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.