One of the emerging themes–perhaps the emerging theme–from the presidential campaign is who will be circumscribing whom; that is, how great will be the limitations placed on whoever loses.  One side is very clear about wanting to restrict the movements of certain ethnic groups and religions, while the other wants to restrict the profit-making abilities of the rich.


Odysseus encounters Circe. Greek Krater, Metropolitan Museum, New York.

But of course the most insidious circumscribing is that which we do to ourselves.  To circumscribe really means to “encircle with words,” to draw a perimeter with a series of adjectives that keep us perpetuating a limited identity.  Rather like Circe “encircled” Odysseus and his crew, treating them well, but still defining who they were:

‘Odysseus, noble son of Laertes, tell your men to leave off crying; I know how much you have all of you suffered at sea, and how ill you have fared among cruel savages on the mainland, but that is over now, so stay here, and eat and drink till you are once more as strong and hearty as you were when you left Ithaca; for at present you are weakened both in body and mind; you keep all the time thinking of the hardships you have suffered during your travels, so that you have no more cheerfulness left in you.’  (Od. 10:456-466)

Until finally at the insistence of his crew, he begs to leave her island (but has to go to the Underworld–out of the frying pan into the fire….).

And too often we also let others define us, circumscribe us, and we internalize those definitions.  Even the flattering ones are limitations compared to our real identity as the Good, the Boundless.  We can’t think past them.  We choose a limited identity rather than identity with the Unlimited.

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