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.