Reflections

Not sure why I never thought to poke around in the blogosphere here on WordPress but having recently done so, am happy to have found a few kindred spirits who also have a passion for ideas and writing. Many of you have been quite kind and inspiring, which is very much appreciated! Thank you!

185This morning I woke up a little earlier than usual with a vague, dreamlike, can’t-quite-remember-it, song from the past trying to find its way into my waking world. All I could recall from the lyrics was the word reflection. No surprise, as I have been pondering how much the reflections between self and other shape us after having a sudden insight and appreciation that so much of my analytical nature comes from my relationship with my father.

Eventually enough snippets of the song, Reflections, by a Scottish band called Marmalade, surfaced just enough to go to the computer and look up the song. So, it prompts me to reflect here a bit about the self/other relationship, opposition and ideas.

Perhaps I am slow to realize this, but it occurs to me recently how absolutely necessary the other is to self and how throughout our human experience we assume and consume the self/other relationship. It is only over time that we slowly build a self of our own out of all that we take in, as it is reflected back to us from others.

Little wonder that our primary experience of family and friends is not only a lasting impression, but incorporated into all that we are and continue becoming. Our language, our sense of meaning and purpose, assumptions, choices we make, all are reflected in the back and forth between ourselves and the people we experience early on, and expanded upon throughout our lives, as we continue to engage others which in turn shapes and forms who we are.

Not that we necessarily become like others, for each of us seems to have a unique way of taking the other in; digesting and making sense of the world that shapes us, and frees us to a certain extent – depending on how much daring and separation both we and those around us can tolerate. And it seems too that we each are called, in a most mysterious way, to articulate and express some facet of human beingness, whether it be through a creative pursuit, or relational pursuit or more likely a little of both.

Pondering just how much we humans are always in relationship – to people, things, places, ideas, it occurs to me that ideas too are in relationship with each other.

Seeing that ideas are in relationship helps me to understand the emotional tone that seems immediate in their presence. For example, there is often a temptation to polarize ideas and so to view things in opposition. Perhaps because oppositional pairing is so primary to our experience:

Dead, alive

Good, bad

You, me

Male, female

Day, night

Coming, going

North, south, east, west

Hero, villain

…and my favorite:

Fantasy, reality

Ideas, whether oppositional or not, are as much in relationship to each other as we are to them. They sit face to face and define each other having meaning only in relationship to what connects them. The temptation in language is to forget that words are words, giving them the power to concretize our understanding, removing the fluidity and gradations that we know from experience, in much the same way as a picture might come to define an entire era of our personal or shared history.

But face to face, I try to remind myself, does not necessarily mean a conflict, a battle stance, but may also be a lover’s embrace, a visit with a long-lost friend, a confession to a priest, therapist or family member. Here is where the emotional tone can change from one of anger, fear, loss or hatred, to curiosity, admiration, compassion and abundance. Perhaps when we broaden the possibilities of meaning  in our ideas, the meaning of the oppositions that we find between us may also expand – inviting curiosity, admiration, compassion and abundance as we look into every strangers eyes.

I am reminded of, and will leave you with a lyric from Roger Waters’ album, Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking;

In truck stops and hamburger joints

In Cadillac limousines

In the company of has-beens

And bent-backs

And sleeping forms on pavement steps

In libraries and railway stations

In books and banks

In the pages of history

In suicidal cavalry attacks

I recognise…Myself in every stranger’s eyes

And thanks to the Marmalades for the theme…

Words

“Is there a reality that is not framed or formed? No. Reality is always coming through a pair of glasses, a point of view, a language–a fantasy.” James Hillman

From a very early age, I have always loved words. Long before I could write in cursive I would scribble in my composition book endlessly pretending to write important things. I surely didn’t know at the time the power of language nor was I aware of the beauty of words, thoughts and ideas. Later on in my life, struggling with a deeply terrifying sadness and pain that led me into a very dark place that seemed inescapable, James Hillman’s words and ideas played a part in reuniting me with my old love of language.

Through language, the words and ideas we have available to us for understanding the world, we shape and define events and experience. Committed to memory and to the limits of our imagination and understanding, the story of our lives begins to stick. What is made static often remains static until such a time in which our stuckness becomes unbearable, if we’re fortunate enough. I say that because quite often it’s the woundedness itself that becomes the healing, making the wound a necessary part of who we are.

We live in a world yearning for change, in which a materialist perception of life has hardened our hearts and turned our souls into stone images or better yet, imageless stones. Without psyche or soul, we look out there at the stuff of life and it’s a mess. For the materialist in us all, there is nothing else but the stuff of life. So we try to fix the stuff with politics, shopping, food, pills and other people. But the confusion and mess of the world is bigger than us and hasn’t been fixed in thousands of years of trying. So, can we live with that? Or, how do we live with that?

It may be much more helpful to accept that ideas and feelings more often than not have me, and not the other way around. In this way, when we find ourselves sick of being subject to an awful mood that we’ve talked ourselves into, we find that we are not the feelings, but we are in their sway and then might ask ourselves, “what is it doing for me?” Our lives are complicated and the world can be an awful place in which sadness and anger are fairly appropriate responses to our vulnerability and limitations that we live with- we’re not always obligated to have a nice day- especially in a world that is not always very nice to live in.

Hillman loved the mythology of the Greeks and saw in them the archetypes of human psychological experience. In reading their stories we find the immortal, polytheistic nature of  psyche that each of us experiences. Where psyche, or soul can be seen as polytheistic, influenced by a pantheon of gods, our devotion to, and insistence upon the singularity of our identity, loses its grip on us. As Hillman says, “…the puzzle in therapy is not how did I get this way, but what does my angel want with me?”

“Besides, giving up on language betrays our own human nature. I think that the human form of display, in the ethologist’s sense of “display,” is rhetoric. Our ability to sing, speak, tell tales, recite, and orate is essential to our lovemaking, boasting, fear-inspiring, territory-protecting, surrendering, and offspring-guarding behaviors. Giraffes and tigers have splendid coats; we have splendid speech.” James Hillman, excerpt from Animal Presences

“Now, I’m standing here. 
Strange, strange voices in my ears, I feel the tears 
But all I can hear are those words…” The Monkees