LEARNING TO OBJECTIFY
Last Saturday evening I did a first performance of DANCING WITH DAEMONS: and a god in your pocket.
The stories are based on my reading of Carl Jung’s, The Red Book. It was presented at St Philip’s Church in New Hope, Pennsylvania. St Philip’s is a small church that holds fifty people. We filled it. The audience was a mix of the storytelling and local community, and for the most part, they seemed to enjoy themselves.
Part of my plan for the evening was to solicit a response from the audience -criticism to help me shape the work going forward. At one point I said that one story, A God In Your Pocket, first attracted me because it has a lot of similarities to the “giant” stories I have told to children over the past forty years. In the audience response, a gentleman reminded me of this statement and suggested that my storytelling might be better served if less of the children’s storyteller was on display when I am telling adult stories. He went on to say he thought that I did not capture the audacity of Jung’s writing in The Red Book.
This critical comment was followed by another response from a man who knew my first Jung based performance, Imagining the World of Carl Jung. He first complimented me by saying his Jungian group in Sarasota Florida felt that my performance for them several years ago, gave them their first glimpse of the human side of Jung as opposed to the scholarly side of the man. Those stories were told in the first person voice of Carl Jung. This man wanted to hear my new stories in the same, first person voice. He wanted to hear Jung talking about the process of creating, The Red Book -not Ray Gray sharing stories of a mind in search of a soul.
I do not want to suggest that there was no positive criticism of the work. In fact, the opposite was true, but I think we benefit most from the negative. I do not create stories to upset people –maybe some storytellers do- I try to be positive: therefore, if someone has negative criticism, I take it seriously.
Speaking of serious criticism of my work last Saturday, I will share the one I most honor. It came from the unconscious. This was my dream after the performance: I am involved in the task of making shopping bags, the cloth kind that Nancy and I use to carry groceries. In the dream I have a special way of sewing my shopping bags together, and I do not approve of the way that others sew their shopping bags together. My way is superior to all of the others.
I think the unconscious was intent on “bringing me down a peg or two” –this is a phrase from one of my stories in the performance. When I woke from the dream I was focused on the two criticisms shared above. I said to myself, they are the same criticism. When I perform in the voice of Jung, I get rid of Ray Gray, the storyteller to children for forty years. I can be someone completely different –perhaps even audacious in an adult way! The idea came to me that I need to think of myself as a good character actor, not the star that has to shine through in every story.
I am not sure I agree with my critics, either conscious or unconscious. In the way of Grandfather Jung, I will need to objectify these voices of criticism, hold them out in front of me and say, “yes I agree”, or “no, I think I will go in another direction”.