Thursday, April 28, 2011

Where is the Soul 31?

The Importance of risk taking


Beach Restaurant, Squillace, April, 2011
Playing it safe all the time means simply that the soul has little or no opportunity to grow. Those who play it safe will always have regrets. Journalists who take risks not alone get better stories, but they end up better human beings. They go to unsafe places, report on wars, riots and protests. Then there are the creative artists who risk saying something new in new ways, in different ways, who at once break with tradition as well as following the tradition of breaking with tradition as it were.

Ventura then says an interesting thing that both Hillman and he always take risks in their work, and whether their work “stinks or not is for others to judge, but it’s risky, that’s a fact.” (Op. cit., p. 171)

Again stretching metaphors to their limit, in taking risks it’s not enough to go out on a limb, but in fact when you do so it’s then that you must saw it off. In fact, Hillman argues that it’s more dangerous (to the soul) to close or even lock one’s door and sit on the sofa and try to keep the madness out. Indeed, you’ll probably go insane that way.

Speaking of cracks in things, indeed the inherent cracks in everything, the cracks in reality by its very nature, and accepting those cracks and working from there is the healthy way. As Leonard Cohen says so wisely in one of his great songs or poems: “There’s a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in, that’s how the light gets in” as it is very ad rem here indeed.

The rear view of a beach restaurant, Squillace, April, 2011
That is where therapy gets it all wrong in trying to cure the pathology, instead of seeing that the pathology is part of the crack or the broken window, and that something powerful and liberating is trying to get in. In this way, this kind of therapeutic approach is creating more and more pathology and keeping the Gods even further away.

The Importance of Community

Hillman and Ventura return again and again to the importance of community in their understanding of therapy and indeed in their understanding of reality. Come to think of it, surely therapy is essentially about encountering reality in all its length and depth and breadth, not in benumbing it, calming it down, boxing it in, taming it, domesticating it – use whatever appropriate metaphor you wish.

There’s a communal aspect to love. Love does not exist as a private tryst or trust between two people in a personal relationship. It’s a communal event, they argue.

Voices versus Voice

Sand being levelled for the summer season - Squillace beach
I remember some years ago so-called experts in poetry here in Ireland repeating a rather simplistic take on poem-making, that is, saying that this or that new poet had not yet found his/her voice, as if one voice was all a poet had at his or her disposal. A poet will have many voices expressed in his poems throughout his life as he hears different voices as he/she ages. Indeed he/she is constantly hearing multiple voices at any one time. In other words poets are fine-tuned psychologists if they are skilled at their craft. These voices represent the multiple sub-personalities that inhabit our psyche at any one time. The same is true for every person, poet or not – we are constantly hearing different voices from our psyche. It is up to us, though, to integrate those voices, I believe, to get them harmonised or rather orchestrated in a way that allows for integration (Dr Anthony Storr), individuation (Dr Carl Gustave Jung) or self-actualization (Dr Abraham Maslow) and so on and so forth.

Once again Hillman places all this in the important context of the community. He rightly comments that we live in the context also of the multiple voices of others in our community, and also within the tradition of the multiple voices of our ancestors. That’s why in traditional communities weddings and funerals were always communal events and people celebrated and mourned together within the context of the community. In this sense, then, a relationship is not just something private, a little private cocoon where the two are in this deep psychological relationship.

I’ll bring today’s post to an end with an apposite quotation from our archetype psychologist:

Somehow we’ve got to see that “personal relationship” is a symptom of our culture. Read what the Muslims feel, what tribal societies feel, what we know of antique cultures, of Chinese culture today: they weren’t hung up on romantic love, as we are, expecting all our sexual fantasies, to be fulfilled by the person we sleep with. Why are we in our Western American culture of the nineties, in the therapeutic culture of the white bread world, so hung up on the significant other for fulfilment? (Ibid., p. 177)

(Interestingly Dr Anthony Storr makes a similar point in his brilliant little book, Solitude which I have commented on expansively in these pages. See this link here)

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