Last Sunday I made an attempt at telling parts of my story. Thirty friends, and friends of friends, gathered in our living room. When I planned this performance for February 19th, I feared a snow storm and no audience. No reason for fear, it was sixty degrees and a sunny, late winter afternoon. I also feared that I would not be able to deliver a seventy minute performance at the age of seventy-five. Again, no reason for fear, the words flowed with only one fumble in failing to recall the title of a book.
So how did I choose to tell the story of my life? First, I introduced the idea that writing a memoir is like making a journey into the underworld of Greek myths—this theme was developed in last November’s blog Gatekeeper to the Unconscious. This intuitive approach was then balanced with a rational structure for our journey into the underworld. I used an idea from the Jungian analyst, Edward Whitmont, in his book The Symbolic Quest. There he describes our life’s story in terms of ego consciousness. He suggests that we have a different purpose in relationship to ego consciousness dependent upon three times in life: childhood, adulthood and ageing. I decided to perform stories from my memoir, Grandpa Jung’s Lessons for a Slow Reader (Available at Amazon as an E-Book), that fit Whitmont’s different stages of life.
My story related to the adulthood stage of life was My Pre-School Mentor (August 2016 Blog: Reflections on a Life Through Story). This speaks of my relationship with my three-year son in 1970; how he helped me to discover my work as a creator of stories for children. After the performance I invited the audience to share their reflections about the work and to ask questions.
One question came from a fellow storyteller, Bill Wood, who is almost exactly the age of my son, Matthew, the boy “mentor” in my adulthood story. Bill has two sons and he commented on being a father and how his sons—ages 17 and 19–have helped him to reflect on his own life at their age. He asked: “Did our relationship help you to reflect on your life when we met?” I responded: “It has helped me to reflect on my relationship to you, my friend who is the same age as my son. My relationships with both of you are very different.” That night when I was alone, I thought about these relationships.
Matthew and I have shared an interest in telling stories through video since he was twelve years old. We bought a video camera and he recorded much of the early footage of my work as an oral storyteller. When he was twenty-six, we traveled to Greece to create a documentary film about paddling a sea kayak through the Cyclades Islands and recording Greek myth; the film was never completed. Ten years later, we worked together to create a documentary film Brothers in Word, about a group of men who are all storytellers. This film was finished and appeared in two film festivals. Since that time Matthew has won an Emmy and a Parents’ Choice Award for his work as a videographer with other partners. When we get together we always have good conversations about films, books on history and adventures in the natural world.
Bill and I have shared an interest in the art of oral storytelling since he was a young man in his twenties. He was one of the storytellers featured in Brothers In Word. Both of us have earned a good part of our living telling stories to children in schools. We have shared a stage telling stories many times over the years. Like Matthew, he has won a Parent’ Choice Award for an audio recording for children. When we get together alone we always have good conversations about spirituality and philosophy. He has a degree in Religion from Northwestern University and I have a degree in religion from Princeton Theological Seminary. We often talk about God and the many expressions of human spirituality.
My reflection on my own story from watching these, now early middle-aged, men fulfill their own destiny is that I see something of myself in both of them. In Matthew I see my more rational, practical, nut and bolts self. The closest he has come to considering his spiritual nature was going to Bhutan to make documentary film. In Bill I see my more irrational, dreamy and intuitive self; my temptation to spend too much of my time talking and thinking about life, rather than going out and doing it.
Please understand that I am not saying anything about who these two men really are in their lives. I am simply talking about my story that has evolved as I shine my light on the objects I see before me! I think this view on human life has been well illustrated in this spring’s edition of Parabola Magazine: The Search for Meaning. We all shine our light into the dark and struggle to make sense of this life we have been given to live.
[Cover of Parabola Magazine (Spring, 2017), Photo: Dino Reichmuth]