Slaying the Hydra

Sometimes it seems like our nation (and national media discourse) is being ruled by a many-headed Hydra, and we are only armed with tiny broken swords. I’m no Xena, no Wonder Woman, no Amazon, just an average woman living an average life. In my experience, when I feel like I’m in the grip of some terrible force of mythic proportions (Hydras, Bluebeards, Demons), what works best for me is to scale down, not up.

I try to remember that the ultimate goal of bullies, would-be dictators, and bad actors is destabilization. Nationally or personally, when we are unstable, feeling chaotic and off-balance, we become vulnerable in unhealthy ways. We lose the ability to see through the lies and misdirection. We become paralyzed and over-reactive in turn. We are more likely to lose track of what truly matters: our personal goals, our strengths and talents, the deep personal and spiritual connections which form the foundation of who we are as human beings, connected to all other human beings. The Hydra grows unchecked, or at least that is what we are meant to believe. And yet our greatest, truest stories are about the small over-coming the mighty.  There’s no Hercules coming to save us, but we can do better. We have each other.

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(John Singer Sargent, 1921)

In the Greek myth of the Learean Hydra, Hercules eventually succeeds in killing the many-headed monster not just by hacking away at it, but by using its own poisonous blood against it. Ingenious, right? But the story goes on- Hercules himself eventually dies as a result of poison- and so the cycle continues: poison begets poison.

Perhaps the most insidious effect of bullying, gaslighting, and other behaviors designed to attack and destroy the opponent’s equilibrium, is the resulting feeling of bewildering disbelief.  A slow poison that works because we question its effects. We begin to die a bit inside. As we lose our center through being attacked, lose our trust in our own wisdom and knowledge, we feel shame: we buy into the belief that surely we must have somehow brought this on ourselves, this state of confusion, inner despair, outer powerlessness.  Disconnection is the ultimate result- the despair of lost connection to self, to others, to the people, institutions and communities we thought we could trust and have faith in. But disconnection is the ultimate myth, a poison meant to kill undesirable forms of life which the despot, the bully, can’t control.

Connection is the fundamental reality of our souls, our planet, our universe. From small-scale atoms to large-scale planetary systems. From the smile I give to a stranger to the compassion we feel for humanity. From physics to poetry, from the cells in our bodies to the love in our hearts, we are connected. Disconnection is a false narrative, a poison propagated by people who are disconnected themselves, and thus seek that same condition in everyone and everything else. Connection: this is the true cause to fight for. Seek connection, stay connected, build connection between ourselves and the answering world. So reach inward to your spiritual center, and then reach out. You will be met, in love.