Inherent garbage/the werewolf
I had a friend, whom I met in college, and spent a lot of time hanging out with after college. He is a very intelligent guy, a decent guy, and also liked, at least at one time, going on the internet to find pictures of deformed animals. We’d be talking on the phone, and he’d say “I just found this picture of a two headed cow! It’s so funny. Ha ha ha ha!”
While living in Thailand, for a bit, I became friends with another English teacher. Oddly enough he has the same name as my old friend, and the other day he told me that some Buddhist temples here keep deformed animals preserved, in bottles, because they’re believed to have some sort of power, some magical properties. Let me say that if, on reading this, you have some interest in studying Buddhism, not all of our temples are full of jars of preserved deformed animals. This particular interesting practice could be some kind of folk magic that’s been allowed to continue on under the auspices of Buddhism, or it could be a tourist attraction. (Come see the preserve lizards! While you’re at it, maybe you should meditate a little, too!)
If you look to mythology and symbolism, there are myriads of monsters with bodies combining various things. They all seem to have magical powers, as well. Here in Thailand, they have horse dragons, and magic lions (the latter which adorns a popular brand of beer). In Europe, there was a belief in werewolves, and there was that half-bird, half snake thing that could turn you to stone (I forget the name right now). It might be a cockatrice.
It should come as no big surprise that there are actual ideas behind these symbols. If you see them as symbols, instead of as silly archaic ideas, it might be more helpful. Lots of cultures, I think, hide their wisdom teachings in symbol, and if you work at it a little, or talk to people who have had this transmitted to them, you can tap into the meaning of those symbols. Tapping in, or tuning in, is the idea. It’s different than saying “x symbol is a way this culture had of showing the qualities of strength, or y symbol is a way this culture had of communicating patience.” The latter approach distances everyone from the actual qualities of strength, and patience, which might actually be connected to, even through the symbols themselves. I know this might sound a little esoteric and strange, but think of statues of holy figures, along all traditions. It is certainly not the case that such representations just show a being, or remind us of ideas. They communicate. This is felt.
Just going back to the deformed animals thing, people are not that different. That’s one of the big ideas in horror movies, I think (although I’m too much of a wimp to have watched many). You see the people acting badly, and the person who actually turns into a ravenous wolf, and you get the idea that people have these different sides. People can be like animals. It’s like Jekyll and Hyde.
When you sit, whether on a cushion, or a chair, you can see this. In your mind, you might have images of yourself as a wise teacher, a kind friend, or a rapist. You might replay an argument you had earlier, or wish you’d had, and thrown in some firsticuffs, with you as the champion. It’s my understanding that part of people’s issues come from not being able to accept that we are this way: both miserably crazy, and good. We’re like werewolves (nice werewolves). So, without giving in to the violent or lustful impulses whenever they happen, it’s possible to be human, which oddly enough happens through some sort of acceptance of that monstrous side. How many times are we going to think the worst of our impulses, our nightmares, our torturedness, confess it to someone, and have the experience of hearing, “That’s normal.” I’m not suggesting anyone follow all impulses, or go wild. I’m saying, how many times are we going to think the worst of ourselves based on having a werewolf side, a deformed animal in a jar side, and then sigh with relief when some kind friend tells us that we’re not a terrible person. At some point, I think it might be good to start doing that truly for yourself, and not storing up that poison of a belief in a horrible monstrous nature. It’s a sort of koan or riddle: the feeling of being evil, or inherently garbagey, seems to involve reining oneself in with the feeling of being evil. You think you’re bad, so you use the feeling of being bad to keep yourself from being bad.