the path


An essay, containing secrets that really aren’t secrets.

Yes, I know that Carl Jung is a deeply flawed human being, but his philosophy explains the world to me better than anyone else I’ve encountered. He makes poetic sense of the twisted labyrinth of human consciousness—and it requires poetry rather than logic to explore those paths. Besides, who better to act as shaman on such a journey than a flawed human being?

(Psst. Here’s a secret: no living, breathing human being is without flaws. Purity is not possible in the earth realm. And, in fact, shamans in tribal society are often “other” and strange and outcast people. They make the best interpreters of the less-than-upright world of the spirit and alternate realities.)

I have other shamans I listen to, other paths I explore, but always swing back to ol’ Carl. I don’t swallow his philosophy—or anyone’s—whole. (The story of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” is an active metaphor in my psyche.) But I do use Jung’s work as a basis for my own worldview and personal explorations.

(Psst. Here’s another secret: any philosophy worth its salt is a means for discovering your own way of looking at the world, not something slavishly to be followed. Anyone who tells you to walk in lock step or that you must attain righteous purity is probably a spiritual fascist.)

(Psst. There are many valid spiritual paths. What matters is finding the one that gets you closest to the mountaintop.)

I even went so far, in my flush days, of purchasing the complete facsimile edition of The Red Book when it was issued in the earlier years of this century. (It’s almost doubled in price since.) It was so visually amazing that I had this idea to display it open on a library pedestal so I and my guests could page through it if they had a hankering. I don’t know if that’s pretentious or not. I suspect it is, but at the time, it just seemed neato kobeato. And now I’m past giving a damn what people think, anyway.

That idea never came to fruition, however. First, because we had a bird at the time who flew freely through the house. Anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of birds knows they can’t be potty trained. Need I spell out the possibilities of open display of an expensive book in a house of fluttering birds? The bird, certainly, could not be contained in a cage, at least not during daylight hours. That would have been a violation of her spirit. And a metaphor, of course.

The second and more practical reason why I never got around to displaying it was because I never got the library pedestal and because I fell headlong into the emotional and physical pit of caregiving for many years. The bird, bless her, went to the sky gods a few years back and is no longer a risk to my book. But. It took me a long time to crawl out of the hole I existed in. In some ways, I am still crawling, though I think I may finally be sitting on the lip catching my breath before getting up and moving on. My energy, both psychic and physical, are still not at full strength. I will get there (or some form of there anyway) unless I croak first, but my feet are not quite resting on the earth yet.

Meanwhile, The Red Book gathers dust in a safe location. I have cleared a space in the living room for it, but must wait for an appropriate book stand, mostly for financial reasons. There’s another metaphor lying underneath that dust and waiting, but I’m not going to pursue it here.

Meanwhile meanwhile, my dreams are fertile again, full of archetypes and sendings from the Universe and conversations with muses and the dead. Dr. Jung, with one foot planted on mucky earth and the other in the Other, helps me interpret them in a way that Freud never could. In his stumblings down the crooked path of his life, he made ancient wisdom acceptable to (if not accepted by) academia. He prowled the borders of liminality, pulling hidden lore into the light. This made many academics (who are a conservative lot) deeply uncomfortable, but he did more to make the study of folklore and alchemy and such things valid to them as subjects of learning than anyone else in the early 20th century.

So, I cast a skeptical eye on the trickster nature of the man, but am deeply appreciative of the magus.

Random quote of the day:

“Life itself is an exile. The way home is not the way back.”

—Colin Wilson, The Outsider

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Laurel and Hardy, Ariana Grande, or the Salvation Army Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“Let the hard things in life break you. Let them effect you. Let them change you. Let these hard moments inform you. Let this pain be your teacher. The experiences of your life are trying to tell you something about yourself. Don’t cop out on that. Don’t run away and hide under your covers. Lean into it.”

—attributed to Pema Chödrön

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Laurel and Hardy, Ariana Grande, or the Salvation Army Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Happiness an illusion we kid ourselves about on a regular basis.

Oh yes, it exists, in bubbles and baubles—like pearls on a string, sometimes many pearls together, sometimes stretched out with mundane filler or truly ugly bits and bobs.

But as a permanent state, no. Happiness is always in flux. It’s not something we can achieve and hold onto if we just cultivate the right attitude of mind. I don’t care how much positive thinking you try to stream through your existence, life will always throw something in your way that trips you up. The power of positive thinking is a good thing, a great thing even, but there are also times when it’s just another form of denial.

Or narcissism: “The world revolves around me and I control all its forces with my Powerful, Positive Mind.” Then it becomes something of a cult, and those are never good.

Happy times are blessings that shouldn’t be taken for granted, but the pendulum always swings the other way. We have to accept that and walk through the shadows.

I try to cultivate an attitude of hopeful acceptance: accepting that the pendulum has swung into a dark place, but hoping that if I go through the dark and allow myself to fully experience it without telling myself I don’t feel it, without beating myself up with toxic “shoulds,” without haranguing myself about my bootstraps and their potential lift, that eventually I will walk through and emerge into light.

There isn’t any easier path. And telling people to cheer up when they’re struggling is another form of toxicity. I will say, in my experience, that the path of walking the shadows can be a peculiarly satisfying path—if you survive it. You walk, you survive, you’re ready to start again. It isn’t easy, and it isn’t a straight path, and hard not to lose your way and head in the wrong direction. But even the wrong direction can be part of the path.

Nothing puritanical here. I’m not talking about clinical depression. Everybody needs help sometimes and there is no shame in asking for it. Only fools—as intransigent as the “always positive thinking” fools—believe they can do it all on their own.

I’m trying to convince myself of that even as I write this.

I have faith in sunshine, though. I catch its faint glint far down the tunnel and believe I am heading in the right direction.

Random quote of the day:

“The heart breaks and breaks
and lives by breaking.
It is necessary to go
through dark and deeper dark
and not to turn.”

—Stanley Kunitz, “The Testing-Tree”

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Orville and Wilbur, Katy Perry, or the Avengers. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Boot straps

Sometimes the wild creatures in your heart
get too scared, remain restless, hide away.
My mother the horse-whisperer would have
spoken gently, stroking calmness back into
those creatures, and walked them through
the fear.

Sometimes you don’t have to put the bucket
far down the well before it fills.
Other times you hit the rocky bottom.
My grandfather, the water witch, would have
gotten out the willow rod and paced the land
to find a new well.

Sometimes you need to heal but it takes so long
and the medicine you need is so hard to find.
My great-grandmother the herb witch
would have walked the hills until she found
what she needed.

Sometimes you just have to pick yourself up
and do what needs doing.
Only you can find what you need,
only you can recognize the magic
when you see it.

Generations behind point me to the path.
But only I will recognize the magic when I see it.
And I must walk the walk.

 

*For the poetry project, phase one go here.

*For a definition of Phase 2, go here.

*To see all the poems in one place go here.

Random quote of the day:

“Of all the pitfalls in our paths and the tremendous delays and wanderings off the track I want to say that they are not what they seem to be. I want to say that all that seems like fantastic mistakes are not mistakes, all that seems like error is not error; and it all has to be done. That which seems like a false step is the next step.”

—Agnes Martin, “On the Perfection Underlying Life,” lecture, Institute of Contemporary Art, February 14, 1973

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Lucy and Ethel, Justin Bieber, or the Kardashian Klan. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“I dreamed a thousand new paths. I woke and walked my old one.”

—Chinese proverb

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Lucy and Ethel, Justin Bieber, or the Kardashian Klan. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“There is no such thing as an overnight success. You will do well to cultivate the resources in yourself that bring you happiness outside of success or failure. The truth is, most of us discover where we are headed when we arrive. At that time, we turn around and say, yes, this is obviously where I was going all along. It’s a good idea to try to enjoy the scenery on the detours, because you’ll probably take a few.”

—Bill Watterson, Kenyon College Commencement, May 20, 1990

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Lucy and Ethel, Justin Bieber, or the Kardashian Klan. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“No one saves us but ourselves,
No one can and no one may.
We ourselves must walk the path:
Buddhas merely teach the way.”

—Gautama Buddha, The Dhammapada, tr. Paul Carus

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Lucy and Ethel, Justin Bieber, or the Kardashian Klan. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Next Page »