birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.


I don’t get it. I don’t get myself. I was just trying to explain to a friend, and she doesn’t get it.

This is continuing the reflection on confidence. I posed it to her as it is in my heart: If I am confident, then others will suffer. She posed it back, “If you have SELF-confidence, then no one suffers.” I reacted, “EW! That’s even worse! If it is about my SELF, then no one else even exists!” She said, “There’s something wrong with that.”

I KNOW. There is something wrong with the either-or set-up of this (well, what would you call it?) rule.

Jung calls this “the problem of the opposites.” He wrestled with it in much of his work. He believed it to be the fundamental flaw of Western thought (I believe I report him accurately)—that conception of duality that forces a choice of one and not the other.

The problem of the opposites, in particular the problem of good and evil, was his strongest challenge to the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Jung felt that by separating God from humans--and God from Satan, and Jesus from Satan--Christianity made humans unacceptably responsible for evil and its amelioration or eradication. Jung thought God had equated evil and humans unfairly, wrongly. He said (CW11, ¶651), “Judged by any human standards it is after all unfair, indeed extremely immoral, to entice little children into doing things that might be dangerous for them, simply in order to test their moral stamina! Especially as the difference between a child and a grown-up is immeasurably smaller than that between God and his creatures, whose moral weakness is particularly well known to him.”

Jung believed that the only solution, spiritually and philosophically, was for experiential theology and psychology to relocate evil back into the godhead, into the “god-image.” He believed that when God could take responsibility for God’s own evil, then human beings would be more able to take responsibility for ours. He understands the history of redemption, from Yahweh to Jesus, as the story of God’s ongoing attempt to take that responsibility. Jung felt that the Christian story was incomplete and inadequate to the task though--at least to date.

But, then, he also flipped this equation and proposed that as individual humans take up being radically responsible for their own evil, then God would be redeemed by their responsibility and become more conscious and whole.

I hope that is an accurate portrayal of Jung. If so, it feels, in a way, even more unfair to humans. No longer am I responsible for just my own salvation. NOW, I am also responsible for GOD’S! I don’t know how to save me, and now I have to save God too?!

I do understand the need to be and become responsible. I don’t understand how that will relieve us of guilt and shame.

One of my mentors once told me that I had a “prudential ethics”—that is, I believe in behaving “prudently” in order to mitigate and minimize possible immoral actions.

Yes! The less I do, the less chance there is of doing “wrong.” Just the opposite of Luther’s, “Love god and sin boldly.” Or, is it?

And what of Augustine’s: Love, and do what you will: whether you hold your peace, through love hold your peace; whether you cry out, through love cry out; whether you correct, through love correct; whether you spare, through love do you spare: let the root of love be within, of this root can nothing spring but what is good” [“A Sermon on Love,” 1 John 4:4-12 (I think)].

This is all heady stuff! And, what to make of it? It’s the “loving” part that is the crux it! Jung [CW7, par. 78] comments on this too: Where love reigns, there is no will to power; and where the will to power is paramount, love is lacking."

I think I may stick with my “prudential ethic,” and take care to limit action in order to limit harm. I know some folks think that a serious violation of me. If I must necessarily violate someone, I’d rather it be me.

And, I still hope there is some other way.

Jung argues that, when a pair of opposites confronts one, if one can maintain for long enough the tension of their seeming incommensurability, THEN a new way forward will emerge that transcends both. He believed this emergence of a transcendent third is the root and source of all true creativity.

We’ll see. I am not confident. I don’t understand. My friend suggests I misunderstand. And, so far, I can stand to stay under the tension, so as to not miss out entirely.

Warring Promises

Molto Mantra Per Favore