Better whole than good

Friday, November 9, 2018

5 a.m. Guys? [Personal issue.]

Do not give up hope when the hope is finally about to be fulfilled.

You will forgive me for saying that a statement like that would be all the better for some proof.

We aren’t really in the predictions business, for reasons you know well.

It took a while to get it pounded into my head, but I do know about alternative futures.

You also know about the exterior conforming to the interior.

Indicating a pretty shabby interior!

Does it? Maybe if you see it that way. Don’t fall into the pitfall of thinking that external success indicates internal worth. Rather, external obstacles (overcome or otherwise) indicate internal challenges (met or not), opportunities.

Somehow that seems like a potentially large reorientation, even though I did know that.

You heard it years ago from “the guys,” but perhaps hearing it and knowing it are not the same thing, and perhaps realizing it is a third and different thing.

Meaning, circumstances alter understandings.

Well – they can. They are often intended to, so to speak. But as Thoreau put it, it takes two to communicate – one to speak and one to hear.

And the one able to hear may take a while to show up.


I had an interesting discussion of that point when I spoke to the Guidelines class Wednesday night. Somehow having to explain something from scratch rather than being able to climb onto a previously existing understanding makes it fresh.

This is why Carl Jung said it is, or can be, better to be whole than to be good.

Did I throw in that “or can be,” or did you?

Does it matter?

A better question, yes, is are those three words an important modification of his.

Let’s not fixate on a few words, even though yes, the implication is that the statement is not universally true. Let’s concentrate on those for whom it is true, or let’s say on when it is true, for it may not be true at any given moment for any given individual.

To become whole on a conscious level – for that is what Jung is concerned with, people coming to conscious awareness – it is necessary to swallow many an inconvenient and humiliating or even repulsive realization. Sometimes, it is true, it requires realizing that you are more than you think. But mostly the news that comes in is not welcome news. But, like an external problem, it is, by the fact that it is difficult, a sign that it is an opportunity. Your lives would be easier – that is, easier to live – if you were to realize this.

I thought this was going to be a very private communication, but I see we are moving into the public sphere. I can always well when you start talking about us, plural, rather than me, singular. So you say “your lives” rather than “your life.”

Which sends you back to the evening sharing experience and wisdom with a class of earnest seekers who have their own knowledge and wisdom, and you see how much you would have liked to have been a teacher.

Minus grading, yes. I’d love it more than ever, these days.

Well, there’s your webinar idea; that could do it.

So it could. But you were saying –

Problems are automatically opportunities. This is true not only externally, as you have come to realize, but internally – which, as you know in a different compartment of your mind, is the same thing. There is no “external” in the sense of something unconnected to you.

As you say, I do know that, and perhaps I was not connecting the two things I know.

Well, if an internal conflict arises, what good is it to you?

It allows us to see that we have a choice to make?

Well, maybe. Not always. Sometimes it is a sign of things needing not to be chosen among, but reconciled. It is nonetheless an opportunity.

I see it. You are saying that new opportunities for further integration may require choice (this way or that) or they may require synthesis (this way and that) or they may require transformation (these ways into that).

Minus the word “require,” yes. They offer the opportunity, and yes, if the opportunity is to be profited from, a response is required in that sense. But there is no sense of “you have to do this or else.”

Right. Well, scratch “require.” Let’s say problems offer a new way forward, which may involve choice or compromise or re-conceptualization.

Yes, that is close enough. Well, if it is true internally, by definition it is true externally, and vice-versa. Now, if the obstacle is your thinking yourself better than you are, or let’s say it is your trying to be better than you are, how can you deal with it?

Yes, it is a problem, and one I know first-hand! On the one hand, you don’t want to admit even to yourself that you are (at least partly) that way, whatever the “that way” is. Or, if you do admit it to yourself, you are careful to keep it as secret from the world as possible. On the other hand, how can you move toward becoming a better you, save by repressing those things you are but don’t want to be?

An age-old dilemma, particularly in the West and particularly among Christians. And how do you live with that without falling into hypocrisy and self-hatred?

I’m going to title this “Better whole than good,” if I post it. And your answer is –?

You already know the answer. You recognize that you are what you are and (a) it isn’t your fault, (b) it isn’t an accident, (c) all traits represent aspects of life that deserve recognition, and (d) your life’s purpose is to choose among ways to deal with the problem that the co-existence of these things poses.

And, I gather, that means that far-sighted Dr. Jung saw that this meant not only that the individual fights his or her own battles, but does so in addition for the whole of humanity.

That’s correct. You shouldn’t get inflated (“the whole of human destiny is on my shoulders”) but it is well to remember that you are a part of a whole with a right and duty to be present and participate.

So the question devolves to: How? There may not be any one right way to do things, but there are many ways that are – if not “wrong” – at least doing things the hard way.

The best way, we would say, is to acquire enough humility to say “I’m not perfect” (in the sense of saying, “I don’t live up to my own ideal of being and conduct”) without thereby falling into the alternative mistake of saying, “I am an irredeemable sinner” (in whatever form that statement comes in a post-Christian age). You aren’t a saint and you aren’t a worm.

Starting from that more realistic point, the question of conduct becomes: “Given that I embody traits I approve and traits I disapprove, what is my proper attitude toward the situation?”

For instance, it is not enough to say glibly, “Nothing human is alien to me,” and pretend that anything goes. For you – and by this obviously we mean for any “you” reading this – some values are good and some are not. Some are a matter of taste, but others are bedrock for you. If you are opposed to cruelty and you find a cruel streak within you, what is the proper response? Nurture it? Express it? Pretend it doesn’t exist? Fight against it expressing?

I see the problem. And the answer is –?

The first step in anything is always to become fully aware of the situation, or let’s say as fully aware as possible, for there is always more light to dawn, as Thoreau reminded you.

And then?

Well, surely you see that the “and then” depends upon the individual concerned! Everybody solves the problem of life differently, because (a) everybody’s problem is different, and (b) everybody’s preferences are different. A and B are actually two ways of saying the same thing.

And enough for now.

Well, this took an unexpected turn. And all the while we have been chatting here, on another track in my mind is a new realization, for which I thank you.

Born teachers are going to teach; it’s just a matter of their finding the proper platform and the proper manner of approach.

And maybe this geminating idea is it. Well, thanks as always, and till next time.


5 thoughts on “Better whole than good

  1. Once again, you’ve covered the purpose and meaning of life, in a nutshell, and you’ve done it beautifully, leaving me time to go cook something else (maybe a lemony lentil soup) this morning.
    I love this session because it’s an on-going struggle for me to remind myself I can admire someone else’s expression of experience, be inspired by it, even measure myself according to it to create a goal, without judging myself by it, and thereby finding myself wanting. There is no “better than,” there is no “perfect” in the 3D sense, there is only difference, and thank goodness for that.

  2. Better to be whole than good. Better to honestly acknowledge one’s shadow, whether it be rage and laziness or saintliness and selflessness, than to stuff all that away and pretend to be a mediocre husk. I like that. Will keep that in my consciousness and see where it goes.

    Before reading today’s post, I reread yesterday’s. I got the image of my greater being (my I-There, my SAM) gathering threads from all around it, like pulling strands of colored yarn together and threading them through a clear ring. These strands would resonate like strings on an instrument as the vast impersonal forces blew through them and animated them. And that resonance would be unique.

    It seems that each SAM has it’s unique interests and expressions, and each of us reflects a part of what our SAM wishes to explore. That’s why it makes sense when TGU says it isn’t our fault, nor is it an accident that we are the way we are. The SAM didn’t know what would be the results of all these disparate threads or traits. That only becomes know in the living of it. Each of us does that differently, depending on what challenges we wish to do something about and which we choose to defer for the moment.

    Good session today. Lots of sparks, lots to mull over.

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