I’ve been writing a memoir for the past eight months. The premise of this work is that the stories I have created over the past forty-five years speak about the individuation process of their creator. I did not start with this premise in mind; I simply wanted to preserve my life’s work. In the process of choosing and ordering the story collection, and writing a narrative to accompany it, I began to see certain themes and patterns that made sense of my life. Carl Jung would call it a conversation between the conscious and the unconscious to create wholeness—a lesson in individuation!
Can I back-up my premise with stories? I will try to do this by bringing to consciousness two truths about the life I have been given to live. First, I am innately social. This comes out in the early narrative for the memoir when at the age of five I visit the old and infirmed with the minister of a Presbyterian Church. Children are naturally attractive to the old, but they are not necessarily comfortable with this role. I was comfortable—at least that is how I remember and tell my story. Second, the balance to my gregarious nature as a five year old was the dyslexia exposed when I went to school at the age of six. This difficulty with reading was unconsciously recognized as a child, but I was in my early thirties before I began to think consciously about it.
In 1974 I started a business of presenting school assembly programs that taught children through oral stories, visuals on rear-projection screens and music. Not many people were talking about multiple styles of learning at that time, but it made sense to a dyslexic. An interesting reflection on this process is that Carl Jung’s concept of ‘psychological types’ -that becomes the basis for the Myers-Briggs tests—may have influenced me. I was reading a lot of Jung in those years. Regardless of its source, I was focused on communicating ideas to children through multi-media in the middle years of my life. More than half of the memoir is dedicated to this time.
The last third of the memoir, the past fifteen years, shows a change of focus in my creative work. I started to create more stories for adults. I began to talk about the ‘stories for the last third of life’. This is best put forward in a story (shared in blog for January 22, 2014) about an older man who finds himself trying to answer the eternal questions: Who am I? Why was I put on this earth? What will happen to me when I die? This spiritual exploration in the last third of the memoir reflects who I am today as I piece together the separate parts to tell the whole story of my life.
Another lesson from Grandpa Jung –part of the process of individuation in the last third of life–is the importance of having a personal myth. This lesson is shared in story I created and performed for, Imagining the World of Carl Jung
Many years ago on one of my journeys to America I had the good fortune to visit the pueblo in Taos, New Mexico. There I met the dignified leader of the pueblo and we had a conversation. As is the norm in that dry, mountain climate, it was a beautiful clear and cool autumn day. We were sitting on the flat roof of the pueblo as the sun slowly made its journey across the heavens.
I was very interested to hear Mountain Lake’s description of his religion, but he was reluctant to talk about it. Only through indirect questions was I able to grasp the most basic elements of his belief system. At one point I asked, “Is there a benefit to the greater world from the celebration of your rituals?”
This question finally stirred a passion in the man. He looked up to the sun in the clear sky and said, “We are the People of this earth who live on the roof of the world. We are the sons of our Father, the Sun. Our rituals help our Father to make his journey across the heavens every day. If we were to cease practicing our rituals, in ten years the sun would no longer rise and the earth would be covered in darkness.“
It was then that I realized the source of this man’s dignity; he was cosmically important! If you think about it, all religions have a connection to the divine. The Christian believes that God so loved the world that He gave his only Son so that those who believe might have eternal life. And the Jews believe that they were delivered from captivity to be part of special covenant relationship with God—and so it goes on for all of the major religions of the world.
What about those of us for whom the religious myth of our ancestors is dead? Must we rely on the milk of reason to understand the life we live? Do we not still hunger for the numinous in our lives? Please understand me, I do not wish to denigrate the role of reason in our lives, but we do miss the magic of myth in our lives today. This is why the role of personal myth is so important for us.
Slow reader and learner that I am, I will continue to struggle to give voice to the stories for my personal myth. I do not expect the numinous to be part of the process, but like the Virgin at the Annunciation, I stand wide -eyed and expectant for whatever transpires!