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A Shaman

A Shaman

I have not had a great amount of spare time on my hands lately. Who am I fooling? I do not have much spare time ever! When I get some time to think, reflect and create, I have a great capacity to go inward. I have often wondered why I go inward instead of reaching outward. During this time of year, holiday celebrations are on almost every street corner. I am not a party animal. I am most comfortable going to my studio alone to work on a pieces of art or sit at the computer screen and edit my current novel, write poetry or just sit and sketch, reflecting on the internal workings of my own psyche.

I believe that one of the most important aspects of anyone's life is the integration of ritual into one's daily, weekly, monthly and yearly living. What I find very odd, is that most people I have encountered have given up on rituals with the exception of the winter holiday season. The rituals seem to commence after Halloween night and extend through New Year's Day. Most of the rituals are essentially related to gatherings of family and friends or religious ceremonies held in places of worship. It seems like the entire human population of the United States during the month of December are predominantly concerned with obtaining gratification from what I consider outside the self. People seem to be energized and thrive off of being around other people particularly at this time of year. Being alone at Christmas or New Years is frowned upon by almost everyone I meet. How did the extroverts take over the holiday season? I have no idea. Is it a result of the commercialization of giving and/or receiving? I certainly hope not.

I find that most, if not all ritual probably died a long time ago in America. I use to wear a coat and tie to work or a suit every day. It was a ritual to get dressed in the morning, making sure I had put on the proper armor to engage in the battle of disease; I hoped that somehow I conveyed a sense of respect to the patients who entered the doorway of the Stone Institute by wearing my Sunday best. But over time, patients made it clear that the coat and tie seemed to distract them, and it did not fit my personality as a compassionate physician. Somehow they expected something else, something different, something unique to my commonness. I was told repeatedly that I looked more like an attorney than a physician. One patient commented. "Loose the suit Doc. It ain't you. You're a modern day Shaman. So why the suit?" I thought, so what does a modern day Shaman look like? One patient has nicked named me Chicken Bone. I like the nick names. I want to embrace them.

I have always believed that the function of the artist was to mythologize the environment and the world. Artists have a holy duty. The environment has changed dramatically over the past hundred years or so. Science and technology has made exponential leaps in just the last twenty years. Although we have a new cosmology, our modern culture has not embraced it. Ancient rituals were created to induct members of society into the greater community in general. In recent years passed, we have reduced ourselves to nothing more than a sum of parts.

Currently we have fashioned an absurd separation of the self from society. I first. It has become the individual first, the community second. We as a society have embraced the notion of diversity to the point that our children are becoming ungovernable, they are encouraged to express just their naive impulses of nature. We are doing a very poor job of creating a society that helps them to be a part of something greater than themselves. In medicine, when cells go rogue we refer to them as cancers. And just like cancers in our bodies, these rogues are tearing the body of our society apart. We are living on the edge all too often, living in fear of mass shootings, terrorist bombings and violent sociopathic criminals who do not value life in general, much less their victim's lives.

Society needs a new, more updated mythology to live by. Especially in America. The myth makers are the artists: the musicians, film makers, sculptors, painters, writers and poets. Who were those ancient people who were equivalent to the artisans of today? The shamans! Who were the shamans? They were males and female members of society that experienced an overwhelming psychological experience that turned them totally inward: a person with a special kind of non-violent crack-up. Their entire unconscious opened up. They developed their ability to transcend the moment. They were given a rare and exceptional ability, they became the interpreter of the heritage of mythological life.
An interesting aspect of my life is that I have a strong predilection toward being wholly or predominantly concerned with and interested in my own mental life. I am extremely reflective and need my time alone. It expands me. I do not however lose my physical energy during social interaction.
I am an introvert, even though my life is centered around one on one interactions with patients. I take pleasure in solitary activities and I am in the mold of an archetypal artist, writer, sculptor, engineer or composer. It just seems like they are all wrapped up into one. I definitely prefer a quiet, more minimally stimulating external environment when I have spare time.
If I am a modern day shaman, I think I'll have to install some new rituals into my life. If it is the shaman who is to help bring about modern day mythologization of the environment and the world, I better get started. And perhaps I need to find a new look for the year to come, one more in congruity with my authentic self. I challenge each and every one of you to do the same in the coming year. Dust off the old rituals or create some new ones.
The World is aching for quiet in a world that just won't stop talking. Rituals can help recapture who we are. And who we are as a community is so much greater than the sum of the all of us individually.
I think I like being a Shaman already.
Doc
Posted by Amanda Sanders at 10:32 AM
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