There is a belief among the Lakota people, of a very powerful and important person called the heyoka or as they were called by early European anthropologists, “clowns,” who misunderstood their contrary behavior and role.
Because they use their powers to help their people, they are held in great reverence. The heyoka is a lightning bolt that cuts to the truth in an uncomfortable way by inspiring confusion or anger by not following the rules and asking difficult questions. Ultimately their role is to inspire others to a higher place. Being a heyoka is not an easy path, and someone does not “become” a heyoka but is so from birth, they are essential to the sustainable functioning of a tribe.
Essentially by doing the opposite of what is accepted behavior, it teaches the tribe moral behavior by achieving a better understanding of their own foolishness, hypocrisy, and ignorance.
I have been thinking about the heyoka a lot lately, and their role to help us confront our own demons so we may reach a higher calling. I see so many people in disbelief that we are in such a confusing time in our world. Where the social norms we used to follow no longer seem to have a place in our society. People are focusing on what divides us, particularly by using labels. In Lewis Carroll’s book “Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There,” Alice walked through the wood of no names, where there are no individual names and no awareness of qualities that set them apart from others. Alice loses her identity and meets a fawn who also forgets its identity and accepts Alice completely and fearlessly. There are no distinctions in this place between human and animal, self and other. The eradication of distinction allows their universe to expand.
Rather than apply labels to dehumanize others’ unconventional behavior, or to make us feel “right” wouldn’t it be magnificent if we used this wisdom to recognize our connectedness. Recognize what we are feeling when we see, read or hear a message by another and how it relates to our own fears, beliefs, and misunderstandings. Labeling is extremely divisive and distancing. Instead of our tendency to separate from each other by applying labels, what if we listen to each other and our unique perspectives. Labels smear your glasses so you will never be able to see the person or their perspective clearly. When we label or base our opinion of a group based on religion, race, gender, sexual identity or political affiliation we have merely stunted our own growth which stunts our collective growth. It is powerful when we can discuss ideas or approaches without labeling or deciding the worthiness of the person in the discussion.
We are barraged with messages of what to think and believe. What is true. Who is good or bad. May I suggest instead listen to your intuition, your gut so we can learn to trust our instincts again rather than seeking from others what is true. And our truth may not conform to others and may have aspects that conform to those who despise each other. Heyoka’s are a powerful teacher and while they taught through contradiction and satire they were honored because of the value they brought the tribe.
“I am a fierce combination of confusing contradictions that add up to magical possibilities.” ― Unknown Author
I have been very blessed along my path in life to have been given great examples of integrity and I have also had examples of hypocrisy. My brother, the Eagle Scout, has great integrity, my dad had great integrity, my father-in-law had great integrity, and my grandfather had great integrity. My father-in-law Maurice Lincoln Murphey was a very successful businessman, he was as consistent and steady a man as I have ever witnessed. He was brutally honest and demanded high standards of professional conduct from his employees and colleagues. I often think about what he would do when I am in business situations where I feel I am on shaky moral ground. I feel I need to admit here (staying in integrity) that I would have been fired by Maurice if I worked for him, I tend to be late a lot and I tend to be easily distracted. He was well-known for locking the doors at board meetings so those that did not show up on time would not make the meeting. He was also not in business in the era of cell phones but I am quite certain if he was around now he would make people check them at the door.
I have tried to stay on the high road, so to speak, in my business dealings. Meaning I have tried to conduct business while staying in integrity with high moral and ethical standards. In my humanness I have failed along the way, sometimes miserably. Each time I have let myself down I have learned from it, and as I have matured I have come to realize that integrity is so much more important that short-term gains.
Occasionally, I can spot individuals who through past actions have demonstrated a pattern of hypocrisy or a poor moral compass. When I encounter such individuals I wish them well but make the choice not to do business with them. Sometimes it has been a very difficult decision because it has meant losing potential revenue. However, while it is difficult at the time I have never regretted the decision later. Those individuals are very easy to spot because they are flagrant with their lack of integrity. I am currently dealing with a situation where someone I felt had high integrity has engaged in a series of actions that are, well to be honest, down right dirty. Ok so I take a step back and when I heard of the first act of duplicity I was disappointed but also had to be honest that I have fallen too, we are all human. Then I found out about several more instances of chicanery, so now this is not an isolated incident, a pattern is emerging. Damn, I really like this person I thought they were my friend, crap, so now what do I do? Well my first response was to go into my favorite martyr role, for goodness sake doesn’t she know what a shitty year I have had and yet she is doing this to me and my company. As always that accomplished nothing but made me feel worst, I just felt pitiful and ridiculous. In all honesty, I have to admit I am sad and extremely disappointed. I have been grieving a lot lately and my reaction to this situation follows the grieving process strangely enough. First I was in disbelief or denial; no she didn’t do this or she had no knowledge of this someone else did it, no unfortunately she did it, ok so then I was pissed, then depressed, what does that mean to our friendship, then sadness that something has changed significantly, my trust is gone. In the end I do have compassion. What I have learned about myself is that no matter how upset or angry I am at anyone I always have room for compassion.
I truly believe you reap you sow, therefore, I am choosing to bless this person and send them on their way. It is the journey they are on and for some reason they need to go through this to learn a particular lesson. It has also served to remind me why I am making the choices I am and why I need to continue on the path I am on. I am on my own journey and I have my own work to do. So I will leave others to do their work and I will do mine.
This is what I know to be true; when I am staying in alignment with good moral and ethical standards, I feel pretty good. When I make decisions that are not in alignment with high ethical standards I feel regret and well, basically, I feel pretty crappy. It may not always be easy but it is simple.