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Emblem 087: Inside and out are different

In the middle of noise there is silence.

In the middle of the solid object is empty space.

In the middle of activity, stillness.

In distress, peace.

In grief, comfort.

In loss, discovery.

In ending, beginning.

In crowds, solitude.

In solitude, companionship.

In less, more.

In the toddler, the man.

In the old woman, the young girl.

In poverty, abundance.

In the feast, famine.

In ecstasy, fear.

In wood, fire.

In lead, a dove.

In fate, freedom.

In that, this, and in this, the mystery.

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Emblem 045: The tree

This is that tree you may have heard about. The one that grows through the middle of everything—heaven, hell and here so it all turns together on the same axis.

Sometimes it’s a fountain, though, and rises from what you can’t see up into what’s right in plain sight. They used to call it the fountain of youth, or the water of life. You knew when you were getting closer to it because things became more interesting.

At other times it’s a relationship with someone whom you haven’t met—have you? Someone who makes you feel good. So good that you’d go anywhere to meet them, anywhere to stay with them.

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Emblem 066: The shadow

It’s why whenever something rises from a tomb, or comes here from outer space, or emerges from the depths of the ocean its first piece of business is to eat us. Never cattle or rain forests or petroleum.

It’s what has been exiled, coming back because it’s ours. Because it’s us. Having spent so much time in an Aztec crypt or planet far from the sun it’s developed a distorted idea of things, as well as a lot of resentment.

If we defeat it it’s just going to come back in the next movie or nightmare or failed romantic relationship. We have to somehow get it to the table without being eaten alive—because that can happen, not everyone makes it to the end of the story—and share a meal with it. Give it some of the same thing we live on. Bring it back into the family. Carefully.

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Emblem 065: The shadow

The part of me I don’t see isn’t me. It’s in a file marked “Someone Else.” Yet it’s still here. When I’m out on the street it’s always coming towards me, irritating or scary or even something wonderful that I know can never be mine. I see it again and again, everywhere I go. Like Christopher Lee’s Dracula in the old movies—I’ve gotten rid of it once and for all so many times but it keeps coming back. What does it want with me?

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Emblem 018: Through all the colors

In alchemy the peacock represents the phase of the work in which all the phases have been realized. The maxim is, “You must pass through all the colors.” No skipping the ones that aren’t appealing, no pretending you’ve done ones you haven’t, and ignorance of a color doesn’t excuse you from making its acquaintance. It speaks to recollecting all the scattered elements of personality from projection and fitting them into a conscious sense of identity. It also speaks to the aging process, letting each age have its turn—blissful youth, overworked midlife, elder who knows how things turned out. Through all the feelings, through all the stages of life, through all the components of personality, through all the experiences of your lifetime, skipping nothing, refusing nothing, denying nothing. Put another way, you’re encouraged to collect the whole set.

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Emblem 015: Saint Brendan

Brendan is all at sea. That happens sometimes, when we find ourselves confused by sudden events, reversals or losses. The sea catches him in its current and runs with him. Once dry land drops below the horizon he comes to the islands no one has discovered. On one there’s a small boy who works magic and lives with birds. On another a teenager dwells who hasn’t fallen in love yet. Past that lie the islands of the hermit, of the cave of the winds, of the dog-headed people. Paradises on some, others not so pleasant. The result of the voyage is that by its end the islands have all been visited and gathered. They’re no longer lost but exist in relation to the mainland. The mainland benefits from this, regaining what was forgotten, exiled, never. And of course the islands have always wanted to be known.

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Emblem 013: Symptom seeks cure in poison

Everything seeks wholeness. Everything moves to complete itself. Rain seeks a river, rivers the ocean, ocean sky. When impacted by our symptoms our drive to fulfillment is guided by the symptoms. Perhaps they want to individuate, too. When depressed we want to stay home, draw the curtains, have a drink. When anxious we run fast and breathe little. When compulsive we seek relief from the compulsion in acting it out.

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