Ever woken up with a screaming hangover, one that even a handful of Advil and the bodega’s best grease won’t abate – and known the only way to feel better is with a Bloody Mary?
Ever signed up for the office flu shot and after receiving your candy and sticker felt that dull ache that translates into a couple days of flu-ish symptoms?
Ever noticed that for all our complaints about society, we often use those very tools we want to improve in order to achieve the change we need to see?
The Tool Kit
In the Talmud (and popularized by the formerly Chassidic rapper and reggae artist Matisyahu) it states, “From the very forest itself comes the handle for the axe that fells it.” Not a new concept to those of us who’ve hit the whiskey glass to abate the intensity of last night’s booze binge with some “hair of the dog that bit you”, or the medical personnel among us familiar with the concept of vaccinations, venom and antidotes.
Sometimes, the tool that we need comes from that very same place that we’re fighting, the weapon that threatens us is made of the same material.
We support Bernie Sanders in taking down the banks, but who here isn’t using a bank-issued card to make their online, crowd-sourced donations? We complain about the internet taking over our privacy, but we do so on the very free softwares provided by those same privacy invading companies.
That’s because sometimes, we can only sweeten evil by going back to its original source – as neutrality, as a blank canvas, as an inherently good material that’s only been misappropriated into evil.
How It Works
How does hair of the dog work in a hangover? The infusion of new alcohol in the system awakens the liver, currently working through a backlog of toxins from last night which are being broken down and releasing poisons throughout the body like an all-points-bulletin to every hair and every toenail. It announces, “Hey dudes, stop with the big job from last night, we got a new shipment to process,” and in doing so, the shipment waits til tomorrow to process. Immunity works by taking in a few sips of the poison or disease, in order to develop the antibodies to deal with the real sickness should it arrive on our doorsteps. They’re not the exact same process, but they have one thing in common – they involve taking small steps, one at a time, in order to build the tools and strength to tackle the big issue at hand.
Putting a blanket ban on something that’s shown you evil or harm isn’t always going to help you get rid of the big, bad monster hiding in the closet. Sometimes, the only way to sweeten evil is going back to where it once existed and taking down the chemical structure and composition so we can fight fire with fire.
How Harry Potter Did It
The grand battle of Good and Evil played on movie screens all over America (or for those of us who refuse to capitulate, books!) is “The-Boy-Who-Lived”, “The Chosen One”, Harry Potter against “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named”, “You-Know-Who”, the great Dark Wizard, Lord Voldemort. In the first time Harry and Voldemort meet on the battlefield (as opposed to their actual first meeting, when Harry was just a child in his crib crying for his mother), their wands, rather than behaving as weapons, form a magical connection and unspool threads of golden light which connect and don’t enable the forces of evil to take Harry’s life, or take over the world with darkness, as planned.
That’s because, as the wandmaker informs us, their wands share a unique and very rare characteristic – that of twin cores. Both men when choosing their wands, their personally crafted tools for battle – and all areas of living, in the wizarding world – resonated with the phoenix feather core, and therefore, the two wands connect in a surprisingly unknown way, even to those well-versed in wandlore.
The story of the twin cores plays a significant part in the Harry Potter story, and it begs the question of us:
How often do we see somebody else, and forget to acknowledge that we are made of the exact same stuff – instead focusing on the Other as a force of evil?
How often do we go to battle against a force of darkness using every trick in the book before remembering that the tool is in the matter itself, the hair of the dog that bit you, the tool for chopping the tree that comes from the wood itself.
Modern gastronomy means it’s no longer a foreign concept to acknowledge that from the bitterness arises sweetness, as pickled, fermented and other such acrid delights take up residence on artisanal menus from Berkeley to Brooklyn. The cacao bean, strong and bitter in natural taste, is the building block for one of society’s greatest pleasures – chocolate. And so we know, that in order to go ahead and sweeten those bitter things in life, to feel the goodness come forward, we need to go back to the toolkit and see what it’s made up of in the first place.
When someone else is truly bothering us, look deep within to reveal the twin core. Use a bit of that same medicine they hit you with to get to the bottom of the problem. Use the weapons as tools to destroy the weapons, without forgetting that they’re merely a means to an end.
So as we strive to build a better world, as we suffer through our daily dramas and look for more sweetness, let’s remember that the essence of all things is the same essence that powers both the good, and the bad. Take a deep breath to reveal that divine essence, those twin cores between one person and another. Meditate on your existence as a divine being, and acknowledge that within the other person is the same divine light and love that fills your own body.
And when it comes to opposing a challenge posed by another, remember the tools. Remember what got you both to this place. And find that inner core of goodness before it all turned to shit, find the neutral sweetness that underlies the bitter, and extract it, refine it, harness it.
So we can all move into the sweet.