What happens when we’re tricked? We’re trapped, caught in illusion.
The game of peek-a-boo is both exhilarating and terrifying for the baby. Suddenly you, the adult trickster, are gone—evaporated, disappearing into thin air. For the child, a moment of excitement, anxiety and anticipation ensues, and then joyful release at the sheer magic of you popping up again, out of nowhere! “Do it again! Do it again, and again!” More fear, anxiety, excitement, and utter exhilaration, please!
The trickster is magical, playing a mercurial game. The encounter with the trickster leads us onward to higher awareness. Eventually, we figure out the game: when you leave, when I can’t see you, you still exist, and your reappearance is no longer magical. This achievement is called object constancy. Peek-a-boo is no longer a game the child wants to play. Trickster can’t catch the child now. It’s boring. On to new tricksters—illusionists who both excite and terrify, but ultimately pose a challenge to move on to greater consciousness. In the broadest sense, trickster is the boundary-crosser, a being that challenges our complacency and security, and forces us to confront the deeper truths of reality.
And what are those truths? That life isn’t fair! That all kinds of possibilities exist in the universe, both good and evil and, ultimately, nothing can protect us from encountering those forces in some form. We must reckon with them, master them, and go deeper into life, deeper into the mystery.
Tricksters come in all forms, some are gentle and playful like the rabbit, the monkey, the fox, and the coyote, all found in legend and folklore. These are the tricksters we seek to adore, encounter, and learn from in childhood.
The truth is, tricksters come in many forms, and some may deliver lethal blows, to adults and yes, to children as well. Tricksters appeal to our innocence, that curious, open part of ourselves that trusts and seeks fun, play, attention, discovery, and love. Our innocence is drawn to the excitement the trickster brings, along with the tension of being caught, once again, by the trickster’s illusion.
Life without the trickster is too boring, stagnant, predictable, and routine.
The predatory trickster—what I here term “Tricksta,” following the slang term for gangster as “gangsta”—is the most challenging of all tricksters. Trickstas trap the innocent to feed their own predatory appetites. Trickstas are the most formidable of tricksters. Trickstas don’t care “if you live or if you die.” Each time I contemplated Tricksta this week, these lyrics triggered in my mind, an incessant replaying of the 1968 Steppenwolf version of The Pusher: “The Pusher don’t care, if you live or if you die.”
Innocence gets caught in addictions. Perhaps the innocence of exploration, adventure, or the innocent push of inflation, to be a hero—take the heroin plunge. Perhaps it’s the regressive push to soothe lost innocence in a chemically altered calm world where the demons of intense feeling are kept at bay. The pusher is the Tricksta that lures this innocence, then ensnares it, imprisons it, and feeds off it while it sleeps unknowingly in the poppy field. It’s always scary with addiction because Tricksta really doesn’t care if you live or if you die. If you’re to live you must awaken and release the self from the clutches of Tricksta. Free the self from the slumber of inertia and numbness. Tricksta drives a hard bargain. It’s all on you whether you resume the journey or perish.
That same predatory energy goes in search of the energy of children, trapping, tricking and manipulating their innocence. No child is a match for Tricksta’s trappings, though it might take a lifetime to stop blaming the self for the encounter. Tricksta is a deeply impersonal energy that challenges whomever it chooses to touch at the deepest level. Tricksta is indeed the darkest side of trickster. Tricksta has no mercy. Often the only defense is to forget childhood encounters with Tricksta. The benefit of forgetting is survival, the cost: lost innocence and guarded living.
At some stage in life, spirit knocks and announces to our adult selves that it’s time to resume the journey. This is the beginning of recapitulation, where the illusions of a lifetime, especially the past, are released along with Tricksta’s ancient grip.
Innocence is restored, older and wiser, with truth fully in hand. Time to go onto deeper, fuller adventures—real life adventures and fulfillment.
Don’t take it personally,