The Real Mirror
A few weeks ago I went into a Staples store in Huntsville looking for a refill for a treasured pen, a pen that was presented to me, engraved
with my name, when I graduated with my Ph.D. in Transformative learning about fifteen years ago. Just fifteen.
After looking at a wall of pens with only a couple of briefer
rows of refills and not finding the one sought, I went to the counter and asked the attendant, an older man like myself, only to be told "well, refills for pens are dying out now. Why buy a refill when you can get a whole new pen for cheaper than a refill
would cost?" So I showed him the pen and why it is a treasure of mine, and he responded "Oh, I really get that, alright, but I don't have a choice about any of this. You will just have to put it in a souvenir box if you want to keep it."
I have thought of this encounter many many times. It has become something of a symbol for me of our throwaway world, of our continuing unconciousness and refusal to see what is happening, of our daily and deliberate trashing of our only home. It makes
me think of something written by Carl Jung in 1959:
"A great change of our psychological attitude in imminent: the only real danger that exists is man himself. He is the
great danger and we are pitifully unaware of it. We are the origin of all coming evil."
In these times, just following the news, it is very easy to see the truth of Jung's
words; in fact, this particular quote has taken on for me the deep truth of a prophecy in our time, and its unfolding has only recently begun to show itself visibly.
was during this startling realization that I came upon an echoing quote, this time by Melvin Konner in his book "The Tangled Wing." He tells the anecdote of a man going to one of the largest zoos in the world, attracted by the number, variety and size of the
animals. Just inside the gate, he sees a very large sign in thick black letters saying "The Most Dangerous Animal on Earth," and he rushes over to look at what might be written beneath it, in smaller letters. Instead, standing beneath the sign, he finds himself
looking into a mirror.
These and other experiences remind me starkly that we are moving from one world into another now. Perhaps mainly those of us in our seventies, with
the long view of how things used to be, can even begin to fathom the depth and extent of the changes that even now tug at our ankles. I feel myself shifted as the Jewish people were shifted, not of their own choice, in their long journeys throughout centuries,
or like Brendan the Navigator, who set out for unknown lands across the sea, with no guide or compass.
And all because I went into a Staples store in Huntsville, looking
for a pen refill!