Sunday, November 23, 2014

On Destiny and Consciousness



As we tell Good Stories, the word DESTINY spells out somewhat uniquely for each person, but still I wonder how many of us hear it coming down as if from the on-high pulpit in the gloom-&-doom preacher-voice, dark in the final judgment on those coming up short. While it’s taken me most of my 68 years, lots of good stories, and enough serious study, too, destiny has a more hopeful sound now; and it even hums a playful tone at times. In part, it’s because I believe destiny’s map is sewn into our birthright and that good play supports positive development, as Brian Boyd shows in our text. In many ways, good stories guide us in making our way, in learning how to read the map, in finding the words, and interpreting them.
         Although not the gypsy fortune-teller’s tent, Good Stories tell of destiny. Early on, we heard Baba Yaga demand our purpose: “Are you here because you want to be or because you have to be!” Then in “Water of Life,” the small voice commanded the young rider, “Where are you going in such a rush!” Over and over, the tales echo the talking bird who pushes searchers to wonder who we really are. Destiny maps out our destination, purpose, and identity. In Good Stories, we play along, listen for resonance, and compose ourselves into the multiple tracks in digital media production with hopes of advancing peace and justice, making destiny.
         In The Soul’s Code, psychologist James Hillman asserts the inevitable nature of destiny and shows its story tone:
“For centuries we have searched for the right term for this ‘call.’  The Romans named it your genius; the Greeks, your daimon; and the Christians your guardian angel . . . For some it is Lady Luck or Fortuna; for others a genie or jinn, a bad seed or evil genius. . . (page 9)
Hillman further explains the location of destiny, along with the hiding and the finding:
“So the ‘lot’ [from Plato’s Republic, top of p. 45] is the image that is your inheritance, your soul’s portion in the world order, and your place on earth, all compacted into a pattern that has been selected by your soul before you ever got here—or, better said, that is always and continually being selected by your soul, because time does not enter the equations of myth. . . Unpacking the image takes a lifetime.” 
[Having entered this world] “through the plain of Lethe  [oblivion, forgetting], we have forgotten all of the story, though the inescapable and necessary pattern of my lot remains and my companion daimon remembers.” (pages 45-46, emphasis mine).
         For me, destiny takes a shape perhaps more portentous than the one it presents for those of you in your twenties; so perhaps you have another thirty years to wonder. But who knows how long anyone has to fulfill destiny? Now is the time to live it. That’s why our final projects search destiny and why the exam asks where it appears and how it connects with story resonance.
            From the beginning of our course, I’ve emphasized the destiny theme, especially in these shared reflections. The first blog of the semester states: “Good Stories offers a destiny-detector.” Hillman says of this: “Intuition also includes what I have called mythic sensibility, for when a myth strikes us, it seems true and gives sudden insight” (p. 97). 
            As I spin out my thoughts at the heart of story (Who are you? Where are you going? Why?), bridge-words (archetypal ones like “destiny”) offer space for multiple meanings to fit across ages and experiences. We each build character, step by more present step, thought by more thoughtful integrity. Opportunity for guidance with these steps and thoughts flows from the stories we enter and those we make. Our course culminates in the shaping of a third digital media production. How do we tell and foretell our destinies?
         The meanings we make of destiny sift our fortunes and fates, like moving sand through the hourglass. The time of our life flows anyway, but might we at least tilt the speed and perhaps shift the direction? Our inborn capacity to perceive resonance can sharpen with awareness, with intention, with reflection on the designs and representations that form our tellings. In Good Stories, we’ve played and worked with tales so that we can tell for greater insight, more tailored fit, and for advanced movement toward cooperation, for peace and justice.
         Discourse about destiny in our stage of development swirls into another big concept: consciousness. The movie each of us is making—couldn’t we title it “Pathway to Heaven”?  More darkly, we need awareness of falling, even if unconsciously, toward that other H-word? We’re going to imagine, to mold out of the clay of our everyday living, the shape we make of our maker, like it or not. To be mindless or to be sleep-walking tells of an absent minder. Whatever we worship names the god of the temple of our dwelling.
          Hillman concludes The Soul’s Code with advice that applies to our closing weeks in Good Stories. He tells of the difficulty we encounter as well as the knowing we follow on this path of destiny:
Awakening to the original seed of one’s soul and hearing it speak may not be easy. How do we recognize its voice; what signals does it give? Before we can address these questions, we need to notice our own deafness, the obstructions that make us hard of hearing: the reductionism, the literalism, the scientism of our so-called common sense. . .

The soul’s code cannot be encompassed by physical means—only curious thought, devotional feeling, suggestive intuition, and daring imagination. . .” (pages 278; 286).

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Meeting with the Ruler




“Because your path led to the firebird feather, your life now depends on finding the Firebird!”

In the telling of our story on Tuesday, one I’ve told perhaps twenty times, a nuance was coming through, one that I haven’t felt before and that seemed quite significant. “The Horse of Power” tells of a series of meetings between two archetypal figures: hunter and ruler. The nuance came in with an increased awareness of why the hunter had to bring the firebird before the ruler.
         I felt this keenly perhaps mostly because I’m looking at the firebird as a passion and I know that passion can be consuming. When a person gets possessed by a passion, he or she moves into dangerous ground. It’s like getting on a fiery stallion without having the skill to command it. Finding the firebird or the stallion or a passionate engagement is the proper task of the hunter, that part of a person that knows how to track the object of desire, the way Arthur pursued and found the hart. But the firebird can burn up a hunter who does not connect with the ruler, indeed, who does not serve the good ruler.
         Archetypally, the ruler stands for our capacity to bring order, in its varied meanings, into our lives. We command action, and we organize for survival, for efficiency, for productivity, even for happiness. A good ruler sees capacity and orders the worker to advance in development, even beyond the worker’s vision.
         My recent rides with Leg’cy have added my insight related to this. The advance in our capacity has required me to increase the support I’m giving with the reins and from my legs. At earlier stages of our development, my attempts to increase contact with the reins would have been harmful and increased pressure from my legs might have been dangerous. As my skill and sensitivity have improved, however, the higher level of contact is now needed in order to support Leg’cy. This allows us to hold a new form while we learn and adjust to the more elevated motion. If I get stuck in my previous enactment of respectful and safe connections, our advance gets stifled.
         Similarly, the interactions between the ruler and the hunter adjust as the development advances. The ruler commands the hunter, “Because you have brought in the firebird feather, which no one has done before, you shall now go and bring in the Firebird!” A person can get stuck at the feather level.  This happens when a person feels that his or her hunt is at the peak of accomplishment. If we have that mindset, we see the ruler’s command as cruel, greedy, and tyrannical.
         If our imagination advances, however, so that we can accurately envision a ruler who sees capacity beyond the present accomplishment, we might realize that the ruler is holding the reins in a way that supports elevation. Once we know the entire plot line in the “Horse of Power,” we’re aware that the story traces the development of the hunter into the ruler, and we can consider the demands along the way as the shaping of this development. The journey may be demanding; as the song goes, “I never promised you a rose garden.”
         Our next story, “Lion Time,” repeats this theme of development with a nice variation. In case you haven’t heard the story yet, I won’t give away the plot line here; but after you enjoy it on that first-time level, return to absorb it on the archetypal level because the teaching is important about how fear must not stop our journey. We saw this in “Horse of Power” when the archetype of power warns, “If you pick up that feather, you will learn the meaning of fear.” Our enactment of power requires discernment about fear. Sometimes we should back off and other times we move through the fear; discernment depends on a positive and strong connection between the hunter and the ruler.
         In “Horse of Power,” the hunter receives guidance from the horse and commands from the ruler. In “Lion Time,” the emergent ruler receives the teaching from a series of experiences. As you can see in the video, I interpret this series as developments of an accomplished person; the experiences build the complete personality that is necessary prior to presuming to lead. This attention to becoming well-rounded reminds us of Teig in “One Without a Story” who mastered craft, art, religion, and science on his way to his new profession. One reason we lack powerful leaders who inspire dedicated support comes in our flat structures that allow movement into elevated positions when persons have not developed the necessary structure. In “Lion Time,” this is imaged as facing the lion.

         We’ll apply the sequencing of experiences in our work next week and we’ll integrate it into the design of our final digital media project.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Engagement with Home


In Good Stories this week, we moved ahead into the second half of our major textbook, Bryan Boyd’s Origin of Stories. Part 4 focuses on The Odyssey with a particular look at the goal of the story and the obstacles along the way. Boyd’s analysis of Odysseus’ goal and tasks serves as a model for us individually to design our final digital media productions.
         Odysseus’ goal is portrayed around his persistent drive for going home. Even in reflecting on our discussion yesterday, my being vibrates in the resonance of that theme. While it’s different for me from the way my college-student collaborators, some forty years younger, must feel it, I still believe “going home” strikes an eternally resonant chord. Perhaps you, too, hear ET in the background, with that plaintive cry; or we may sound further back to S&G’s Homeward Bound (“home where my love lies waiting/silently for me…” full lyrics shown here ).  Or, like the look I saw in the eyes of yesterday’s classroom, our gaze homeward may move even beyond the horizon of time.
         Of course, any of us who have tried to find the place of childhood, knows the disappointment of growing up, of disillusion, of finding clay-footed places and people, even ourselves. For me, there’s been poignancy in realizing that the Texas of my youth has morphed into a mismatch with my “mature years.”


"Yesterdays" 

Anson TX 1953ish            &                      Oct 30 2014 

And, yet now, I’m wondering about a meaning of home that expresses an engagement, where that warmth and recognition of belonging comes more in the fidelity forged between the inner landscape and the outer connection.
         Home has been explained as something that moves with a person. To some extent, I get that; but I also experience the embrace of the place we are now stewarding.


          Tending to the inner counts, like I’m doing now in drafting this post while sitting, pre-dawn, in front of our softly-burning wood stove, with its warm orange flames, sipping freshly brewed coffee; and yet inner space tended by meditation and reflection cannot be sundered from my gratitude for the falling leaves and more for those yet clinging with moving shades of yellow, gold, and red. Our love of those trees as well as the berry bushes, the barn, the bird-feeder when snow makes foraging nigh impossible—these bits of mindfulness make home, too.
         Yesterday, my thirty-something daughter and I shared a few hours, and among other things we talked about a location for her new home as her place in Colorado sells. Lauren has just returned from a week in Costa Rica where her employer is developing a site. She doesn’t feel that’s the place. She works out of San Francisco mostly but that’s not home to her either, neither is London where she’ll likely be next week. Australia looks interesting, she says, along with the hobbit side of New Zealand.
         Longing, the on-and-off focus of Good Stories, goes hand in glove with the goal of going home.

         My daughter’s voyage toward home, with an inner journey at least as rich as her world tour, seems foreign to mine.  And I don’t expect my college students, a decade younger than Lauren, will construct a meaning of home the way either of us do. And yet, going home still makes for a common goal, so that given all our differences we can hold together while we each and in our companionship imagine or way home.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Lived Experience


Mixed images from http://youtu.be/dniv130P_vA

Lived Experience

Human being vibrates, ever reaching
Into an unknown
Seeks further meaning
Peace

Increasingly aware of the numinous
Tastes eternity
Feels balanced motion
Loving

Never to be sated but simply left
A bit less lonely
Appeased by beauty

Loved.

         The term of the day, for me—but first a Dis-Claimer (a dis on myself actually). I’ve learned not to expect to be on the earlybird timetable for coining a phrase or even picking it up when it’s hot. So this term won’t be new for most anyone else. I know. OK. I know Van Manen’s Researching Lived Experience was published a quarter century ago.  And from von Franz over a half-century ago in her commentary on Apuleius and his protagonist Lucius in the Golden Ass: “Lucius thus represents the principle of consciousness or the possibility of becoming conscious through lived life experience” (p. 30).
         So I’m slow, but I still want to know, why “lived” as a part of the experience?  Do we have many unlived experiences? Or partially lived ones? Hmmm. While it may be argued as semantically wasteful, I’m thinking that to tack on “lived” to “experience” pushes me toward increased consciousness. And that sets up the advance into quantum consciousness.  Now with that connection I’ve got a good reason for plumbing the phrase.
         When I look again and more closely into van Manen for his purpose of putting “lived” in combination with “experience,” I’m concluding that he seems concerned that the bare term “experience” has been compromised by our scientific bias. Probing pure experience gets lost in analysis. The first explanation I find in Researching Lived Experience comes on page 9: Phenomenology “differs from almost every other science in that it attempts to gain insightful descriptions of the way we experience the world pre-reflectively, without taxonomizing, classifying, or abstracting it.”  A few lines later, “Consciousness is the only access human beings have to the world. Or rather, it is by virtue of being conscious that we are already related to the world.”
         In a way, engagement with “lived experience” cycles me back, in that unending tour around the ancient tower of one’s destiny, into the “sense born-with” and through the theme of resonance. Phenomenology, in the Heidegger track (in addition to epistemology's how do we know?), elevates ontology: why/how is a person here? Might it be that engaging and re-entering experience with deepened insight marries the individual with his and her indwelling gift. Von Franz talks of this as our daimon or the individual genius: “each individual had his idios daimon—his own specific daimon…the Greek word which Apuleius translates quite adequately in Latin as ‘genius.’ From the Jungian point of view, one could say that it is the preconscious form of individuality…The genius made one genialis—sparkling with spirit and life” (pp. 14-15).
         Lived experience pulses with a two-way dynamic with its striving for both X (more presence in the immediate moment, the way an artist works/plays) and Y (increased dedication to representation and reflection on the experience). The dynamic carries a vibrant commitment to returning with more wholeness, holiness, like a marriage between X and Y. The opening lines of this blog reach toward that kind of pulsing dynamic gained through lived experience.
         A gift of this past weekend came in our hometown’s studio tour as we watched and talked with artists.  Creation happens as an intense, yet playful, search with a gaze into the artistic act, the phenomenon, for glimmers from beyond, and with an eagerness to re-enter. Quantum multiplicity glistens in the artists’ eyes with reflections picked up in my camera lens and mixed in this video:

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Reality of Transformations

What is real? 


To muddle about in the question of “what is real?” here are some considerations:
A. How is Photo 1 real when the image is adjusted in iPhoto (as shown in the adjust window)?

B. How is Photo 2, taken a minute later from a few strides south, more or less real when the image is left unadjusted?




C. How, if at all, can both Photo 1 and Photo 2 be real?

D. How is or is not Van Gogh’s haystack real? Moses’ burning bush?

Perhaps the real comes in transformations. Rumi says that “there never was in the world a treasure without a snake” (Mathnawi, II, 1862, Nicholson’s trans.). And, a few lines later, perhaps in relation to the above photographs, “Do thou the same thing that the sun of the east does with our hypocrisy and craft and thieving and dissimulation.”


For seven weeks, I’ve been practicing an approach to hermeneutical phenomenology (see also my next paragraph) by bringing my sense of Good Stories to the arena. (A recent blog elaborated this, including: “I intentionally carry the development of Good Stories in my body, my heart, and my imagination…to the riding experience.”)  During and following the ride, I’m attending for an essence that I bring into more articulate form by writing the blog and then take the textualized lived-experience/s forward with a continued sense and presence to the next class session and then back to the arena and so on. I wonder if doing this with my craft makes a similar thing to what the sun of the east does?

Van Manen says: “in its most basic form lived experience involves our immediate, pre-reflective consciousness of life: a reflexive or self-given awareness which is, as awareness, unaware of itself” (p. 35, Researching Lived Experience). On the next page, he adds: “The aim of phenomenology is to transform lived experience into a textual expression of its essence—in such a way that the effect of the text is at once a reflexive re-living and a reflective appropriation of something meaningful: a notion by which a reader is powerfully animated in his or her own lived experience.”

When being observed, as teachers are, and even more so when feeling judged, we may become even further distracted and distanced from lived experience.  One reason I ride relates to the consequences around losing and gaining presence; I lean into the vibrancy felt in increasing it. Stunning is the extent to which what is accessible to consciousness goes unseen, inarticulate, like angels unasked.

Concerning the significance of the transformation of consciousness, Jung writes in his foreword to Aion: “My reader should never forget, however, that I am not making a confession of faith or writing a tendentious tract, but am simply considering how certain things could be understood from the standpoint of our modern consciousness—things which I deem it valuable to understand, and which are obviously in danger of being swallowed up in the abyss of incomprehension and oblivion; things, finally, whose understanding would do much to remedy our philosophic disorientation by shedding light on the psychic background and the secret chambers of the soul. The essence of this book was built up gradually, in the course of many years, in countless conversations with people of all ages and all walks of life; with people who in the confusion and uprootedness of our society were likely to lose all contact with the meaning of European culture and to fall into that state of suggestibility which is the occasion and cause of the Utopian mass-psychoses of our time.”

Rumi says, “Don’t be the rider who gallops all night/And never sees the horse that is beneath him” (p. 236, Translated by Robert Bly in The Soul Is Here for Its Own Joy. Ecco, 1995.).

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Destiny Directions


           Each of us would like to know which way to go. What major is the right one? What are the exact directions for the next project? At this crossroad, which road leads home or to success or happiness?
            For better and worse, each individual has a distinct fingerprint, DNA, gift, purpose, and destiny. The truth, then, does not come packaged in a uniform prescription or a computerized program that has never entered the individual’s evolving mind, heart, and soul. And there’s multiplicity—so while each person is individual, we also share history, love, and futures. Our destinies today invite us, maybe even command us, to cooperate in advancing peace and justice. And simultaneously the order says be true to the unique whorl that marks individually the distinct reasons for being here.
            Since we don’t have one right way and because the intention is to discern destiny, the projects in Good Stories diverge, as it were, into the woods. The scent of a good pathway depends on picking up the vibrations that resonate with inner sense as it longs for the source. The design of a good project hinges on good tracking. 
           Some trackers find the way by retracing old ground picking up more subtle cues. Others race ahead with support from guides and travel through history, cultures, and fascinations with people and places across time. Destiny often demands building character and feel by enduring tasks and engaging obstacles.
            Keep in mind our ruler archetypes. Arthur had to go alone on hands and knees through the thorny bracken. The chief Kanu stayed in place, grieved, and blessed the unwanted by commissioning them into the quest. And the sister claimed the golden water by plugging her ears against threats and enticements.
            Also note that the guide has many appearances and can change form. After being tantalized by the Maiden Tsar, Ivan needed direction from the scary Baba Yaga and the kindly grandmother. Teig, thrust from his comfort zone, depended on the old man and later the black-haired damsel. The sister who yearned for the Golden Water showed courtesy to the devout woman and asked permission for a strategic ploy from the haystack hermit before relying on advice from the Talking Bird.
            What kind of task and obstacle calls to you from the stories? Often listeners to Good Stories resonate with little Coot whose dive succeeded even though the treasure appeared initially only as a speck of mud but turned into the generative matter. We’ll soon meet Tatterhood, an unlikely combatant as she takes on the trolls and witches of the world. And we’ll enter the trials of Psyche, remembering that her name means “soul” and her connection is to Love.
            So you have to choose: Do you need to amplify the old ground in order to amp up your feel for what is resonant? Are you drawn more to explore the fascinating folks and travel into history or futures for models that give hints for your own? Do you want to study guides and/or tasks that point the way and build character.

         Mostly listen to your heartbeat and follow the longing.

    


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Transformation from the Ugliest


Remember in the story of Arthur (Marriage of Gawaine & Ragnell) that the ruler returned to the hunt. We discussed how the fundamental role of Ruler focuses on providing order and manifesting justice. For the ruler to return to the archetypal role of hunter suggests that order and justice in the realm is not being satisfied. The ruler anticipates what is needed for civilization to adapt to new possibilities and is willing to go hunting with the search party when the time is ready.
         An archetypal hunt aims at the unknown; typical images include the forest primeval and the ocean depths. Ivan’s search for the Beloved ventured there toward the place “beyond the thrice ninth sea.” Hunters intend to bring back the treasure needed for the good of the realm. The “realm” includes both the full development of the individual, of consciousness, and of society.
         Our Good Stories aim at advancing into needed levels of peace and justice. We believe that’s good work.  It’s what story and art are for. And it’s our destiny!
         Imagine yourself into a story, like Arthur’s, that does this. Part of you fills the role of ruler giving order to your life, searching out your destiny, advancing peace and justice. What question might you find in your hunt? Arthur’s life depended on entering the question: What does a woman want most in all the world? What does the claim on your life demand that you search out?
         Don’t be surprised if the quest enters nonsense, trouble, and deception. King Arthur stands as the prime exemplar of the sovereign ruler with the Round Table at the cutting edge of civilization, chivalry, righting wrong. And still the idea that woman and the feminine could be equally sovereign appeared as the ugliest creature ever seen.
         I think it still does. Deep levels of caring (tending the “other” in the ditch, health care for everyone, respect for “illegals”) are perennially pictured and repeatedly appear as something ugly. Our task is to participate in transforming the “beast” into the beauty. The edge of civilization and consciousness continuously roils, an exigence in urgent need of realization.
         Remember how the strangers to Kanu’s village were first seen as undesirables. Even the chief could not spell out how their nature would advance the good of the community, but their positive contribution was anticipated. And they did the unthinkable (although they got big-headed about it) in returning the treasure to the village. As in most Good Stories, the treasure is textured in the journey: the diamond for the community involved the realization that “ugly” strangers turn out to be the major contributors to the advance of civilization.
         Apply this to your own quest. How might it be that the direction you must take will likely lead you into what looks like the ugliest creature? Connect a part of yourself that looks undesirable (like Jack’s bumbling about or the Lazy Man’s apparent inferiority in contrast with Mr. Industry). Remember the special capacity of Jung’s “inferior function” that draws forth the vitality needed if we are to engage the big questions.
         You might begin by preparing the resonant images from the stories. Put yourself into the picture with one of those ugly creatures, like a Shrek-ish character. You might return to the stranger with whom you made resonance in Kanu’s village. What unexpected characteristic offers a link enabling you to adventure further into your destiny? While we often can’t see the far-off destination, we can identify challenges in stories that build the character to move further in the process.
         Another way into this journey comes in the sense of longing. The Kuan Yin story starts with an “ugliest creature” although we might not initially recognize the ugliness. Their community was known only for racing on swift horses and shooting arrows. Something vital was missing and no one knew it until the FisherMaiden came. This figure (like the Maiden Tsar, even like Ragnell, and also similar to Teig’s loss of basket-making supplies) brings awareness of a need, a desire, a longing.
         Now, as you’ve heard me say in many stories, what takes a day in Storyland might mean a decade in Everyday. So don’t expect that the sense of longing will show us the destination with a few clicks of the computer. We can, however, play around the points of resonance, and digital media production offers a terrific field to do this.
         Let’s engage the archetypal figure of ruler and amplify around it, picking up clues about qualities shown in the story. How does Arthur relate to the task? For example, he crawls through the thorny bracken on his hands and knees, and he takes on the trouble alone. But then Knight Gawaine (like a secondary function within us) confronts the ruler about the need to share the task.
         Arthur, in the traumatic manner (also shown in Ivan’s confrontation with the “tutor”), has to discern between rules: the old law told him to follow Gromer’s demand that he tell no one (in other words, BE HEROIC—do it alone!) and the new law that’s trying to emerge, saying “Cooperate, please.”

         Again, the texture of the story tells the nature of the answer to the life-or-death question. The ruler has to trust in the relationship, and so does the knight. The Native American teaching sounds the answer: all-my-relations. All the characters in the story participate in the passion of the advancing culture. For example, the ruler has to suffer letting go of control, just as the beloved (Ragnell) has to endure being treated as something ugly, and the protagonist (Gawaine) has to give up illusions of superficial beauty. The challenge calls for kinship taking precedence over control, both within our individual development and in social structures.