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Changing Our Shoes

By the end of the story, Abu Kasem wants a new pair of slippers. He is able to escape the power of his miserable, old pair. He is a changed man, with a new view of himself and the opportunity to behave differently in his community. He lets go of his precious and delusional persona. We imagine that he now understands the difference between stinginess and thrift, between greed and good business. But as I noted in my last post, Abu did not bring about this change by himself. In fact, his plan to burn the slippers, which signaled his commitment to transformation, was thwarted by the neighbor’s dog.

C.G. Jung said that we experience the unconscious as fate. What we don’t recognize and understand about ourselves becomes the substance of what happens to us in the outer world. What concerns us, our desires and fears, ideas and emotions, unite who and what we are with the events of outer life.

One’s fate is put in motion through an uncountable number of tiny movements, barely conscious actions and neglects. In this way the plot of life thickens. We can make changes. But because we do not have perfect consciousness we are always in dialogue with the mysterious unknown. This is like the Hindu notion of karma, the effects of which are more complex then we can grasp. One’s being and life circumstances are determined by it, but karma can be altered by conscious choices.

Changing our shoes is a kind of death but something has to die for the new self, the new story, the new way of life, to appear. Abu Kasem’s error might seem obvious, but don’t we all resist the growth that must take place and cling to the past, to what we think that we know about ourselves? We aren't taught to accept death and die well. Our culture treats all forms of death as a mistake that technology or positive thinking will someday fix, once and for all.

Whatever it is that has to die is probably something that presents itself as something useful or valuable to life but is actually about death. We can align ourselves with our inner impulse for healing and transformation and uncover our resistance by examining those qualities or principles that we hold most dear, like Abu’s miserable slippers.