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Black and White, Porch-Shopping, and Bookworms

white is black's black

Black and White, Porch-Shopping, and Bookworms

Every term implies its opposite. Which is why the theory of positive affirmations, the assertion that the subconscious never hears "no" and so you must use positive language, is oversimplified. Rich  contains the imagining of poorlose contains the imagining of gain (and vice versa); always contains the imagining of fleeting.

Yes, yin-yang.

Yes, Heraclitus.

And so it isn't surprising that having just been writing about surrender, when Black Friday rolled around all I could think about was white flags.

Black Friday sounds like Black Monday, the dire depression-precipitating stock market crash. It sounds like Black Death, the colloquial name for the genocidal bubonic plague of the Middle Ages. Like Black Hat, the bad kind of computer hacker (and a whole fantasy literature tradition of baddie black wizards and goodie white wizards (even the white chessmen get to make the first move in a game; does this suggest that the baddies are stronger and need to be handicapped?)). Like the black list or black book, enrollment in which will get you black balled.

But Black Friday is supposed to be good, within the mainstream commercialist spirit of American culture, right? Could it really have been named by the shadow side of the black, the white within the black that is that black's black? Or is the anti-commercial  sector of American culture actually a quiet majority, shaping vocabulary and thus attitudes sotto voce?

Well--white within black, black on white--in a commercialist setting "black" is actually a positive term. "In the black" means solvent, means bringing it in. This is possibly a revision of the history of the term, and it certainly ignores the specter of also-commercially contexted Black Monday; on the other hand, this term has only been in use for about half a century, and we humans don't seem to be able to help being inconsistent in our terms. 

Just think about abundance if you don't agree. That's another problem adjective for attracting/manifesting a desire. Everything and anything can be abundant, including difficulty, conflict, ill health.

And here's other ways that black is good--earth and oil are black gold, precious.  A black sheep is independent and willing to surpass genetic and cultural programming. (Okay, not everyone agrees this is good, but I'm expressing that as an opinion.) Usually high in zinc, black foods and herbs strongly connote nourishment of the lower chakras, the vital life-force energy (jing).

But I had just been writing (I almost typed "whiting") about surrender, and here came Black Friday a day and a half later. And surrender's symbol is the white flag! Standing out against  its black (Friday) background, surrender starts to look as catholic in its scope as abundance. I could surrender to complete uninvolvement in the holiday. Or I could surrender to the holiday spirit and join in other people's fun.

I could surrender to the path of healing I've undertaken, or I could surrender to my desperate need to shrink, whether or not that's compatible with the program. I could surrender to a recent feeling of being overwhelmed by "city," or I could surrender my judgments about travel and go spend an afternoon in the wilderness.

This isn't just wordplay or semantic stretching. It's something more beautiful than that. It is to acknowledge the wholeheartedness, the unconditionalness, of the relationship between surrenderer, surrendee, and object surrendered (NB all three of these roles can be fulfilled by the same person).

To "render" (from French "rendre") means to give back. The prefix "sur" (from French, from Latin "super") means over. So, to "surrender" means to hand back over

So, when I surrender something, I'm handing it back over, which means it wasn't in my possession/wasn't mine to begin with. I give it back, whether to the Universe, or to the divine within me, or to another person, or to the library or the car mechanic's superior knowledge...

When I surrender my neurosis, it means it wasn't mine to begin with. When I surrender my pain, likewise.

Now to surrender my apathy toward my own creative processes. I didn't hand my time back over to the shopping imperative today but instead shopped in a box of old journals that I've negligently left on my strip of a porch this whole month since I've moved, including a couple big rainstorms. 

The journals were thankfully mostly dry and still legible. The only way I could look at them was to surrender to my resistance at the same time as surrendering to my addiction to any form of writing, even my own minucscule. There were heart-tuggingly many poem and essay ideas worked out partially or barely or mostly--inchoate forms that could be left to lie and molder, or could be picked up and crafted. What will my choice be?

There were also several maggots in the box. I could only wonder--what on earth are they eating?

And then I found out.eatenbook 200

Earlier English talks of "getting to the ant," meaning behaving industriously, and "going to the worm," which means dying and decaying (also a process of surrender). At this point, someone else is eating my words. That the words were writting four years ago but might still have some importance for me is part of what I need to understand.

I'd love to hear others' ideas on the surrender process in the crafting of ideas, as a writer or any other maker.

About the Author

Ela Harrison

Ela is a wordsmith and herb lover who has lived in many places and currently resides in Tucson, AZ.

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