Roach Creative

Media & Film Production

Today’s Collective Soul: Shadows Not Required

grayscale photo of people at market

Sometimes I find myself rambling with the dead. These conversations continue in my psyche today with my father, grandfather, my recently deceased best friends, my mentor in the oil business, my mentor in film acting. The men who raised me. The men who helped form me into this unfolding world of circumstance opening before me. Take some refuge with me in the sanity and comfort of knowing they never speak back today. But when you really know the depth of someone, you can pick up there cadence, energy and expression and just know what they would say, not say or do in the circumstance. Not a lot has changed but on the other hand, everything seems to have shifted. But honestly, back in the they did seem to listen and respond to me, when they were really alive. But honestly, back when they were alive and interacting with me, I was never certain they understood me or my angle, my game, my perspective. But honestly, today they are resonating more loudly in my life. They give form, actually confidence, to these parts of my inner life. I would be nothing without them.

I like staying in touch with them. Life seems a riddle sometimes – people ask for context, a headline, unless it’s face-to-face which is increasingly rare. Finding a way to characterize current events for these old-timers, pretending that I’m back with them in the last moments of their lives, grounds me. It forces me to use their language, their images, vocabulary, the  landmarks I gathered from their psyches, back in the day.

It’s painful to explain current events.

“The Cold War is back. We have new viruses. People wear masks, not like in Star Wars, but like in the old Westerns. Blacks and women are really angry about how they’ve been treated. Could you have done more? People are still fighting over control. Abortion is back on the table. It seems everyone still wants to come to America, the land of the free. There’s a bunch of super rich people now that you’ve never heard of before. The middle class has disappeared. A lot of people are living on the streets. People still drink. Many have stopped smoking. They’re legalizing pot. The things we can do with our phones and Internet will really blow your mind. People are living longer and longer – or they were. Honestly, we’re not so sure who to trust these days.

And then there’s an 18-year-old who killed a bunch of people in Texas the other day. He posted photos for everyone in the world to see of dead animals, weapons, shoots his grandmother in the face and boasts of these accomplishments to an imaginary audience called social media. Then he continues to talk of his intent to kill children in this school.  The establishment, our institutions stand by and watch, paralyzed. More than 20 people die. There’s a big investigation about what went wrong, who’s to blame and how to stop this from happening again.”

These old timers saw never saw this one coming. They may have felt they left a few loose ends in their lives, but this seems too much. Now a wise part of me is pointing to how we are being tossed into chaos dealing with issues these two men never imagined having the time or nerve to face. They fought their way through life, through a few wars, a depression, droughts that ruined crops, forest work camps and the military to raise families with good reputations. Another set of these mentors of mine flew with the rich and affluence, the greatest artists on earth and the most powerful movers and shakers in industry. They’d fallen just short of the top themselves, but that’s why they needed to share with me – otherwise I’d have had no use to them.

My father was sidelined, muzzled and half broken over his vigor and early success against the drug cartel and organized crime back in the late 1960’s. He continued to struggle through a long, relatively successful career of service in a local community, to find trustworthy, qualified, competent and willing law enforcement officers back in his day – of any sex, race or creed in the local community. Of course, the fact that the very forces he opposed but were needed by the community to thrive in secret in those days, were the very forces that threatened my life, my existence. So perhaps my father’s greatest success from my selfish view was to guide me, to actually fuel my exit from that small town community to go out into the world and not look back.

My grandfather loved nature, farming, much to his Native American heritage. I was the fortunate recipient of his ways with the land. As I went on to study engineering and geology, later all things, these instincts around the earth and tribe fueled my career, allowed me to see the world, fed a few families and allowed me the distance from my disappointment over my father steering me away from quenching my thirst for justice when I felt such an immediate need for it.

So these issues and these comments are a long time coming. These issues I bring to souls of these dead men, are in fact, nothing new. We shouldn’t act surprised or ashamed. They knew what could be said and what was not tolerated. Underneath, we knew it was a lie that all men are created equal. We all may be special and unique in our own way, but we certainly don’t all operate from the same platform of fairness implied in that statement. Not even among the privileges granted white males, dare say I.

We have found ways in the past to live with ourselves the best we could. Whether it’s football coaches at Penn State or Priests in the Catholic Church. Neither my father or grandfather really know how to deal with those issues if that had been raised in their day – other than to know someone would be threatening you and your family if you tried. Nobody really understood what neuroscience, psychology, or how any deeper reflections could fathom understandings to  deal with these matters – the origins of these, dare I say “dark” aspects of mankind, around sex, slavery, suppression and dominance.

The transparency brought by today’s social media is potent and explosive. The whistleblower, if heard and taken seriously, can spill the beans on that priest or doctor or coach who’s crossing the line. It may not even take a million likes on someone’s social media page to get noticed. If that whistleblower thread, that report falls on the right …. now what’s the correct noun to use here? Person? Hands? Ear? Group? …. this written blog medium has failed to keep up with the social media medium of self-expression, reporting and influence!

Who really is responsible on the other side of the communique in social media? The platforms? The executives? The government? A legislative body? I mean who hears the cries for help and is compelled by duty to respond? The new medium is mostly unvetted. Where we once dispatched reporters to find out if something was true or false, real or not, is not so easy or simple a task – or so it seems a practicality is now absent.

We now have “the collective.” Social media can move mountains faster than we ever imagined. The line between news and entertainment is blurred. Reality programs are challenging once revered artistry to re-construct reality depicted in contrived movies and recurring TV/streaming series. When you see a documentary where someone really dies falling from a mountain to change the channel to hear trained actors pine of a lost loved one – it’s just never going to be the same.

And we love our freedom. The cat is out of the bag and there’s no putting it back, now that we now what we know collectively. The common or average person knows how poor and disadvantaged they really are versus the super-rich elite person who they just assume is getting away with rape and manipulating people to stay on top, in the 1%.

And here in Texas some of us are reveling in being the tip of the spear piercing bravely into the future. Population here is booming, businesses are flocking here from around the globe. Fancy cars and boats are flying off the shelves. Home prices are soaring.  You see the new traffic and it looks like some are just rolling in it. But you don’t have to look too far to see people camping on the streets, or even bleeding on the National News – but we’re working on that.  

“Texas: home of a new mass school shooting … weapons of mass destruction, guns, abortion, vaccine politics, homelessness, Elon Musk, oil and gas production, border patrol and immigration, mining minerals for thousand-pound car batteries – stealing away business and tech hubs from around the country – home of billionaires who like everyone else, just love freedom.”

Now you may be asking yourself, what does this have to do with the collective shadow? What about inadequacy? Why all the rush to Texas? We must be doing something correct to be winning all this business, attracting all these famous firms and jobs!

The hard fact is that it’s painful to look the issues right in the eye. We, the collective, just doesn’t know how to do this. Large groups are funny things. The classic king, hero, always has a weakness, a flaw, something driving him or her toward the extraordinary. Now with the collective, the shadow, the things we are uncomfortable addressing are more apparent than ever. But the collective has never dealt well with it’s shadow. It generally refuses to face its shadow but rather choosing to suppress it. Should it face it, would the everything fall apart? What if we try and learn how, one by one? Can we can bring responsibility to the looming chaos forming seeding polarity in the collective?

Across the socio-economic divide, both factions, the wealthy-institutional and the broke-not-poor-individual, have their independent agendas. Do they really need each other? Is there any common ground? Would new a bargain between the two will enable generations to survive with greater honor and dignity?

Each has the power to deflect, bearing the messages we want to hear.  Maybe we think we’re free and there’s plenty to go around? A bubble economy from wealth or fantasy, maybe a touch due to each, without any real fruit to bear or merit to the collective. That scenario serves neither, but to extends the growing stalemate. So, maybe it’s time to start really looking deeper, rather than skimming the headlines and following the likes. Maybe it’s time to examine  wealth and understand how needs differ from your desires? Is that possible? Do you realize what is at stake? Is a self-driven, self-disciplined examination possible?

Now the collective is at its best highlighting what’s popular. So maybe the popular lay prey just as the need versus desire, in your reach into your own power rather than deferring to another greater than you make yourself out to be. So where the rubber meets the road tests the validity of the collectives dreamy thought – the practicality is under fire in the life and death situation – the true test.

So how does the collective stay grounded when it can imagine and bring mass consciousness to  nearly anything and then morph that view into a demand on social media, eliciting a broad response nearly immediately across the globe with lightning speed.

Yet we’re still struck with the incompetence of people in functions they cannot execute when called to duty. Are they impotent? Incompetent. Irresponsible? Why cannot social media cancel the bullies? Or are they just out of practice behaving in reality, being themselves and aligning their lives with such true needs as they are?

So when the gunman says I’m going to do this and that, we feel we really are in control. We tell ourselves he will not. Because in the stories we tell ourselves, he does not do what he says he will do – we are possibly swimming in our own imaginary stories and outcomes, creating the imaginary circumstances, then failing to snap back into our reality. In the face of “evil”, the rapes really happen. The children are indeed scarred for life. The parents are gouged of a dignity most human beings believe unfathomable, the loss of a child. These trauma’s make reality an even greater challenge for the survivor, the living.

The watchers say it’s horrible what they see people doing to each other every day. That’s the real story, they say. The one the media won’t or can’t tell because it’s too awful. That truth would undermine capitalism and cut into our routine.

Something has to give. It always does. It always has, my father would say as I was at his side during occasional unplanned detective calls with him as a kid – memorable cruelties. We have our limits. This isn’t the four minute mile we’re setting our sights to break. It’s much more difficult. It’s highly personal. It’s more about finding a practical sense of reality and getting out of our minds, getting out of our own way.

This transparency opens a surprising avenue leading to our fears. It poses a shock – it threatens the fundamentals of our way of life, our ideas of freedom and entitlement. Revelations of transparency challenges us to form a new, more stable and fundamentally sound view upon which we operate in life. It requires a new bargain. Just another temporary economy or unvetted social media platform leads once again away from our common sense, away from our true power, the uniqueness that each of us embody where we find our own honor and authority.

How can you play a part in shedding light on the collective shadow? Wisdom points that we can only heal ourselves in these deeper layers that haunt us still over the ages. We’re not talking about broken arms and cardiac arrest here. We’re leaning into our dark alleys – the “though shalt nots of the ten commandments” – rules against – which hasn’t worked so well (hint, hint)! So what about confession? Public? Broadly spill our secrets? But what about best stuff, our brilliance and light. Are we judging ourselves along the way? Can we really feel what is true and correct. The answers are likely in a field void of an audience and the rush of promises of tomorrow pulling us away from the very breath we might just find in the present, by daring to relax and be more honest than we may have ever dared think possible.

My father and grandfather are watching, so I trust. Somehow, I hold a multi-dimensional view of this reality. I miss these two men so dearly, yet I feel them so deeply with me in the moment. I trust they from their perch today, know much more of the way that needs to unfold than do I. But this is the best I can do for now.

So my little riddle of justice feels mostly resolved here. If only I could have known it was really okay to be who and what I am, back in those days when my father and grandfather were preparing me to go out into the world. But then, in all actuality they couldn’t do that for me anyway. This is my life, my calling. They protected and prepared me the best they knew or however they were led, they did not hinder my way. They in their own way, still help me hold it together for another day. I’m the one pressing my sense of a calling. It is not they.

So, nobody can do it for you or I. Nobody can tell you or I exactly, precisely, how. The collective, however, will most certainly not. It is up the individual with some reach into our tribes. Marks have been missed by our own scoring of late. So, we vow to make a new aim. We look to find a new way. Trust each other to devise a new bargain, because is there really any other way? Slice the factions to gain ground, shared values, and the honor, dignity – the truth we’d wish for these collective conversations.


Mark Roach Avatar

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