There is much to say and much to feel about the horrific results of the 2016 Presidential election. Others will say more, and say it better.
For me, I'm simply going to write about peacocks.
I experienced this election in India. Whenever I come here I try to pay close attention to how nature presents herself -- to sounds, to colors, to qualities of light. I watch what animals appear consistently each day. Last time I was here it was parrots. This time, peacocks.
A single male peacock has joined us every morning, strutting his spectacular stuff right across from our practice space, opening his dazzling fan, shaking it until even the tips of his feathers quiver, calling out to be seen.
What could he be telling us?
The peacock, in its crudest symbolic interpretation, is pride. "Proud as a peacock" they say, a colloquialism that invokes unhinged male braggadocio. And indeed one can hardly think of two world 'leaders' that better exemplify the strutting, over-the-top showmanship of the peacock than Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, two dueling birds who will probably occupy center stage for the next few years, performing their puff-chested battle dances.
Peacocks have a long association with battle dances. In Indian cosmology, the god of war himself -- Kartikkeya -- rides a magnificent peacock, as if saying to the entire world -- look at me! None can stop me!
Yet in the Indian vision the peacock is also much more than this -- the luminous bird is also the transmuter of worldly poison, the avian alchemist that eats trash and transforms his toxic diet into shimmering feathers, the yogi that dives into the fractured chaos of the mind and turns it into unified consciousness, the activist that takes the sorrow and strife of the world and makes art and takes action. The residue of this great work -- in Indian cosmology -- is precisely what stains the peacock's chest blue.
The peacock is also, simply, love. The call of the peacock, like the call of the flute of Krishna -- the lord of love who sports a peacock feather in his crown -- is the call for union. It is the call that pierces those dark nights of the soul, and says: let us join together.
When I found out the election results, half a world away, I tossed my phone on the table in disbelief. And I immediately felt love for each and every one of my friends. I saw your faces. I felt what you must be feeling. I heard from friends I hadn't heard from in ages. We were all -- I feel -- joined by the same cry.
The cry of bhakti -- devotional longing -- which is often compared, in the bhakti texts, to a peacock's cry -- is a paradoxical lament. It is the cry that says 'Oh world, how could you do this to me!?' And the renewed statement 'I love you,' all at once. Already on social media I have seen outpourings of love, not simply statements of 'we're all in this together,' but something different in quality. Something magnetic. Something tender. Something close and bright.
Which leads us to the concentric rings at the center of the peacock feather. The five elements of creation, each dissolving, the heavier into the lighter, until last of all is the deep indigo of space-consciousness itself.
There is space for it all to happen.
For us to survive the battle dance of the dueling peacocks. For us to rise anew.
For this four years... well, I see a whole lot of male bravado on the horizon. I see, yes, some battles ahead. Some clashes of pride. I see the transmutation of the poison of hatred into art and activism and community and togetherness. I see a renewed commitment to love. And I feel -- graciously, gratefully -- that there is space within our hearts to hold it all.
To be sure, this time will shine. Regrettably, it may often shine with the coarse flame of anger and pride, with the sickly gleam of the fascist's polished boot. But it will also shine from our renewed hearts. It will shine with the works of art we will create, the community we will foster, with the power of the protest movement that will rise. It will shine from the glow of us remembering, at last, what is truly valuable and real.
They say that Kartikkeya -- the peacock god -- was infused with a light so bright that the gods were afraid of it. They tried to shuttle his light away where they could control it and keep it contained forever. But they could not. For the war Kartikkeya rages is not physical battle -- his is the dazzling display of consciousness in recognition of itself, like a renewed movement waking, like trivial problems falling by the wayside, like a people reinforced by the specter of what they face together, like the pinnacle of human art and expression that radiates like scintillant feathers out of empty void. All this is coming.
So to the world, the vastness, the mystery, I cry--
How could you do this to me!?
I love you...
Let the peacock age begin.