Wednesday, July 06, 2011

From Fragmentation to Integration 18

Inspiring Authors

Famine Sculpture, Boston, April, 2002

While there are parts of Professor Levine's text that strain under the weight of explanation he demands of them, he remains for me quite an inspiring author.  To write about psychology and the soul is in itself a strenuous task as language is not always equal to the task.  I suppose I should not be surprised that any scholar who practises what he calls Expressive Arts therapy would be familiar with poetry and the arts in general, and this Professor Levine certainly is.  One can sense the sheer multidisciplinary interests in our learned author. 
Interestingly in the above respect, Levine is at home in writing a full four pages on the poems of Rainer Maria Rilke whom I have discussed atlready at length in these pages.  I have written at length both about his letters here: Rilke's Letters and following posts and his poems here:  Rilke's Poems and following posts.  According to Levine, the poet who most embodies the spirit of Orpheus in contemporary literature is Rainer maria Rilke.  This does not surprise me at all because this poet dedicated his whole life to coming to terms with his soul.  In the space of one month, February, 1921, he penned 64 sonnets named the Sonnets of Orpheus and they were written at white heat as it were, to forge a chemical metaphor, almost as if the poetic muse himself had didated them.  I have discussed some of these at the above links.  He also wrote a companion piece, The Duino Elegies.

Again, it is the grappling with the polarity of opposites that constitutes the human condition that is central to Rilke's poems.  I have long stated here that an essential part of the human condition is its mortality and an equally essential task facing each and every one of us is facing up to our own dying and death and incorporating that into life in a healthy tension.  Now, this is not a morbid thing at all - far from it, it is a spiritual task, indeed, which can have the result of leading the successful "integrator" to a Still Point of Being, a Solid Ground as it were, an objective Viewing Point from which to be witness or observer/participant of all that life is, use whatever metaphor you wish.  Again, language is straining under the stress-task I'm giving it here to express my meaning clearly.  The task Rilke set himself in these sonnets occupied him all his life: how to include dying and death into life; how to incorporate pain and suffering and knit them into a fine fabric with the other experiences of joy and pleasure.  In other words, his was the Expressive Arts Therapist's role - that of leading the client (in this case his own soul) to incorporate the bad with the good at the heart of the Self.  Rilke himself spoke in different terms to what I have used here, but essentially he was speaking of the same exact thing.  He talked about the effort of the poet to bring "praise" and "lament" together.  In other words, the real success story of any life is certainly not the accumulation of wealth but rather to praise that very life which includes suffering, dying and death as part of it.  In this manner

Whenever he feels the god's paradigm grip
his throat, the voice does not die in his mouth.
All becomes vineyard, all becomes grape,
My Shadow, Donabate Beach, July, 2007
ripened in the hills of his sensuous South. (Quoted, Poiesis, p 100)
In sum, then, we can say, with Levine, Rilke and many other psychotherapists indeed, that the myth of Orpheus is a paradigm for the descent we all make into our own private hells, our own private Hades, and then to emerge, (perhaps "victorious" is a good or bad word - I'm not sure as I don't want to appear too trite here) renewed in a totally new acceptance and incorpration of suffering, dying and death into the very fabric of our souls.  To put this another way, our task, then, if we are to grow to our full potential as human beings, if we are to plumb the depths of our soul and emerge with a renewed identity, is to learn to integrate two worlds: the world of the living and the world of the dead.  Orpheus brings them together in his song.  We can also bring them together with our own songs, our own individual poems, our own unique work of art - be that painting, ballet, dance in its myriad forms, singing, writing, painting, drawing, architecture - the list is limitless.  To be able to praise and sing despite there being much to lament in our lives is still very much the strength of the human spirit.  Letting go of all the things that possess us is the way to really live life truly and fully, and this letting go is at the heart of Rilke's poems as it is also at the very heart of Buddhist theory and practice.  Buddhism recommends meditation, which promotes such awareness as the road to letting go, to cutting the strings of our clinging, those strings (ego-ridden) that bind us ineluctably to life.

Your task and mine, dear reader, is to sing the song of our individual soul despite our mortality and the pain of the human condition.

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