Reflections on The Midnight Hour
During the last fifteen weeks I have been sharing my book, The Midnight Hour: A Jungian Perspective on America’s Current Pivotal Moment, chapter by chapter on my blog. As I presented each chapter, I appreciated your responses and have found my reflections on this work deepening as new thoughts, feelings, and memories were stirred up in me. In the beginning of the book I explained that writing is my way of seeking to create order out of chaos and develop a vision for the future in the crucible of my own understanding, and your feedback has deepened that understanding.
In every chapter I sought to understand what is happening in our society, to us, and to me. I believe my first task is to see and accept reality, then I must seek to understand it from a personal perspective. Failing to understand the truth of our experiences individually and collectively is the surest guarantee of increasing strife that will assault the well-being of every one of us. Failing to understand the challenges we are facing will cause us to pay a dear price in our innermost lives as well as in the spirit of our country. I think I have made it clear in every chapter that facing our reality and seeking to understand it does not mean that we are taking on an attitude of permitting or acquiescing to anything. Accepting and understanding reality is the necessary foundation for growth, positive evolution, and a new and hopeful vision for the future.
As I reflect on my writing, however, I think I failed in one regard: I am afraid I failed to emphasize the importance of this new vision, and of the great adventure of pursuing the vision that can take our values beyond ourselves. Dr. Jung thought that the seeds for the future and for our best development are found in the challenges and failures of today. To face and transform our personal and collective demons, engaging in the struggle to create a new and better future with our whole hearts, makes our lives more worthwhile, more fulfilling, and more loving.
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My reflections brought to mind a talk that Dr. Phillip Hallie gave titled “Cruelty: The Empirical Evil” at a symposium on “Facing Evil” (in a book with the same title) put together by Jungian analyst Dr. Harry Wilmer in the mid-1980s. Dr. Hallie was a well-known author and the Griffin Professor of Philosophy and Humanities at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. A World War II veteran, he became intrigued with the story of Le Chambon, a small French mountain village that devoted itself during the war to rescuing refugees from the Nazis—at the risk of the villagers’ lives. Dr. Hallie was so moved by this story that he incorporated it into a book which became an international best seller. At the time, the village exemplified the power of love for Dr. Hallie.
But as time passed, he began to feel that something in his heart resented this village. He said, “They didn’t stop Hitler. They did nothing to stop Hitler. A thousand Le Chambrons would not have stopped Hitler. It took decent murderers like me to do it. Murderers who had compunctions, but murdered nonetheless. The cruelty that I perpetrated willingly was the only way to stop the cruel march that I and others like me were facing.” Dr. Hallie received three Battle Stars while serving with the famous Eighty-Second Airborne Division in Europe during World War II.
Dr. Hallie’s story reminds me that the great social psychoanalyst Erich Fromm in his book, The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, defined two kinds of aggression: malignant and benign. Malignant aggression destroys life. Benign aggression is used in the service of life. When we are called to face the malignant aggression in our lives—in our politics, our society, our cities, our families, and within ourselves—it is a call to use a force of will, assertion, and commitment. In other words, to use the power of the love of life against the forces destroying life.
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A few years ago there was a lot of social discourse about people living in a bubble. In too many cases, too many of us had conveniently defaulted to blindness toward the cruelties in our society, and had practically even raised that blindness to a virtue. On many levels we experienced innocent naivete, or willful naivete, or even willful ignorance. All of these result in our being unable to see and understand the cruelty we are personally and collectively participating in. In fact, I now consider willful naivete and willful ignorance to be malicious aggression because they destroy life-affirming opportunities in our lives and in our society. In every chapter I am straight forward about the cruelties in our society to people all around us, and even to ourselves, that we need to wake up to.
Unfortunately, people like me who were raised in the white, pseudo-Christian middle-class, were taught prejudices that are great stumbling blocks to our ability to be aggressive in the service of life. We were trained to be nice, to avoid anger, and not to mention acting in anger (much less in outrage.) We were even taught that expressing ourselves clearly and directly is being aggressive or confrontational. In essence, we were also left thinking that to be kind and loving is to be passive and pleasing.
But we need to learn that love must be strong. Love must have strength, purpose, and direction. Love must be passionate and creative. Love, in its most authentic form, tells us that allowing our current national condition of cruelty under the guise of not being “aggressive” is a form of extremism that will disgrace us in the eyes of our children and grandchildren—in the eyes of history as well as the future.
This type of love requires sacrifice, and means that we must learn to love the lives of others as well as our own. This type of love makes it clear that comfort can quickly become its own corruption. When we love beyond our own lives and comfort, we begin to love the lives of those connected to us and we are challenged and inspired to build a better world for all of us.
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I wonder if I didn’t say enough in The Midnight Hour about the price we set ourselves up to pay when we don’t confront reality and the cruelties being inflicted by our societal shadows. If we don’t personally and collectively embrace the changes we need to make for the evolution of our consciousness and social awareness, I believe the price we pay will be in blood. Dr. Jung also believed this, as illustrated in his writings in C.S. vol.10 Civilization in Transition, and Dr. Hallie expressed this in his writings as well. However, if we do take the risks and face the adventures of change and transformation that are clearly beckoning us, we will invite the breath of life to renew us and to open our minds, hearts, and lives to greater joy together. Loving authentically means using every single means at our disposal to pursue and enhance our values of life, liberty, opportunity, equality, and justice for all.
As you can likely see, reflecting on my book and the responses to it brings into focus for me the fact that love demands clarity, passion, and action.
I wonder if I wrote enough. I wonder.
Articles by Drs. Bud and Massimilla Harris
, 2021, America, authenticity, being human, citizenship, Elder Wisdom, hope, Inspirational, shadow work
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