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A Bull in a China Closet
by Joanne Sales, October 20, 2007

“A Bull in a China Closet” Great phrase. Let’s look at it.

I heard once that humor is based on incongruencies. We laugh because we have put things together that just don’t fit. It tickles our sense of order. We can laugh at “a bull in a china closet” because they don’t fit together. Let’s forget for the moment our own inner commentary on china, so that we can appreciate the metaphor.

China is beautiful, fine, delicate and fragile. It is appreciated in a state of mind that is at least temporarily refined. It’s creation requires an aesthetic sense, fine motor skills and opposing thumbs, fingers capable of polishing and preserving, and a mind finding reason to do so. A higher level of evolution, if you will.

A bull - a very great creation as well - is raw force. Power without refinement. Frequently aggressive, and highly oblivious. Perhaps some stupidity? Big. Forceful. Grumpy. Can’t be reasoned with or refined. Takes up lots of space. The bull spends his time in the lower chakras - meaning from the stomach down. Eating, procreating, “bullying.” Consumption, sex and power. Bulls are creators of mud pits.

Putting a bull in a garden is asking for compacted soil, trampled plantings, and squashed seedlings. Putting a bull in a china closet is curtains.

“A bull in a china closet” speaks of the fate of vulnerable, refined, exquisite creations in the face of unconscious brute force.

As an example, when my daughter Hayley was four, we made the mistake of going into an antique store in Orange, Massachusetts. Hayley proceeded to do what four years do - and yes, she dropped the glass doll. The owner of the store didn’t charge me the price on the broken doll - she charged me more. Why are you charging me more? I asked. Because you broke it, she said. I was so furious I stormed out the door, ran up the road to the bridge, and threw my hat in the raging river. Now that was a fine act of wisdom - eh? First Hayley was the bull, then the woman was the bull, and then I was the bull. Three acts of bullish stupidity.

Hayley’s act was most forgivable. The owner of the store acted with vengeance - a power trip, coming from far below the heart chakra. I acted with downright stupidity. My anger controlled me. Very bull-like indeed. And away my hat went, down the raging river. An innocent, warm, turquoise hat that had nothing to do with the drama in the antique store. The hat was an innocent victim, as was the doll, as was our day.

None of us were conscious, really. We were on autopilot reactive mode. In the process, we destroyed things and made each other miserable.

Conscious living addresses how we act when we enter a China store. Every china closet. As it turns out, we LIVE in a China closet. Every river bed, beach and coral reef is a China closet, The side of Mt Arrowsmith being stripped of its forest is a china closet. There are fragile, delicate hearts waiting in every line at the grocery store and behind every wheel at rush hour, inside every frightened child, homeless wanderer, and in every “body” at the breakfast table.

Al Gore recently won the Nobel Peace Prize for his convincing documentary showing how we humans are acting like bulls in the fragile garden of Mother Earth - trampling, devouring, slashing, and burning, burning, burning. Just like bulls, we are unconsciously making mud pits where beauty once reigned.

Conscious living means being aware of ourselves. It means being aware of our attitudes, thoughts and actions and of their impact on whatever and whoever is connected to us - which turns out to be everyone and everything everywhere. Conscious living means being awake enough to recognize that there are other beings around us.

Becoming conscious is an individual’s calling and a global challenge. While worthy of a lifetime of effort, we no longer have the luxury of slow growth on this front. Becoming conscious, it turns out, has become an urgent necessity for survival!

At this point, at least we can be grateful that we’re becoming conscious enough to know that we need to be conscious. That is a huge first step. The personal and global introspective adventure begins.