The deceit of domination

“The need to dominate the other permeates evil since the beginning of times”, said Starry Song, the shaman who had the gift of teaching the wisdom of his people through the word, chanted or not. Evening was slowly approaching, rolling out its beautiful cloak of stars in the sky. He had asked me to light the campfire while he filled with tobacco the red-stone bowl of his unfailing pipe. We were talking about the thread that sows the curtain of shadows that prevents the clarity of the gaze. He expressed his point of view: “The root of this evil is ignorance and its mistaken understanding of fear. The Great Spirit has given us fear as a tool to warn us about life’s intrinsic dangers, common in nature. Noises in the dead of night, treacherous predators, the slippery edge of a cliff. But rather than becoming integrated with nature, respecting all living beings that exist, we have decided to dominate all that it includes, a sign of how deranged our insecure ego is. Some animals we tame; others for which this was not possible due to their wild nature, we kill or place in jails, as trophies displayed for visitation. Not being satisfied, we have decided to also dominate everyone we have a relationship with. In a primitive stage of wisdom, the freedom of others is scary, as we believe we will only be safe if we dominate everything and everyone around us. The joy of having a relationship is overshadowed by the senseless desire to be the masters of people and things we have a connection with. We lose our lightness. We end up by favoring conflicts over harmony. Many become delusional in the practice of this idle power, without realizing they have become slaves of unnecessary things, and unfortunate victims of their own mistakes.” He paused briefly to puff on the pipe to keep the pipe lit, and continued: “Then, the suffering innate to those who wish to halter their desires to their life arise. They are the sowers of distress and tears.”

“It is essential to face fear, as cowardice does not make anyone’s fate better. Don’t be ashamed of being afraid. Courage can only emerge when once there was fear. Wisdom lies in understanding fear. Fear is the seed of the flower of courage.”

“It all begins with a succession of errors. Ignorance makes us believe that we will only achieve peace if we dominate what frightens us. To make things worse, we end up by making our ego addicted to the sensations of power, by considering the subjugation of the other a victory. There is only peace in the joy of choosing out of love. There is only love when one understands that achieving one’s own freedom means respecting the freedom of others. One does not exist without the other.”

I told him it was difficult to maintain relationships with other people; however, I did not realize that the shadow of domination was so present among people. Starry Song diverted his steady gaze of the flames to look at me with compassion, and said: “Of course it is. See jealousy, for instance, a type of emotion very common to everyone. It stems from ignorance, and from the precise understanding of love. By definition, love is a feeling connected not only to freedom, but to the evolution of the being. The more love and freedom define the choices, the more illuminated is the person. Hence, there should not be conditions established or imposed for these virtues. If there is any sort of condition or stipulation, for sure there is no freedom or love.”

He furrowed his brow, a common expression when he was speaking seriously, and said: “Imagine that a person admires another and projects onto this the will of experiencing love. However, at the same time, this first person is afraid that somehow or at some point, he or she will not be loved back. What do they do? They trigger one or many of the domination mechanisms: setting of controls, limits, demands, all sorts of prohibition. Can you realize this is similar to what was done to animals in ancient time? What cannot be tamed is imprisoned. Even worse, in more serious cases, there is assault, destruction or killing.”

The shaman asked me to hand him a blanket, so that he could warm himself, as the evening was becoming cold. Then, he continued to explain: “Jealousy is a shadow that arises at the exact moment you become fearful of losing the person you love. But how can you lose what you cannot have? You should feel and experience love, which is quite different from trying to control or imprison the other. Can you see the difference? Instead of taking our own flight and respecting the flight of others, out of respect and admiration for love and freedom, we deny the beauty of the Path every time we try to cut someone else’s wings. Without realizing it, we end up by stepping on the flowers of our own garden.”

“This is why we hear, mistakenly, that ‘there is no peace in love’. The fact is we refuse to understand what love is!”

We spent quite some time without uttering a word. I looked at the flames, his gaze travelled to the stars. I decided to break the silence and asked him about other situations in which the ancestral desire for domination led us to behave as we did in the past. Starry Song patiently told me: “We still behave as the duality between master and slave was the only possibility, an eternal, unavoidable relationship between possessor and possessed. In the tribe, at work, within the family. Why? The answer is insecurity. It is difficult for us to live as, and next to, free beings. Freedom seems to scare and threaten. Why? Simply because we were not educated to relate to freedom and love in a healthy way. How many times we use brute force, financial power or some crooked logic as elements to corner and dominate the other, restraining their freedom to choose, either because the choice will not be commanded by us or for us to put forth the vicious sense of domination. This is out of sheer fear. Hence, without realizing, we insist in maintain the appearance in frail structures we call “order” rather than change it once and for all for peace. Order pertains to the social realm; peace is a treasure of the complete soul. Order is the yearning of dominators; peace, an achievement of liberators.”

I wanted to know how to break out from this hazardous and outdated process of domination. Starry Song furrowed his brow once again and said: “A precious lesson is to understand that each person will have upon you the power you grant them. So, do not grant anyone such power. Whenever you do, you will know the agony and suffering of modern slavery. We are born to fly, not to decorate someone else’s cage. The opposite is also true: give up the idea, for whatever reason, of being someone’s master. Cages or wings. This is a choice we make every day.”

“Furthermore, watch and watch. Not the other, but yourself, as no one will be as powerful an enemy as the shadows that advise you. Dominator or dominated, both rot in the same cell. In the necessary interdependence of all relationships, freedom is a necessary condition for joy and peace.” He paused briefly and added: “And for love, of course!”

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