Merle Molofsky

Poet and psychoanalyst: read and resonate

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Language-based image-making, image-based language

Posted on October 26, 2015 at 2:45 PM Comments comments (2)

Language-based image-making, image-based language:  We can  compare psychoanalytic work to the connect-the-dots games in children's books, where, if you connect the dots, you construct a picture. This is what the human mind does when it constructs a constellation out of the billions of stars in a black sky. A particular star, dot, word, resonates with other starts, dots, words -- we create patterns. Sometimes other people recognize the patterns with us, sometimes they don't. Psychoanalysts, and other intuitives, learn to recognize the patterns people see, when no one else seems to recognize those patterns....

 

PATHWAYS ON THE JOURNEY

Posted on January 30, 2015 at 3:00 PM Comments comments (0)

PATHWAYS ON THE JOURNEY

 

“Poetry is the perpetual endeavor to express the spirit of the thing” – Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Poetry and Imagination”

 

“Ancora imparo” – Michelangelo, said when he was in his 90’s

 

“Do not mistake the finger pointing at the moon for the moon” – Zen saying

 

La Noche Oscura Del Alma (The Dark Night of the Soul) --St John of the Cross, 16th century Roman Catholic mystic:

 

En una noche oscura,

con ansias, en amores inflamada,

O dichosa ventura,

salf sin ser notada,

estando ya mi casa sosegada….

 

This first verse of a poem by St. John of the Cross describes the beginning of a journey. In the poem, the seeker leaves home on a dark night, searching for the Beloved, finds the Beloved, and finds succor and rest on the breast of the Beloved.  Very much like the Sufi poet Rumi, and his relationship with the Friend.  Rumi advises that we should not seek love, but rather, that we should seek to recognize the barriers we have within ourselves that keep us from loving.   Rumi counsels that what it is that we seek, is seeking us, that lovers were always together, before they began the quest for each other.  As Rumi praises the Friend, we learn that to love the Friend is to be the Friend in the moment, in the Present.

 

These two mystical poetic visions, the spiritual terrors of the Dark Night of the Soul, and the joyous vision of union with the Friend, offer us a roadmap of the journey.

 

The journey is a journey of living in relation to….

 

 

 

 

LISTENING TO: THE MIRACLE WITHIN LANGUAGE

Posted on December 12, 2014 at 2:55 PM Comments comments (0)

LISTENING TO:  THE MIRACLE WITHIN LANGUAGE

 

Psychoanalysis is a narrative seeking narratives – “tell me a story”.

 

Language is a miracle.

 

Freud recognized what poets knew, that language carries wildness and relatedness, and communicates as much as there is… both conscious and unconscious is-ness.

 

Language can savagely or ecstatically represent the disorganized, fragmented states of mind, or the unified and organized states of mind. Language gives us what Maurice Sendak evoked – language is where the wild things are, where the wild rumpus begins.

 

Freud liberated the world, gave us access to the fullness of our minds, with reliance on language to unlock the repressed – to seek from within the seeker what the seeker didn’t know was being sought.

 

Psychoanalysis is itself a miracle, discovering and narrating the discovery of narration, listening to the telling of a story, and telling a story….

 

Are words lies?  Are words truth?  Are words both?  What strange fluid, shape-shifting medium, words, we use, to find -- what?  Perhaps we use words to intuit what we find in the silence, the silence that sustains even as we seek what we find there, in words....  

 

Is there another?  Are words a bridge we use as we encounter the caesura between self and other, to recognize the self of the other, and, perhaps, the otherness of our own self?

 

Bedtime prayer:  NowI lay me down to sleep, I pray my dreams my lies will keep....

 And if I die before I wake, I pray my lies will not look fake....

Some lies are delightful lies.  Does it matter whether we know a fiction is a fiction?  Fairy tales seem so absolutely real to young children.  Some lies might not be delightful, but may have a necessary truth:  ogres and witches….

 

We awaken from the nightmare of history, and cherish what was lost.  From childhood on we destroy in fantasy and alas, we encounter enormous destruction.  What saves a mind from extreme chaos and horrific trauma?  Derealization and depersonalization don't work -- the horror and chaos still are experienced, and life is an ongoing catastrophe.    And yet....

 

And of course, dreams are not criminals, and legal considerations of criminal intentionality do not apply to dream-work-- except -- except -- if we stay with Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams, the superego acts as accuser, police officer, judge, and police warden.

 

The "Interpretation of Dreams", reinterpreted: Dreams speak iddish.  The id tries to discharge, to achieve a wish.  The superego says, uh-uh, id, no you don't.  That's bad.  We'll get in trouble.  We'll regret it.  The ego mediates creatively, by telling a story, giving form to the id wishes, pacifying as best it can the anxious superego.  

 

So -- in my "reinterpretation of dreams", the id does not "intend" to communicate.  It intends to achieve -- perhaps by obsessively ruminating on desire, trying to fulfill desires stifled in waking, but, still persisting, taking advantage of sleep to try to overpower superego and enlist ego if possible.  And superego wakens, yet miraculously stays asleep, and says no anyway.  And ego, with a primary "intention" of preserving sleep, casts both forbidden desire and anxious superego taboo in a creative tableau, a dream-story.  It is not superego that preserves sleep by censoring the forbidden impulse, it is the creative ego.

 

Like all theory, it's just a theory.  Problem with the theory is, how is it that some forbidden id impulses succeed in expression -- expression, if not communication?  How do they override superego so successfully that the ego's story supports the id?  Maybe the same way the superego overrides the id so successfully that the ego's story supports the superego?  Hence incestuous consummation dreams, and being chased by murderous villains or police officers dreams.

 

We are such stuff as dreams are made of.  Our conscious minds function similarly.  The ongoing narratives we tell ourselves, that get unraveled during the psychoanalytic process, are very similar to dream narratives.  Our repetition compulsions, compensatory fantasies, rationalizations and other defenses, are waking dreams....

 

Dear Eternal Children,

 

How could we be other than?

 

More "adult", alas -- well, maybe not.  There is hope.  Perhaps we are Onion people, with every age we've ever been, in transparent layers.  And perhaps the Onion layers are able to transplace, so that all layers are equally available and float to the surface.

 

Once again, there is a time for every purpose under heaven.  Whatever nickname our eras anoint us with --prophets, visionaries, heretics, Chasidism, revolutionaries (18th century CE France, the nascent America), Romantic Decadents (Beaudelaire, Rimbaud, Verlaine), Neo-Romantics, Bohemians, Flappers, Beatniks, Hippies, punks  -- we stay true to ourselves.   

 

I have faith in words. I trust that words build world views, link minds with minds, teach, illuminate, amuse.  Of course words can be weapons of mass destruction.  What that means is that words have power.  I have faith in the power of words.

 

I am not concerned about the inadequacy of words.  Words themselves can be transcendent.  So I'll borrow Christian Wiman's "the faith with which you use them" to say, "The faith which you feel is the way in which you use words"...which doesn't mean you have to use words to feel and use faith.  It means something else....

 

What happens when we use the phrase,"Words fail me"?  First, we use words to say we are speechless, we cannot find the words with which to express -- something.  Second, it means we are using words, starting with the three simple words, "Words fail me", to attempt to begin to say something we think we cannot say....

 

Why does John 1:1 begin with, "In the beginning was the Word"?  

 

Why does Genesis 1:3 say, "And God said, let there be light, and there was light"?  God said it.  God said light into being.  God said everything into being.  He divided day from night, He called the light Day, He called the dark Night.  He said the firmament, the heavens, among the waters into being.  All through Genesis, all through the Creation, God says the world into being.

 

I have faith in words.  Why?  Because God says!  And if there is no God?

 

There are words….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE GARDEN OF EDEN, THE FLAMING SWORD, THE GARDEN OF EDEN

Posted on November 3, 2014 at 2:55 PM Comments comments (0)

THE GARDEN OF EDEN, THE FLAMING SWORD, THE GARDEN

OF EDEN

 


Does each human being have to eventually deal with a realization that

 

the very fact of being born begins with one’s self-becoming, one’s own

 

birth, traumatizing, injuring, the beloved mother? Does the physical

 

harm the baby causes the mother in labor, the mother giving birth,

 

become something that causes the baby to believe that the mother

 

indeed will retaliate, that maternal love cannot be trusted, ever? How

 

does the birthing mother forgive the baby? Is the mother so grateful

 

that the birth process has ended that she loves the baby because the

 

baby is born, is no longer being born, but is born? Does the birth

 

catastrophe for both mother and baby become a mutual forgiving?

 

 Does life begin as “etzev”, labor? Eve experiences etzev in childbirth,

 

Adam experiences etzev in tilling the earth. Both labor — and labor

 

is difficult. Does labor define life? Is the caesura the recognition that

 

joy, hope, delight, life itself, is defined by the discovery of what actual

 

life demands of us?

 

Is life the catastrophe?

 

Is the flaming sword barring access to the Tree of Life in the Garden

 

of Eden the first breath we take?

 

If life is the first catastrophe, and if breathing to sustain life is loss of

 

Paradise, we also discover that within the complexities of life, and, of

 

course, breathing, is the essence of Paradise. Every now and then, we

 

are welcomed back to the Garden of Eden, and, as we are distracted

 

by the catastrophes of life, we hear a murmur in the breeze, “Come

 

back soon. Your Garden is eternal.”

Updated Reviews

Posted on January 8, 2013 at 11:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Updated Reviews

01/08/2013

 

My two volumes of poetry, Mad Crazy Love:  Love Poems and Mad Songs, and Ladder of Words, both published in 2011, were reviewed by noted psychohistorian Howard F. Stein, in the psychohistory journal Clio's Psyche, Volume 19, Number 3, December 2012, in an essay called "Poetry and Psychohistory". He says, "The two recent books of poetry by Molofsky would, for my taste, make for wonderful preparation for a psychohistorian who is studying American culture today, the past 60 years of American life, or the sense of place in New York City or in one's own body.  As I read these often raw, emotionally demanding poems, I find my imagination as well as my intellect engaged in fathoming the times, places, relationships, and feelings Molofsky writes about....  For the reader who wants to feast upon good contemporary poetry, I recommend these two books" (pp. 344-345).

 

Also, in the December 2012 issue of the online journal Other/Wise, Volume 9, Canadian psychoanalyst Oren Gozlan offers an article, "Ordinary Response to Enigma: Reflection on Merle Molofsky's 'Vin Ordinaire' ".  Go to www.ifpe.org, and on the home page, click the link to Other/Wise to read the article.  His article discusses my short story, "Vin Ordinaire", which was published in the August 2012 issue of the online journal Moondance.  The story can can be found at www.moondance.org

 

Self and Existence

Posted on November 3, 2012 at 11:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Self and Existence

11/03/2012

 

I've been having a merry time reading Why Does the World Exist? by Jim Holt, Liveright Publishing, New York, 2012.  As I've wandered, and engaged with, and surrendered to his guided tour through Western philosophy's approach to Being and Nothingness, I've wished that I had the sort of mind that could live up to, and keep up with his, and yet, I am grateful for the vastly entertaining Magical Mystery Tour he conducts. Toward the end of the book, the penultimate chapter, chapter 14, "The Self:  Do I Really Exist?", spoke to me.  What is "self" is a psychoanalytic question, of course, and has long been a philosophical question.  Part of the unfolding exploration of "what is self" in philosophical discourse is the familiar challenge, is there a continuity of self, or are there multiple selves comprising an "I"? 

 

We also come across that very same question in psychoanalytic thought --Jungian thought addresses this question in depth.  In Jungian thought, the Self is one of several archetypes -- and, if that is the case, then the archetypes contribute to making up our sense of self.  But the sense of self we have is not the archetypal Self, for the archetypal self is just part of a collection of selves.

 

Following Holt: we have the Cartesian "I think, therefore I am" assertion of self.  After Descartes, we have Hume saying that the accumulation of perceptions is what we call the self.  We interpret our perceptions as meaning we are a self, when actually we are observing a series of perceptions, but that does not prove that there is a self.  Then Holt offers ideas from contemporary philosophers.  For instance, he says Galen Strawson thinks that "within each person's stream of consciousness, little transient selves constantly wink in and out of existence".  Strawson quote: "There simply isn't any 'I' or self that goes through (let alone beyond) the waking day".  Then Holt offers two requirements for the existence of self:  1) the self is the subject of consciousness.  2) the self is capable of self-consciousness.  And then he blows this apart by pointing out that something being both the subject and the object is what Schopenhauer called "a monstrous contradiction".  

 

And now for the creepy!  I'll mention one last philosopher Holt uses, Johann Gottlieb Fichte (yes, Fichte, the "father of German nationalism", the architect of "German idealism").  Fichte says that the "I" comes into existence by positing itself. "I = I", the logical law of identity.  And I = I becomes the sole necessary truth, and thus the ground for all other knowledge.  Thus all knowledge is self-knowledge.  Thus the transcendental subject creates the world!  What's creepy about this?  Not the idea itself -- what's creepy is that the "father of German nationalism" builds a philosophical concept straight out of the Torah!  I AM THAT I AM.  

 

Which brings us to the Kabbalistic concept that the Name of God contains all other names and attributes.  I AM THAT I AM.  All of creation is engendered by God, and contained by God.  In Lurianic Kabbalah, God fragments in order to create the world.  For creation to take place, God is both fragmented and whole, as is all creation.  According to the Torah, we are made in God's image.  If God can say, I am that I am, can we? Is each of us a self because each of us is a self, because we are?  Is our existence selfhood, because we were created out of fragmentation to become whole?  If each of us stands in relation, as Martin Buber tells us, in relation to ourselves, to others, to nature, to the world, to God, who is it who stands in relation to?  A self...???  Are we whole?

 

Do we surrender to existence, to existing?  And, to reverse Descartes' "I think therefore I am", because we are, because we exist, therefore we surrender, therefore we engage, therefore we relate?

 

The Evil Impulse

Posted on August 27, 2012 at 11:50 PM Comments comments (0)

THE EVIL IMPULSE

08/27/2012

 

Evil impulses are inherent in human nature, as are good impulses.

 

In Hebrew, the evil impulse is called yetzer ra, and the good impulse is called yetzer tov.  Acknowledging the existence of both impulses is essential to Jewish thought – as it is to Freudian psychoanalysis.  Freud postulated two drives inherent to human nature, eros and thanatos, a sexual drive and an aggressive drive. 

 

In religious tradition, the world is seen in terms of good and evil.  From a psychoanalytic standpoint, the impulses are not evaluated, nor judged for their moral or ethical essence.  Rather, they are acknowledged as aspects of human nature to be recognized, understood, and made conscious.

 

In Judaism, the emphasis is on choice.  Each person has the capability to choose to follow an evil impulse or a good impulse. 

 

In psychoanalysis, the emphasis is on self-knowledge, so that we do not act from the unconscious.  Rather, we become aware of our feelings, thoughts, conflicts, attitudes, desires, and memories, and our awareness creates opportunities for choices.  Rather than continue to be motivated by unconscious pressures, we have more personal power, the ability to act with self-awareness.

 

In Jewish thought, the evil impulse is selfishness without awareness of or concern for the impact of one’s actions on others.  Therefore we can understand sadism and violence as corruptions of the evil impulse, in a sense, extreme perversions of the evil impulse.  The evil impulse does not have to be denied, it has to be mitigated by loving concern, a kindly awareness of the experiences of others. 

 

Both Judaism and psychoanalysis offer the possibility of resolution of conflict, of reconciliation of one’s own selfishness, one’s own evil impulse, with one’s desire to think of ourselves as good.

 

Psychoanalysis enables us to understand that our desire to do something forbidden, something harmful, can be experienced, felt deeply, and transformed into something commensurate with the good impulse, without betraying our core self.

 

Our challenge is to embrace the evil impulse, to embrace and experience the feelings that give impetus to the evil impulse.

 

An important aspect of human nature is our capacity for self-reflection, and self-judgment.  One religious tradition calls self-reflection the Witness; psychoanalysis calls self-reflection observing ego.  Religions call self-judgment conscience; psychoanalysis calls self-judgment superego.  As we become aware of our evil impulse, we may experience shame or guilt. 

 

Rather than reject the feelings and thoughts we experience as evil impulse, we need to acknowledge, and, indeed, even honor those feelings and thoughts. We need to embrace our feelings of shame and guilt.

 

Religions offer various forms of repentance and absolution, such as Catholic confession, Islamic Ramadan, and Jewish Yom Kippur rituals.  Can we face and embrace the feelings and thoughts of evil impulse without the need to confess or to seek absolution?  Can we accept ourselves?

 

Can we say, I hate, I envy, I lust, I covet, I am resentful, I am rebellious, I am greedy, I want to betray others, I want to betray my own values, and much more?

 

Yes, we distinguish between feelings/thoughts and action.  What if we know we have behaved badly?  Can we accept the feelings and thoughts that overwhelmed us and led to actions we wish we had not done?  Can we remain in touch with thoughts and feelings arising from the evil impulse and make efforts to refrain from actions we know we should not take?

 

Yes.  It is difficult, but necessary, if we are going to be whole. 

 

Psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Henry Krystal survived Treblinka concentration camp during the Holocaust.  Among his many books is “Integration and Self Healing: Affect, Trauma, and Alexithymia.” He worked with more than 100 camp survivors, including camp capos, who were camp inmates who were given positions of authority by the S.S.  Krystal found many capos to be self-loathing because of their identification with the aggressor, their abuse of their position at the expense of other inmates. Essentially he taught them that they could hate the deeds they committed, but they had to have love for the person who did those deeds, to understand the desperation and fear they experienced.  In essence, a version of hate the sin but love the sinner.  Concentration camps and similar places of oppression put people in extreme conditions.  Under extreme conditions, they very well may be overwhelmed by evil impulse.

 

Not every situation is as extreme, and not everything we do under the influence of the evil impulse is as dire.  Whatever the situation and the deed, ultimately we have to integrate who we are to remain psychically alive.

 

The good impulse will help us act wisely and ethically, so that we can remain a full, integrated human being, aware of, but not in thrall to, our selfishness, our evil impulse.

 

Love can prevail.

 

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?  If I am only for myself,what am I?  And if not now, when?"

 

                          -- Rabbi Hillel, “Ethics of the Fathers

 

Creativity

Posted on August 2, 2012 at 11:40 PM Comments comments (0)

CREATIVITY

08/02/2012

 

When people are creative, in the myriad creative endeavors human beings have discovered and undertaken, they are affirming Existence.  Creativity is an act of saying amen to the Created World, and to personal existence. To participate in a creative act is to say Yes – yes, the universe should have been created, and yes, I should have been engendered, and born, yes, I should have come into the world. 


Creativity is an identification with our progenitors, with the fact of having had parents.  And creativity is an identification with the Creative Force of the Universe.

 

Why do people experience creative blocks?  For a myriad reasons, perhaps as myriad as the myriad of people who experience creative blocks.  And perhaps, among these reasons, are reasons related to recognizing, consciously or unconsciously, that individual creativity affirms existence, affirms that both the created world and the individual should exist, and therefore, the experience of conflict related to the very fact of existence blocks creativity.

 

Identifying with the act of creating the entire world may feel overwhelmingly grandiose.  Can I allow myself the fantasy of both engendering and giving birth to an entire world?  Can I experience myself as a self-sufficient proto-father/mother, imagining and actualizing what has never existed before?  And, in so doing, have I stumbled into a forbidden oedipal fantasy, that I can be the primal engendering father, or the primal birthing mother, usurping the role of the Prime Mover, the First Cause, supplanting the envied oedipal rival?  Is the universe that I imagined in mystery-weaving, my paint marks upon paper, my unwinding melody, my mathematical proof, going to be perceived as an attempt to create a better universe than the Prime Mover First Cause could have done?

 

Identifying with the procreative act of parents may feel overwhelmingly voyeuristic, an evocation of primal scene fantasies of early childhood. If I affirm that I should have been conceived, am I invading the sacred space of secret parental activity? 

 

In imagining the creation of a world, am I destroying the Prime Mover, the First Cause?  Isaac Luria’s Kabbalistic thought, God created the world through contracting the Self and through Self-fragmentation.  Luria wondered how an infinite Being could create a finite world.  Tzimtzum, concealment – in order to create a cascading series of worlds, God contracted,became more and more concealed, creating an empty space, so that more and more finite existence could unfold.  God allowed Himself to shatter into essences, incarnations of the divine, thus creating the world.

 

God is not diminished nor destroyed by contracting, hiding, disappearing, shattering.  God Is.  In Kabbalah, God is Ein Sof, existing before Self-manifesting.  The Ein Sof exists before creation, thus the Ein Sof is purely alone. 

 

“I’ll sing you one, O.  Green grow the rushes O.  What is your one, O?  One is one and all alone, and ever more shall be so.  Green grow the rushes O.”  English folk song.

 

“Echad mi yodea” is a Hebrew song sung during the Passover Seder – “Who knows One?  I know One.  One is our God, in heaven and earth.”

 

These instances of counting songs are a tribute to the need to recognize and retain the notion of Oneness, a Oneness that also may be perceived as shattering during the creation of the world, and, since the world keeps changing, perhaps the shattering keeps occurring.

 

Is the individual act of creation an act that perpetuates the shattering of the One?  If I keep creating, am I part of an ongoing creative act that God demands of Himself, thus shattering Himself?

 

What are the consequences of my creative impulse?  Will I feel guilty?  Or will I fear retaliation?

 

The British psychoanalyst Melanie Klein described a terrifying experience of infancy.  She tells of an infant who encounters the world through pleasurable and unpleasurable experiences, drawing on Freud’s 1920 account of the pleasure principle, the inexorable human drive toward pleasure.  A primary source of infant pleasure is feeding.  Klein explains that the infant experiences the rich experience of a good feed as a “good breast”, and experiences the feeling of hunger, particularly when the need for food is not instantly gratified, as deprivation by a “bad breast”.  When the infant begins to feel extreme hunger, extreme deprivation, the infant feels enraged at the “bad breast”.  In the infant’s fantasy, the infant angrily bites the depriving breast into fragments.  Alas, poor infant.  The breast is bitten into fragments, but each fragment has a life of its own.  The essence of the breast is not destroyed, but comes back as angry biting-back breasts, vicious little “PacMan” pieces of breasts, which Klein calls “bizarre objects”.  The infant fears that the bizarre objects, in retaliation, will bite the infant to death.  Actually, the infant fears her/his own raging aggression.  The desire to bite the breast to death comes back to bite the infant.  Aggressive fantasies boomerang. 

 

To imagine God, who is One and One alone, shattering, may engage with the Kleinian infant fantasy, and the creative energy of God may be experienced as a manifestation of bizarre objects.  If I identify with God, and allow myself to create as God creates, is my act of creation an act of aggression against God, and is God’s creativity an act of aggression against me? 

 

The perceived perils of the creative impulse thus lead to creative impasses, creative blocks.

 

How do we overcome these inhibitions of creativity?  Obviously we do.  Does identification with the acts of Divine Creativity and parental procreativity prevail over fantasies of crime and punishment?  Freud said that libido must prevail over aggression.  Community must prevail over aggression.  Does love conquer all?

 

Keep on truckin’.

Search For Self

Posted on July 12, 2012 at 11:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Search For Self

07/01/2012

 

SEARCH FOR SELF:  WINNICOTT, “ELEANOR RIGBY”, SUFISM, THE IN GATHERING OF SPARKS, TRICKSTER AND THE FOOL IN THE TAROT DECK

 

The concept of self seems so simple, so obvious – until we stop taking “self” for granted and start thinking about it.

 

In “Ego distortion in terms of true and false self,” The Maturational Process and the Facilitating Environment: Studies in the Theory of Emotional Development, D.W. Winnicott offers a view of the possibility of being and becoming a self, beginning in infancy.  We begin with an original, developing self, the self Winnicott calls the “True Self”.   The True Self forms within the “experience of aliveness,” just by being and feeling and perceiving, and thus an “experience of reality” is formed.  Within that “experience of reality” we encounter a pitfall – when reality does not accommodate what Winnicott calls the “spontaneous gesture” of the infant, the infant begins to make adjustments in order to live within a less than optimal experience of reality – and, as the infant “adjusts,” makes compromises, accommodates the demands of that less than optimal reality, the infant develops a “False Self”, in order to protect the vulnerability of the essence of being alive, the True Self.  The True Self seeks shelter, goes underground, hides behind the forever-adjusting, compromising, accommodating False Self.

 

“Who am I?” 

 

“Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in a church where a wedding has been, / Lives in a dream, / Puts on a face that she keeps in a jar by the door, / Who is it for?”  -- "Eleanor Rigby", by John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

 

Is the “I”, the “self”, of Eleanor Rigby the self who dreams?  The self who fantasizes about love, romance, marriage, about an other who loves and desires and cherishes and values her?  Is she the self who creates a mask, a “face that she keeps in a jar by the door,” a self for others to see? Is one of those attibutes of Eleanor Rigby a True Self, the other a False Self?  Is there a oneness of both that is Eleanor Rigby?  Is she a dreamer, full of hope?  Hopeless?  Who is that masked woman?

 

The song continues.  “Father Mckenzie writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear/ No one comes near.  Father Mckenzie, darning his socks in the night when there’s nobody there / What does he care?” 

 

Eleanor Rigby dies and is buried in the church where the wedding took place, and Father Mckenzie officiates.  The chorus between verses, “Ah, look at all the lonely people / Where do they all come from? / Ah, look at all the lonely people / Where do they all belong?”, acknowledges the self states of Eleanor Rigby and Father Mckenzie and all the lonely people – they experience!  They feel lonely!  They feel, therefore they are!

 

The essence of Sufism is the mystical quest for the True Self, and the True Self’s relationship to God.  The Self seeks God, and when the Seeking Self‘s heart is open to God, the Self finds God, the Self returns to God.  The Self is fulfilled.  In Sufism, every Self has a goal – to open to God and return to God. 

 

The Sufi concept of the Self seeking God is resonant with the Jewish Kabbalistic concept of the in gathering of sparks.  God is a divine flame,and the sparks emanating from that eternally burning flame are human souls.  Each human being is a spark from the divine flame.  The divine flame calls the sparks to return.  God summons the soul.  The Kabbalistic esoteric notion of the Messiah is that when every spark has returned to the divine flame, the Messiah is here.  Our awakened souls – our awakened selves – are, in unison, the Messiah.

 

Idries Shah, the great 20th century Sufi teacher and author, tells a story about a simple man from the countryside who comes to a large town and stays in an inn overnight, sleeping on the floor with many other travelers.  He has never seen so many people in one place before, and on lying down to go to sleep, worries that he will not know which of the many he is when he awakens in the morning, so he ties a string to his foot in order to recognize himself.  A trickster, seeing the simple man do this, figures out his motive, and, once the simple man is sleeping, the trickster unties the string and ties it to the foot of the man sleeping next to the simple countryman.  In the morning, the simple man awakens, looks down at his feet, then sees the string tied to the foot of the man next to him.  He cries out, “If you are me, then who and where am I?”

 

“Who am I?”

 

The Fool in the Tarot deck is the innocent soul setting out on a journey, analogous to the simple country man in the Idries Shah story.  In the most widely known Tarot deck, the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, the Fool is depicted as a smiling, insouciant, gaily-dressed hobo, about to step off a cliff.  The Fool-Soul is one of 22 Major Arcana cards, a set of images laden with symbolism.  All the other 21 images are numbered – the Fool is designated as zero.  He has not yet come into full being – he is on a journey that is described by the series of 21 images as they unfold in order.

 

Thus the nascent True Self of the Winnicottian baby is very much like the Fool– beginning the journey of Life, unaware of the pitfalls and exigencies and glories of the world, of life. 

 

“Who am I?”

 

The Trickster appears in many cultures, many mythologies, as a mischief-maker.  Familiar trickster personae include Coyote, Hermes, and Loki, among others.  They have a meaningful function – in their rambunctious rule-breaking, they challenge preconceptions and prejudices and agreed-upon standards and social norms – and, in so doing, they serve to awaken consciousness.  They cause us to question, and therefore lead us to think creatively, out of the box.

 

The Trickster asks us to reconsider our ideas about self.  If we truly ask ourselves, “Who am I?”, a chasm opens.  We stare into the abyss. 

 

A new question emerges – who am I in relation to another….

 

Poetry and Imagination

Posted on July 2, 2012 at 11:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Poetry and Imagination

07/02/2012

 

“Poetry is the perpetual endeavor to express the spirit of the thing” – Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Poetry and Imagination”

 

“Ancora imparo” – Michelangelo, said when he was in his 90’s

 

“Do not mistake the finger pointing at the moon for the moon” – Zen saying

 

"La Noche Oscura Del Alma" ("The Dark Night of the Soul") --St John of the Cross,16th century Roman Catholic mystic:

 

En una noche oscura,

 

con ansias, en amores inflamada,

 

O dichosa ventura,

 

salf sin ser notada,

 

estando ya mi casa sosegada….

 

This first verse of a poem by St. John of the Cross describes the beginning of a journey.  In the poem, the seeker leaves home on a dark night, searching for the Beloved, finds the Beloved, and finds succor and rest on the breast of the Beloved.  Very much like the Sufi poet Rumi, and his relationship with the Friend.  Rumi advises that we should not seek love, but rather, that we should seek to recognize the barriers we have within ourselves that keep us from loving.   Rumi counsels that what it is that we seek, is seeking us, that lovers were always together, before they began the quest for each other.  As Rumi praises the Friend, we learn that to love the Friend is to be the Friend in the moment, in the Present.

 

These two mystical poetic visions, the spiritual terrors of the Dark Night of the Soul, and the joyous vision of union with the Friend, offer us a roadmap of the journey.

 

The journey is a journey of living in relation to….

 


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