About a month after my Integrity Day on June 26, when I was pretty much immersed in learning to walk my new woke-up walk, a message presented itself to me that has been enormously helpful to me in organizing and making sense of so much that has been happening through me. I resist sharing it with others (so far have only confided it to my really good buddy Tom Kilby),
because it does actually sound kind of cracked – and might be a stumbling block to some people in getting their hands around what is going on for me. But if it so greatly helps me as I try to make a sense of some elements of my waking up – especially the aggressive edge I am manifesting – maybe it actually can help others.
I think we all hear voices all the time – us talking to ourselves, all the different sub-personalities that the Internal Family Systems therapists work with: not so much the members of our biological family, but our “internal family” – all the wild and woolly characters running around in our psyche. So we’ve all got all of those voices running around in us, we are all having conversations with ourselves all the time. But sometimes a voice – even if it is really coming from some very deep place in ourselves, to which we seldom have access – sounds so distinctly other that it really gets our attention.
Maybe the only other time I remember this happening for me was in a dream – one of only two dreams I ever remember with no video, only audio. I was, in a week’s time, going to move into an apartment right on Lake Michigan in Chicago. Chicago, where the Burnham Plan in the 1890’s preserved almost the entire lakefront within the city limits as park – to be enjoyed by everyone – actually does have a couple of little neighborhoods where people get to live right on the lakefront.
Rogers Park – the farthest north neighborhood in Chicago before you cross into Evanston, which has Northwestern University and multi-million-dollar homes right on the lake – had until-recently actually been a relatively unsafe neighborhood. Now the city had cleaned up most of the gang problems and it was becoming quite a nice neighborhood. But none of the neighbors were letting that secret out of the neighborhood – or none of us would, any longer, be able to afford living in our little counter-cultural/artist’s lakefront Shangri-La.
A week before moving there, I had a dream in which this very deep, impressive voice said “The Lake is a great being. She will teach you if you let her.” Well, that particular message from My Inner Knowing/God/whatever sure proved out. I went to the Lake often – sometimes several times a day – for peace/coaching/sustenance.
When I started dating the lady Jennifer, I would frequently come back home from spending time with her, completely overwhelmed by the emotional power of the love that was developing in me for her – and/or my abject terror in the face of that run-amok intimacy. I would walk down to the beach, right next to my building, and “turn it over”.
If I used words (I often didn’t) they would be something like: “Mama” (Jennifer’s term for the Lake), “I am totally overwhelmed by all of this. I have no idea what to do with it. Please take it from me.” And then I would get quiet, turn it all over to the Lake – and wait for answers if they were to come (sometimes there would be a very clear message/coaching/marching order) or alternatively for the peace that would almost always descend on me in those late night moments of surrender by the Lake.
So my one time ever of hearing such particularly authoritative words from my Inner Pilot had worked out really well. So now these words – which I instinctively recognized as coming from that same inner or outer voice – really got my attention. “You are an Avenging Angel – you are the Sword of Truth.” These words, which I guess could have been pretty daunting or intimidating or even scary, had the opposite effect – I was instantly comforted by them. I knew immediately that they were true – that some essential part of me that I already knew was there, but had no ability to understand, had just been named. In that moment, I recognized a part of myself.
“Oh, I’m an Avenging Angel – that’s right! That makes sense of so much of what has been happening through me!” All the instances where I found myself – in a relaxed and natural and totally unplanned way – telling people off, confronting them with their lack of integrity, now made sense. The times when I had – in a completely uncharacteristic way – threatened another person with physical violence. And the several instances when I had moved into a place of very powerful righteous anger – sometimes absolutely screaming at people who had just done something particularly egregious, all times when that person’s behavior had the impact of attacking another person…assaulting their essence – instances where, in the moment, my surprising behavior felt utterly right to me, now also made sense in the face of this new identity, this mission.
I have, over the last few weeks, gotten more and more comfortable with this new identity as Avenging Angel. It no longer even is a big deal. It is my marching orders from Spirit. This entity within me can be a big surprise to people who have gotten comfortable with me seemingly always being a nice guy.
But it actually is not totally a surprise to me: I can see some ways in which the walk I have walked over the last 73 years has prepared me for this new role. I have for a long time been obsessed with integrity. I wrote a book (not yet published) called Radical Integrity. It is not really so surprising that I would be the one chosen to call out lack of integrity.
About fifteen years after grad school, I was visiting in Philadelphia – her new home – with Madeleine Nathanson, the adorable, brilliant, sweet member of our little class of ten on whom almost all us guys had had a crush. I reminisced about that with her:
“You knew we all were crazy about you, didn’t you?”
“Yes, but my self-esteem was so low back then that I could not really register it. I didn’t trust it. Except when it came from you. You were the truth-teller in our class – the one who would consistently point out the bullshit in the room, even (especially?) when it came from faculty. When you would tell me I was wonderful I kind of believed it.”
So what am I do with this new charge from Spirit? Not take credit for it, clearly. I definitely am not doing any of it.
When I came back from standing on the street-corner where I was screaming at and menacing the mother-fucker across the street who had been taking pictures of our Diana (my Soul Friend), she – looking at me with big, adoring eyes – said,
“You protected your soul friend!”
“Yes I did – and I’ll do it every time, without thinking and without hesitation.”
Diana, who at that particular point in time was feeling abandoned on many fronts, absolutely needed to hear this and see this.
Then Diana distinctly changed her tone and said,
“I was scared. That guy was big. I was afraid he would come over here and beat you up.”
The following words, when they came out of my mouth, were clearly coming from another person than “John Madden” – but I knew and trusted them completely. I knew this was not a boast, but a simple statement of fact.
“You don’t need to worry. Trust me, Diana, in this mode it would be me who would be doing the beating up.”
A brand new part of me had been born. I was having a Hanta Yo moment. In that moment, I had a power behind me that came from someplace else and was absolutely unstoppable.
Occasionally – in that kind of moment or even remembering one – when I picture coming to blows with someone younger and bigger than I – I out-loud emit karate kiai ’s (power-shouts) that I kind of recognize from my old practice of karate, but which have a force and power that almost make me jump back. I’m sure they would throw any attacker completely off their game – might make them reconsider the whole venture of beating me up.
“Don’t fuck with an Avenging Angel.”