Meme & cartoon reflections I

I thought I would start a series of notes on memes and cartoons relating to healing and awakening. I’ll include the memes themselves and links to the cartoons.


Yeah, I’m just alone with my demons, but it turns out they’re actually good company.

– a pandemic-isolation cartoon by Brooke Bourgeois in the New Yorker, May 4, 2020

I have found that too. Because of the chronic fatigue syndrome, I have been put in a retreat-like situation and I have had to face my demons. It’s not always easy and I have often wished it wasn’t that way, but it turns out that the demons are not bad company when I get to know them better.

In reality, they are just scared little parts of me. Parts created when I was little and didn’t know how to deal with situations apart from creating these parts to protect me. The demons are protectors. They are here to protect me. And by getting to know them, they are revealed as something else than demons. They are innocent and come from innocence. They are like scared children who needs love, safety, to be held, to be understood.

Running away from them, they become demons. Meeting them and getting to know them, they are revealed as something else.

In what sense are they good company? They are good company in that they are already me and closer than close to me. They are fascinating to get to know. And they are ultimately revealed as consciousness, love, and even – if that’s a word in our vocabulary – the divine.

This cartoon shows a woman talking on the phone at home, with demons around a table enjoying a game of Jenga.

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This is very beautiful to me. Isn’t this how we sometimes feel? Confused, overwhelmed, not sure what’s going on and what we even need. Even in those situations, the divine sees us, understands, and loves us as we are.

I know that sounds like a dualistic view of God and the divine, and that’s true. And yet, it’s also how it is even if we have a more non-dual context. Both views have some truth to them, and reality is more than and different from either.

In my experience, the divine is far more than this human self. And even when we are caught up in stressful and painful thoughts and taking ourselves to exclusively be this human self, the divine knows, understands, and loves it all. It’s just that we may not be able to see it and connect with it in that moment.

It’s all happening within and as the divine, and within and as love.


Man: The world is changing. Duck: It’s always changing.

Man: Our lives are in danger. We are in lock-down. Duck: Life is always dangerous. We were never free. […]

– cartoon by Michael Leunig, April 4, 2020

This cartoon came out April 4 this year, at the beginning of the lock-down phase of the pandemic. And it captures the essence of our situation very well.

The pandemic reminds us of how it’s always been. Pandemics are a regular part of human life. And more to the point: life is always unpredictable and dangerous. We never know what the future holds.

All this is our natural habitat. We are already very familiar with it. And the pandemic reminds us of this.


Apart from being a lesson in friend-zoning 101, this is a reminder of how we tend to objectify each other and ourselves.

Of course, most of the time, we complement each other on a variety of different things – kindness, insights, skills, and looks.

At the same time, we tend to objectify – main because in most cultures, we tend to take ourselves as fundamentally physical beings. The look of someone may make up a big part of how we see them, at least until we know them more thoroughly.

More than that, we tend to take others and ourselves as objects. At least until we discover ourselves as capacity of the world and know that others, most likely, are that too.

And there is another side to this. Do we need to find value through any of our characteristics or what we do? Don’t we have value as we are?

To the extent we find genuine love for what’s here in our experience, we love ourselves as we are and depend less on the complements or approval of others. (Although it’s a nice bonus when it happens.)

There is also another topic here: When she says “flesh prison” it can mean a couple of different things. If others judge her according to her looks and see her mainly as a physical object, then she can feel imprisoned by that.

She may also have the idea that she is “inside” of her body. I guess that’s pretty common even if it doesn’t fit our actual experience. In my experience, this body happens within me. When I look closer, I find that what I most am to myself is capacity for it all. I am capacity for this body and the wider world as it appears to me. It’s all happening within and as this awake capacity.


After a dark night of the soul phase for some years, where a lot has gone “wrong”, I notice I am getting more often to where that man seems to be.

If we have some receptivity and curiosity, and meet what comes up in us with some kindness, then it’s easier to find the humor in it. We may call it tragedy, and it’s also a comedy.


Do we value reality over our opinions? Or our opinions over reality?

We may create a little bubble around us that’s colored by our opinions. After all, they influence our perceptions, feelings, thoughts, and life.

But our opinions don’t change reality.

The planet is what it is, with or without our opinions. The nature of reality is what it is, with or without our opinions. Reality is what it is, with or without our opinions.


This is both very simple and a big topic.

The simple version is that whatever we think we know is not any final or absolute truth. Its provisional. And that goes for any and all areas of life and topics. To the extent we have explored this, we can hold our assumptions lightly. And that helps our life, other people, and also healing and awakening.

We can also go into this more in details.

For instance, the green section says “Shit you know” but it would be more accurate to say “Shit you think you know. We don’t know anything for certain. Sometimes, even our more basic assumptions are shown to not be correct or not correct the way we thought they were.

When it comes to our collective world views, these too are subject to change. They change over time and are different across cultures. What we hold as a given today can be seen as obsolete tomorrow.

Even our most basic assumptions about ourselves and the world and reality are provisional. These too are open to question and we may well see them differently in the future.

Thoughts are questions about the world. They have a practical function in helping us orienting and functioning in the world. They are not tools for finding any final or absolute truths. It’s not anything they can do.


Half sounds like a high estimate! I imagine the historical Buddha would be somewhat shocked if he saw all the words and actions attributed to him. And the same with Jesus (if he was an actual historical person) and Muhammad.


Yes, this is how it looks to “conquer” our demons. It’s a befriending. A getting to know. An understanding. A listening. A recognizing of it as who we are as a human being. A recognizing of it as what we are as capacity for our experiences. A love for it. A forgiveness of it. A forgiveness of ourselves for how we perceived it and related to it. A forgiveness of ourselves for all the things we did in an attempt to get rid of it.


This is cute and funny in many ways.

It’s also a slightly heart wrenching illustration of how conditioning works. We come into this world helpless and only want to be safe and loved, and in that process we take on a lot of what we see around us. Including making signs and protesting even if we have no idea what’s going on.




I see this as central to both healing and awakening.

And I would change “Shit you know” to “Shit you think you know”.

Thoughts are an overlay to help us make sense of the world. They are questions about the world. It’s not in their nature to give us any final or absolute answers about anything.


Even what we think we know is a partial and preliminary. We can – and often will – discover and learn something that changes how we see and understand.

[in progress]

Really knowing this changes everything.

It helps us hold our thoughts and assumptions more lightly. And it changes how we see science, our worldview, all human knowledge and experience, and our most basic assumptions about anyone and anything including ourselves.

Any time I notice I hold a thought or assumption as true, I can remind myself that it’s


This is true in science, for humanity as a whole, and about anyone and anything. For me, this is one of the most helpful explorations and reminders.

In science, what we think we know changes over time, and what we know is a tiny speck compared to what there is to know and what we don’t even know we don’t know. Most likely, much of what we don’t know we don’t know would change our most basic world views many times over. It would change our most basic assumptions about ourselves and existence, not just once but many times. Innumerable things we don’t know that we don’t know would likely change our whole framework for looking at ourselves and the universe.

In relationship with others, it’s the same. What we know about someone is probably in itself not so accurate and it’s very far from the whole picture. What they know about themselves makes what we know about them tiny.

For ourselves, it’s similar. What I think I know about myself is very far from the whole picture. What I don’t know about myself makes what I think I know a speck of dust in the universe.

When I have stressful thoughts, I can examine them and discover that I don’t really know. And when I am more familiar with those explorations, and have seen it over and over, it may be enough to remind myself of the same.


The green section would be better labeled “shit you think you know”.



Sometimes, we hold onto our opinions for dear life, perhaps because we feel they will protect us. They color our perceptions and influence our feelings, other thoughts, and how we live our life. So our opinions do change our world and our pond in the world.

And yet, what they are about is what it is, with or without out opinions.

The world is what it is, with or without our opinion. The nature of reality is what it is, with or without our opinion.

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