Terzanelle of the Elephant

Jonathan Haidt’s book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion depicts the subconscious mind as an elephant, with the conscious mind as its rider. The elephant – that great big bundle of emotions, fears, neuroses, cultural conditioning, etc., – is nearly always the one who makes the decisions about where it and its rider actually go, due to its size, its strength, its intelligence, and the fact that it’s the one with its feet on the ground. The rider is then left to come up with “rational” justifications for the decisions made by the elephant, which helps him maintain the illusion that he is actually the one in charge.

He’s not.

Terzanelle of the Elephant

I see you, elephant – you cannot hide.
I know your ways. You want to be unseen.
Between my mindful moments you would slide.

My subjugation’s your banal routine,
but every now and then I catch a flash.
I know your ways. You want to be unseen.

I drive; you tell me, “Probably, you’ll crash.”
I search for courage in a land of fear,
and every now and then I catch a flash.

I see your dominance and shed a tear
for my delusions of autonomy.
I search for courage in a land of fear.

I recognize there is no solid “me”.
I mourn for my belief in virtue, and
for my delusions of autonomy.

I know now – I was never in command.
I see you, elephant. You cannot hide.
My efforts at control are built on sand.
Between my mindful moments you will slide.

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