On Conflict & the Cheshire Cat

The Cheshire Cat, Original Illustration from Alice In Wonderland (John Tenniel, 1865)

It is somehow easier to celebrate the ‘external world’, for lack of a better term. Far easier to wonder at the Sky, the Forests, the gorgeous beings that share it with us. To go find happiness in things that are, on the surface, not oneself. But, if the purpose of this blog is a resounding and honest celebration of Everything (what is the point, otherwise), there is first and foremost this Being: The self…which is the celebrator and the experiencer. And that is always riddled with conflicts of a thousand kinds. Thus, unless I find a way to “Celebrate mySELF and sing myself…”, there’s no truth to the rest of it.

But how does one celebrate inner conflict? For it is what makes up the content of our lives. That grilling duality that besets our days and nights with its insistent questions and choices. I or you? This or that? Here or there? Now or later? Why now or why not now? This soon, or how long till…? Or worse–this me or that me?

And the shadow self, breathing hard, moves as if through a minefield of this binary samsara, where, it would seem, that one wrong move may alter the course of the day, or even a lifetime. 

It is hardly possible to go dancing fully into the full moon of this external world if the inside lies so divided. You go to that party, whether to one at the office or in a forest, or an art gallery. You dose yourself out, mostly with your own search for an intoxication of some kind, spiritual or material. You buy some time away from the divided mind, never present fully in one place, and live a bit. And, forgetting for a time, you half rejoice. And come back half filled. And the next day is a hangover of being neither here nor there.

One does a thousand things to keep the joy going. So many times, one comes across the words, “Do what you love…”. Indeed, one must. There is no other way. So, you give up that which did not match with the rhythm of your heart. That brings relief and an unspeakable peace. And yet, the game has only just begun! What do you do now that you have in your hands what you love and when you positively hate to love it? Lo and behold, Conflict is still leaning at your door, smiling comfortably. There it stands, the tramp, the shapeshifter, the wearer of the thousand garbs.

You want to choose perfection. It won’t let you. You’re only a perspective, it’ll say.

You want to find your own way to truth. Go, get it, it says, and you return only with the realisation that your truth is only your own and therefore, not necessarily ‘the truth’, only ‘a truth’.

You tear the sheets of music. You toss the painting into the bin. You refuse to answer that ring. You want to be strong but find that you are weak. You wail in the dark of the blizzard at your frostbitten toes, unable to go on and still more unable to give up. Until… Until…

“You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star.”
-Friedrich Nietzsche

This way? Or that? Alice in her Wonderland had asked, wanting help. It doesn’t matter, replied the Cheshire Cat. Either way is a good way, it said. The Cheshire Cat is Conflict. But the Cat is not conflicted:

The staggering truth is that Cheshire Cat is always smiling. Wide and long.

Which tells me that there’s something very non-serious and nonsensical about this business. It would seem that the answer lies in that smile. It is mischievous, confounding and intriguing. The more one looks at it, the more the mystery grows. It seems that the Cat knows something I don’t. Some kind of a trick.

So then, is it possible that the Cheshire Cat’s smile is not supposed to make sense? That the endless inner conflict is meant to tire or dazzle your mind out of speculation, by pulling it deeper into the mess of speculation?

Until… Until…the question drops.

It is an obvious game that intends to show us the weird self-importance of our own mind, which must get everything right, even though everything is not just right, but also everything else in this relative world.

It says to all us Alices to stop getting stuck in the head and go and play. Leave both fear and awe in the bind they are, for they are two sides of the same mountain, and go on to become the whole mountain. All of it!

Rumi said that the answer lies in the pain. He said:

“Maybe you are searching among the branches, for what only appears in the root.”

Look at the Moon, not the wagging finger. Inner conflict is a sign of there being wholeness behind. The ordinariness of a day is a sign of its extraordinariness.

Suddenly, what one has chosen to do and be becomes important. All conflicts become important. For, now, you can walk into them with the awareness that they are there to take you deeper into the massive beauty of your self. A painting takes its painter beyond its interplay of shadows and light, into balance. The slipping note and the rising note take the musician towards harmony. Every outward study or piece of work leads the individual right back to his own self. And thus, the song of the self emerges on the waves of oneness of everything, rising beyond duality.

I celebrate myself and sing myself
And what I assume you shall assume
For every atom belonging to me,
As good belongs to you….

Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems…
-Walt Whitman

Entering wide awake through the doors of conflict, the self becomes the Universe. And that’s the reason to begin celebrating, conflict and all. That’s the reason to kneel and kiss the ground of being.

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