unconscious projections, prejudicial stances, and refusals to forgive. President Obama plays from reconciliation, and bridge-building.

Option 2. Jay Leno played from a position of connection, during his interview with Kanye West, demonstrating civility. With minimum words, and maximum spacious kindness, he offered Kanye the space to begin his reparation process with his own dragons, a fight having nothing to do with Swift, and everything to do with ego-identity, and what transcends it. It takes a big person to be humbled. It takes a powerful connection with the other hidden side of 'You-Know-Who" to acknowledge:

"I was wrong."
"You are right."
"Please forgive me."
"Please allow me to clean up the mess I've made."
"Let's begin anew."

What about us? How do we organize our own response when our dreams are met with what seems to be disaster? From what position and perspective do we play? Anger? Disappointment? Attack? Victimization? Gratitude? Compassion? Love? Gandhi put it this way:

"My life is my message."

The other side' of the "You-know-who" is love. Love is the best of us breaking through our deeds every time we choose to 'do better.' Not the moving of mountains, but the moving of minds toward becoming more courteous, is opening our hearts to what is beautiful, healing, and generative of collaboration. Surely we have a long way to go. But, in the meantime, a suggestion for our Muggle Moments is to do an inventory of the past 24 hours. What's been the message we've been sending by how we've been living today? Is our message fear or love-based? Have we projected our own shortcomings as well as desirable qualities, onto others' shoulders to carry for us? Or, are we finding ways to forgive ourselves for our meltdowns, and praise our imperfect attempts for reconciliation with the love that called us here? Do we dare do more with what we've been given?

A special note to readers: It's great to be back, read all your generous comments, questions, requests. I will respond to them in the coming weeks, beginning next Wednesday with an article focusing on 'Calling Back Your Spirit.' Thanks for forwarding our work together to your contacts. Blessings your way!