The High Price of Desire
It should come as no surprise to anyone that conmen the world over exploit our failure to mature on schedule. We become 'easy marks' and 'pluckable pigeons' in our eagerness to enter into social relationships, to belong, connect, bond, to be a lover or a friend.
We can illustrate the danger inherent in this immaturity by a looking at that ancient game of dice, Shooting Craps.
First, some explanations: Each die, a cube, is spotted so that its opposing sides total seven, in other words, 6 is opposite 1, 5 is opposite 2, and 4 is oppo- site 3. This much can safely be assumed.
In Craps, a player, using a pair of dice, bets that he can throw a 7 or an 11 on the first toss. People can bet with him or against him. If he succeeds, he wins; if he throws 2, 3, or 12, he loses. If, however, he throws 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10, this number becomes his 'point' and he throws the dice as many times as he needs either to get that same point again, in which case he wins, or until he throws a 7, in which case he loses.
In Nevada, for example, gambling is both legal and well controlled. At unpredictable occasions, the hand of a gaming control agent will reach out of the Crap table's crowd to pick up the dice before the stickman can retrieve them. A badge is flashed, the dice are inserted into an official envelope which is immediately sealed and signed, and the dice are taken away to be tested. Should they be in any way less than perfect the casino will be subjected to ruinous investigation and the very real possibility of loss of license.
A gaming license is so valuable that casinos go to extremes to insure the integrity of their dice. They do not want 'bad' dice introduced into any game, not only because they might lose to the player (a comparatively minuscule loss) but because if a Gaming Control Board agent should happen to confiscate the dice, there would be hell to pay. So, to prevent counterfeit dice from being introduced into the game, each casino has its logo stamped upon the dice it uses.
Naturally, it also being extremely valuable, the die that imprints the logo is stored in the local dice manufacturer's vault. And, of course, it had better be used only on dice that are 'straights' or 'squares.' But just because dice manufacturers know how to make good dice doesn't mean they don't know how to make 'bad' dice. Ah, they do make lots of these 'trick' dice. Some of them even have impressive (but not Nevada registered) logos stamped upon them. Such dice are shipped out of state to worldwide locations.
Trick or 'crooked' dice come in four varieties: rockers, bevels, shapes, and loads.
As the name suggests, a rocker has one convex side, It is much easier to overturn a rocking chair than it is to overturn a chair whose legs are flat against the floor. Let's say that, depending upon degree of curvature, friction, and so on, it is five times easier to overturn a curved object than it is to overturn a plane object. Consider a flat-surfaced cube (the die) tumbling down the Crap table's green felt. If five units of force are required to overturn it on its plane, straightedged surface, it will stop tumbling whenever it possesses less than those five required units. But if one side of the die is curved so that only one unit of force will suffice to overturn it, the die, just as it comes to the end of its tumble, will then continue, one final unit's worth, to flip over and reveal the intended face.
Bevels, also as the name suggests, have one edge shaved to a forty- five degree angle so that they will flip over with much less energy than is required to have them flip over a ninety degree angle.
Shapes are not perfect squares. They are rectangular, i.e., longer in one dimension than they are in the other two. If a perfect cube tumbles down the felt, one side is as likely to come up as the other. But a rectangular shape will tumble over its long dimension, virtually ignoring its short or square edges. If you tossed a man down a hill, he would not tumble head and feet, head and feet, he would tumble belly and spine, belly and spine.
Loads are the most famous and common trick dice. Professional dice have their spots shallowly drilled out; paint, of density equal to the plastic, is then inserted into the vacant spaces. Loads are created when the spots of one face, usually the six, are filled with heavy, lead-laced paint. The law of gravity prevails and just as a dropped piece of buttered toast usually lands butter side down, the heavy six-side will come to rest against the felt. "Snake eyes", a loser, is quite easy to throw with a pair of six-spot loads. Three, also a loser, similarly can be obtained with a six and a five load.
Dice cups facilitate the introduction of trick dice into a game. The stickman merely palms the trick die or dice and deftly makes the switch when, between plays, he retrieves the dice and drops them into the cup. Dice cups are prohibited in Nevada and wherever else gaming is responsibly controlled.
To understand what all this has to do with archetypal projection we must first ask, Who purchases these trick dice? The sad answer is that they are purchased by people whom we all 'instinctively' trust. Remembering that the archetype of the Good Friend (the friendly shadow) serves our requirement to trust - as in the buddy system - we can readily see that it is precisely our inclination to trust certain people that creates the market. Individual chapters of an enormous variety of men's organizations (both with and without animal names and including veterans' organizations) purchase trick dice for fund raising events. The 'need' need not be so seemingly altruistic. Trick dice are shipped to master sergeants the world over and to Chief Petty officers in every ship in the fleet of every navy. Upperclassmen of fraternity houses make their car payments by sporting with eager freshmen; cruise ships, in international waters, are at liberty to cheat their fun-loving passengers; but the biggest customers of all are those hyphenated foreign-home 'friendship' clubs - Irish-American, Chinese-American, Polish-American, German-American. Substitute for American whatever country you reside in. If they've got a 'back room' dice game, you'd better bet the dice are bad.
Fritz Doemann, a salesman from Berlin, comes to Somecity, U.S.A. to conduct business. He is not a mature man. He has never integrated his archetype of the Good Friend.
Though tired, Fritz is restless in his hotel. He must go out and be among people. He anxiously reconnoiters the downtown streets until he sees a sign which announces that he has arrived at the German-American Friendship Club. Fritz cannot resist the call. He enters and is immediately greeted by a jovial fellow who speaks his language and welcomes him with unabashed warmth. Fritz rejoices.
Generously, his host escorts him to the bar and buys the first round of genuine German beer. Contempt-in-common being the glue of comradeship, his host ventures to opine, "American beer! Ugh!" "Ja. Ja. Ha. Ha," Fritz concurs, adding, "the water my wife washes dishes in tastes better." "Ja. Ja. Ha. Ha," confirms his host, declining to press for details about those occasions during which Fritz drinks dish-water. Of course, Fritz may never have actually tasted American beer either, but he will be unable to refrain from criticizing it. He needs to connect with a friend; and no one knows this better than his host.
For fifteen minutes or so there will be talk of things German. And then his host, overwhelmed by goodness of heart, will wink and hold his index finger to his lips, signaling the conspiracy of true friends. He will tell Fritz that he is going to do him the favor of gaining him admittance to some back room action. Fritz will feel like the luckiest sheep in Christendom as he goes to his fleecing.
Especially in the critical period of adolescence, an unprojected hero archetype tends insidiously to lower an individual's self esteem and confidence. Unmotivated and restless, the young person finds his life devoid of purpose or meaning. He drifts, clinging desperately to those of his friends who also lack the inspiration necessary to achieve even modest success. However, once this youngster finds an inspiring role model upon which to project his hero, he may become a driven man. Challenged by his hero, he enters the contest and with determined concentration practices guitar chords, or develops computer programs, or rises at dawn to run ten miles, or announces to his flabbergasted parents that their fears about his entering the world of crime were not entirely without foundation: he has just decided to become a lawyer.
Of course, if his spirit is willing but his flesh untalented, financially unsupported, or too susceptible to the charms of old habits, he may let his heroic dream die an ignoble death. If fate is not too unkind he'll quietly retreat into the refuge of spectators and become one of those tuberous masters of the fine art of vicarious participation, a couch potato.
But even if he accepts the challenge, pursues his dream and becomes a competent consiglieri, he may not necessarily have integrated the previous levels of hero projection. Spiritually, he may still believe in fairy tales. He may believe that no matter how he errs, a simple apology will set things right and that he can always count on the good will and resources of his magical godfather to set things right. He will likely be mistaken.
Each level of hero projection is more than a staging area for the next level. True, the Trickster is the support for the Superman who is the launching platform for the Human hero, who, in turn, is the base upon which the Savior stands. But each base must be destroyed, immolated in the launching process.
It isn't enough to cease believing in the reality of Bugs Bunny. We also have to understand that Trickster ethics will no more function in our world than Trickster methods. We can't steal the farmer's crops and we can't avoid justice by being cute or by pushing the farmer off a cliff.
It isn't enough to cease believing in the reality of Superman. We can't continue to transfer control of our lives to caped crusaders. We can't depend on vagrant spirits or on stars to explain and direct our destinies. Stars and spirits cannot do for us what we are obliged to do for ourselves.
And, most assuredly, we cannot approach the Bodhisattva/Savior if we idolize another human being.
We can easily gauge a person's level of spiritual maturity by observing the level at which he has projected his hero archetype.
The following experience should serve to illustrate:
I was once associated with a Zen group which, having outgrown its meeting room, rented a larger facility from an unaffiliated New Age religious group that had just leased a new building. Other small groups also became subtenants so that the room was occupied each night of the week. The new meeting room's decor was pleasant and unobtrusive, suitable for serious lecture, discussion and meditation.
The Seventh World of Chan Buddhism
Chapter 9: The High Price of Desire, Page 1 of 4
Last modified: July 11, 2004
©1996 Ming Zhen Shakya (Chuan Yuan Shakya)