In high school English class, we read a short story called The Lottery written by Shirley Jackson. It was first published in The New Yorker in 1948 and is still considered one of the most provoking short stories in American literature. Much of its metaphor was lost on my 1970’s youth but I do remember a sense of foreboding and helplessness when our teacher added a viewing of one of its many film adaptations to our class time.
Its major theme is scapegoating – the action of mob psychology and how people will abandon reason and embrace cruelty if they are a part of a larger group behaving in the same manner. According to Wikipedia, “The story describes a fictional small town in contemporary America which observes an annual ritual known as "the lottery". The purpose of the lottery is to choose a human sacrificial victim to be stoned to death to ensure the community's continued well-being.” In the story, towns people draw slips of paper from a box once a year and the person with the black dot on their paper would be stoned as an appeasement for the deliverance of sin.
It was a shocking juxtaposition - small town America utilizing a medieval barbaric ritual. The publication caused a revolt against the magazine and in particular the author. Hate mail flowed. It seemed that such raw examination of our communal psyche was too much for America’s post war population.
I recently remembered that English class assignment and the subject of stoning.
When news surfaced that the country of Brunei was enforcing new penal codes to legitimize stoning of anyone found guilty of homosexuality, adultery, blasphemy or insulting Islam, it felt archaic and insane. With this decision they are aggregating one’s expression of sexuality with acts of terrorism or murder as an equal capital offense. Brunei, and its sultan’s instituted penalty, reeks of absurdity to anyone from cultures where liberties surrounding one’s orientation, religious freedom and first amendment rights have long been the central aim of safeguarding.
It’s the same absurdism that Shirley Jackson wrote about, and sadly, her post war fiction still bridges with reality around today’s world.
Another word for stoning is lapidation from the Latin word lapis (stone) and the noun of action lapidare (to throw stones at). It involves groups throwing these stones until the subject dies from blunt force trauma.
This medieval act is the basis of one of the most famous Judeo-Christian commands from the master teacher Jesus. When protecting a woman accused of adultery by the Pharisees he replied, “He who is without sin among you, cast the first stone.”
Jesus used that moment to deliver an oft forgotten principle.
One of the keys of ancient Hermeticism is the principle of polarity. This principle details the science of supposed opposites. Everything is actually the same but expressing in various degrees. Could it be that the majority of the Pharisees who screamed, “Stone her” the loudest were themselves guilty of adultery?
This principle teaches that heat and cold are the same but take on different characteristics through the movement of degree. Hard things may be rendered soft and vice versa. Similarly, Carl Jung saw humanity composed of positive and negative elements – terms that define the conduction of our consciousness. Both are needed for equilibrium. Where there is light there must also be a shadow.
Social media is the new arena of a type of digitized stoning. So powerful is its influence, that its energetic violence far out distances a tiny nation’s laws on the island of Borneo, a mob of Pharisees in ancient Israel or a fictitious small town in a short story.
There are those I know well who use the platform daily simply to condemn, mock, discount and name call. It is a low vibrational form of entertainment. A certain predictability or foreseeable knowledge defines their commenting when you are privy to their history of behavior. If you disagree politically, religiously, philosophically, even dietarily, the blunt force from their opinionated response is hurled through a keypad. They find company within their friends (mob) and are in turn gifted with large segments of online time where they may avoid looking at themselves and be accountable for the degree of similar behavior they are ‘stoning’.
In September 2018, Inc Magazine published an article outlining the shifting tide of Facebook users particularly after the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal, yet investment website Market Watch, this April, wrote how numbers of those who exited are reluctantly coming back in some degree because of the mass globalization of the apps interweaving take over. Without it, they are disconnected from family, friends, even work information.
The prognosis is that social media in its evolving forms will likely remain a main artery in connecting to others. The visionary question becomes, “How may we use that connection in a way that promotes a wave of quantum thought, positively shifting our collective reality?”
What To Do
1) Many are not accustomed to channeling their anger properly, allowing their failures and insecurities to play midwife to confidence, or understanding that their jealousies and pains are tools of curiosity to uncover and heal unresolved fears. The more repressed our shadow remains the more we normalize the stoning of others.
Begin with exploring Jung’s work. When there is repression of one’s shadow, our vitriolic judgments are ignited and drive our interactions. What you judge, you yourself possess in some degree. The welcoming and accountability of shadow study plays a crucial part in balancing the overall psyche of humanity from both a personal micro decision as well as the global macro healing. Admitting that we have all been chronic in our versions of stoning, like any form of atonement, is necessary in letting our collective shadow calm.
2) Use the platform of social media to elevate. What you are most likely about to criticize or condemn will not change the nature of that thing, or person or situation. What will shift our universal anxieties is when greater numbers understand that what you appreciate appreciates. What you seek first to understand brings understanding. The more we focus on what is working around us and how we may contribute to the collective expansion is the equivalent of dropping a stone we were about to throw. Besides, its good for your physical and mental health. Inflammatory rhetoric becomes inflammation within our cells.
3) Don’t mistake kindness for weakness. Do not misinterpret this as instruction for turning a blind eye to the injustices of the world. Use those injustices to craft a personal vision of what your solution driven work may be. The great metaphysician Ernest Holmes wrote, “Find me one person who is for something and against nothing, who is redeemed enough not to condemn others out of the burden of their soul, and I will find another savior, another Jesus, an exalted human being.”
Without a vision or some kind of workable aim, you and I merely perpetuate the systemic issues that plague the life force of our planet. Without a vision, we indeed perish. Test the waters of your ideas. Allow your brand of service to reveal itself each day by practicing availability to guidance. Continue to uncover and refine what and where your path may lead. Don’t give up after perceived setbacks. Vision will handhold and lead us again and again, but we must continue dropping the stones from our hands and getting up from our mistakes.
It is our collective vision that will sustain us.
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