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There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you … As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. – Nelson Mandela

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Thanksgiving Interview with Jack O’Lantern

Jack and Jackie O’ Lantern, renowned and loved master jack-o-lanterns, stopped by BIOM to rest up a bit after their busy Halloween tour of the Northwest, where they inspired people with their bright smiles, and luminous lore about the benefits of quiet reflection, and ways to nourish yourself during this dark time ... until the light returns.

Michael: Welcome back, Jack. Thanks for stopping by to see us, and kindling that good Thanksgiving spirit.

Jack O’ Lantern: My pleasure. Glad to be here again. Jackie and I had a great time this Harvest season; lot’s of great celebrations, and fun with kids of all ages; but the middle-aged ones seemed pretty dismayed just after Halloween. They seemed out-of-balance in a way; kind of thick skinned to the celebrations that were going on, with a mushy-feeling spirit—like a pumpkin getting ready to go to sleep for the year. This seemed strange because the happy people we know are soft on the outside, and firm on the inside

Michael: I think you were sensing the anxiety, fear, and disappointment a lot of people felt because of the recent elections. Do you keep up with those kinds of “people” events?

Jack O’ Lantern: Not too much; especially this time of year when jack-o-lanterns are very busy with Harvest celebrations; but when people aren’t able to appreciate a celebration, that catches my attention.

Michael: So what do you say to people to help them reconnect with their hope?

Jack O’ Lantern: First off, I remind people that life is its own reward; and not only is it worth living, regardless of whether you feel like you’ve won or lost, but as my wife Jackie says: it’s essential to be “grounded in your existence.” Pumpkins know this right from the start because our existence is so connected to the ground, but people, for thousands of years now, have forgotten what it means to be “grounded” because they don’t know how to do it anymore. That’s why when tumultuous events happen, so many lose their balance. So it’s good to do things like Chi Kung and Tai Chi to firm up your resolve so you can still fight for what you believe in, while not beating yourself, or others, up in the process. Which reminds me of a short story I heard from a very old and wise Chinese apple, known as Master Pomegranate:

One season, several hundred years ago, he was hanging from a branch on a tree in the center of a tiny village in China, waiting for his turn to be picked.  As the farmer’s son reached for him, the young man lost his balance, fell to the ground, and broke his arm. Later that day, a group of older men were sitting beneath the same tree, talking with one another, when one said to the father of the young man who had broken his arm: “What a terrible misfortune to lose your son’s help during the harvest. The father said laconically: “Maybe.” The man looked at him quizzically and shook his head with mocking sympathy at the father who didn’t understand his misfortune.

The next day, the army passed through the village, forced the able bodied young men into their ranks, and marched them away; taking with them the sons of the fathers who assumed their sons would be there to help with the harvest, while the son with the broken arm was left behind. Stunned and contrite, the farmer who took the father of the injured son as a fool, said to him in his despair: “You are so lucky that they left your son behind.” The father whose son was left behind, responded tersely: “Maybe.”

Michael: Maybe? Why maybe?

Jack O’ Lantern: “Don’t assume that you see all sides of any situation. What may seem like a disaster today, may be, as some call it: a “blessing in disguise.” Just like an individual pumpkin can’t see what lies in the fields beyond his view, so too with people. Though a clear difference between pumpkins and people is that pumpkins don’t presume to know what the future holds, while people seem to make this mistake over and over again. 

People can learn something in this regard from us pumpkins; they can learn how to sit patiently, wait and watch; becoming more sensitive to what’s really go on. Just like a pumpkin orients itself to the light during its growing season, people would benefit by spending more time orienting themselves to the light that’s within them. This way they’d find themselves pointed in the right direction, and suffer fewer self-inflicted wounds along the way.

Michael: But you know Jack, that while people and pumpkins have much in common, the differences are quite pronounced too. People are political creatures, and politics is about winning: and the winners these days aren’t too kind to the losers.

Jack O’ Lantern: I know, I’ve been around people for a very long time, and I’ve seen these changes. But, fundamentally, people today are the same as they’ve always been. Just keep in mind that politics is basically the art of influencing others. And that if you stay oriented to the light, you’ll develop wisdom, out of which comes compassion, out of which will come deeds that will form the politics that influence people in ways that will stimulate their wisdom. This is the path of evolution talked about in the stories of both people and pumpkins.

Michael: Easier said than done ...

Jack O’ Lantern: Yes, there are bumps, and potholes in the road people walk along, but it’s the same for pumpkins too: We start out as seeds, and while we’re still tender shoots, we have to push up through rocks and hard soil; but we follow the light, which helps us find ways around the impediments. If you do the same, you’ll find a way to get where you need to go. And you’ll know you’re on the right track when you tell yourself, or someone else tells you, how it’s supposed to be, and the soft voice inside your head replies tersely: “Maybe.”

Michael: I see that it’s time for you to go, Jack. But before you do, I want to thank you for sharing your insights and wisdom, and as always, you’re invited back here again next year.

Jack O’ Lantern: And Jackie and I extend our best wishes to everyone in the BIOM community - “Keep on growin’ and keep on glowin.’ And as I head out the door, here’s a little jack-o-lantern blessing from me to you:

Sun shine with clarity.
Moon wash away shadows.
Rain refresh the earth.
So all may grow - in the Garden.

Related Links

  • Thanksgiving Interview with Jackie O’ Lantern
  • Halloween Interview with Jack O’ Lantern
  • Joseph Campbell and the Story of Your Life Workshop
  • What People Are Saying about Joseph Campbell and the Story of Your Life
  • The Power of Defeat
  • Entering Sacred Space
  • Joseph Campbell on ‘Following Your Bliss’
  • Embarking on the Journey
  • The Whole Is Greater Than The Sum of Its Parts

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    IMPORTANT: All information on this Web site is provided for educational use only and not meant to substitute for the advice of a local Oriental Medicine practitioner, biomedical doctor, experienced coach, or martial arts instructor.