Metal More Attractive

There’s a line in Shakespeare’s Hamlet that I’ve been thinking of recently. It occurs when Hamlet, his mother, and the young noblewoman Ophelia, are taking their seats in a theatre. Hamlet’s mother tells him to sit next to her, but he replies, ‘No, good mother. Here’s metal more attractive,’ and sits next to the beautiful, young Ophelia instead. Perhaps ‘metal more attractive’ alludes to Ophelia being like gold, the mother a baser metal. That’s a harsh indictment of Hamlet’s mother, a snub to her value. But what a line! I often think of it regarding the transactional nature of human interactions: when guided by the ego, aren’t we always on the search for ‘metal more attractive’? And so, isn’t everybody else?

Shame-anxiety is based on the fear that others will find ‘metal more attractive’ than us, and that metal might be a project, career, person, or place. Yet there is also an attraction to perceiving ourselves as rejected and abandoned, and this relates to our ontological guilt over having found ‘metal more attractive’ than God. Says A Course in Miracles:

‘Truth is restored to you through your desire, as it was lost to you through your desire for something else. Open the holy place that you closed off by valuing the “something else,” and what was never lost will quietly return’ (T-20.VIII.1:2-3).

We keep rejecting peace, Love, and oneness, in favour of the ego’s belief in separation and what the world has to offer: excitement, drama, and an emphasis on ‘I, me, mine’ that distracts us from unity.

I’m reminded of a kind of metaphor for this scenario in events surrounding Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin spaceflight on 13th October 2021. Bezos was aboard the flight with (amongst others) ninety-year-old Star Trek actor William Shatner. Standing with Bezos outside the spacecraft after the flight, Shatner was visibly moved by his experience in space, and said earnestly to Bezos, ‘What you have given me is the most profound experience. I’m so filled with emotion about what just happened’.

Bezos, however, was having trouble maintaining his focus on Shatner’s philosophical musings because he could hear Blue Origin employees talking and laughing nearby. Eventually overcome by interest in the buzz around him, Bezos turned away sharply from Shatner whilst he was talking, towards the employees, who were handing out Champagne bottles. ‘Give me a Champagne bottle, come ‘ere. I want one!’ shouted Bezos, and he was quickly obliged. Shatner looked unmoved as Bezos shook and popped the Champagne with flare, spraying the small crowd, who responded with delighted cheers. Returning his attention to Shatner, Bezos asked if he’d like a drink. No, replied Shatner. It was awkward.

With Shatner starring as God, Bezos as our decision-making mind, and the overall buzz made by the employees as the world’s distractions, this incident provides a helpful metaphor for what we play out every day. We give God’s peace (which we assume is dull) short shrift so that we can indulge ourselves in a bit of ‘fun’; a bit of special love and hate. And then we feel guilty. Every time we give short shrift to our child, parent, partner, or friend because we find something else more interesting, more appealing, our guilt reflects our original belief that we had rejected God.

We can try to get rid of guilt by projecting it onto others, judging ‘the rejector’ outside of us. There is therefore an attraction to feeling rejected — in the ego’s world of opposites and ‘one or the other’, if we are rejected, we’re not the rejector. We’ll then conclude that we must be inadequate in some way, deficient, not good enough (if only we were more interesting than our partner’s smartphone). But again, this is all a defence to our ontological conclusion that God’s Love was inadequate — that we performed the ultimate act of rejection, and toward something that was so profoundly beautiful and good.

Where guilt is about our fear of retribution and annihilation, shame relates to our longing for Love — for what the French philosopher Simone Weil called ‘an absolute good’ — and the angst of being without it. Yet, as Weil says in Waiting for God, this longing ‘is always there and is never appeased by any object in this world.’ This is why shame is so gut wrenching — it relates to the longed-for nature of what we rejected and believe isn’t available to us anymore. Shame is therefore connected to a deep experience of loss.

The good news is that it is impossible for a part of Love to turn away from Itself. The dream of terror and loss — of a world the opposite of oneness — is just a dream. We haven’t abandoned Love, found It inadequate, or hurt It in any way. But how can we tap into this knowledge in our daily lives? Whenever we encounter anyone, we can remember to think of our shared interest rather than focusing on (comparing and evaluating) our differences. All encounters are opportunities to remember that we all have the same need to awaken and the same struggle with the ego, and this is how we approach the knowledge of oneness, leaving shame behind. As the Course’s Manual states:

‘Even at the level of the most casual encounter, it is possible for two people to lose sight of separate interests, if only for a moment. That moment will be enough. Salvation has come’ (M-3.2:6-8).

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko, via Pexels

Books by Stephanie Panayi

The Farthest Reaches of Inner Space

Alchemists of Suburbia

Above the Battleground: The Courageous Path to Emotional Autonomy and Inner Peace

Reflections on ‘A Course in Miracles’: Volume One

Reflections on ‘A Course in Miracles’: Volume Two

Reflections on ‘A Course in Miracles’: Volume Three

Reflections on ‘A Course in Miracles’: Volumes One to Three

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