Reply To: On Synchronicity and Meaning
I want to go back to Shaaheda’s request about my earlier story concerning this conversation she, Marianne, and I were having about childhood experiences and “Synchronistic Meaning” and how these things can have such profound importance in the way we interpret our lives and how these things can come back in an entirely different way in later life. My narrative began with talking about the inner child within all of us and how it can later manifest itself.
Marianne; I want to speak to this tender childlike voice for a moment because I think it represents a kind of voice so often missing when talking about these kinds of topics concerning analyst or therapist and personal connection to inner world relationships. I’ll mention a curious; possibly synchronistic; type of voice or tone if you will; that I began to explore concerning my reading and individuation pursuits after I retired upon one of my nighttime photo excursions shortly after the Parkland School Shooting in 2018.
I was in a favorite park of mine where I have much personal history early one evening where I like to go sometimes and take pictures when I passed a very special shrine to victims of teenage gun violence. It was during Christmas and the shrine was decorated with lights and displays that children might enjoy and was packed with grieving parents and family commemorating their loss. This chance encounter of this scene impacted me profoundly and I was determined to come back and photograph it when no one was around to listen to it what it had to say. As I returned later and quietly explored the different viewpoints to take my shots I began to hear the voices of the parents coming to grieve their loss and as the weeks and months rolled by I began to go back and explore all the different childhood stories and authors and teachers from my own past up to the present and listen to their voices and what they had to tell me. There would be Christopher Robin; and Mr. Rogers and all these: “once upon a time” characters from my youth and their stories and the books about childhood teaching development and childhood violence and the gun lobbyists demeaning the Sandy Hook Massacre because of efforts restricting gun rights swirling around in my head until I began to get a better sense of what was working inside me at the time. Movies, books, and documentaries followed in my pursuits as I began to explore this voice and it became incredible clear that this was a synchronistic influence in the path I had been on exploring what was leading me forward.
So as I’m entering this post and watching all these entries appear I think it’s important that the topic not be restricted to particular facets in an academic sense but to try and make the connection of synchronistic references more personal as well. And I say this because this material concerning Campbell and Jungian themes is not always communicated as deeply from a paper or a thesis or an analytical approach but also impacts lives in an extremely intimate way.
Not I’m not suggesting we throw out all papers and start reading nursery rhymes to people on a Freudian or Jungian Couch as Joseph might have put it; but when we are exploring personal experiences as well as documented themes this inner world is in some ways to me like sanctified childhood playrooms that adults have forgotten about and are part of what is driving this synchronistic bus we are all riding in. And the idea of Story as a framework that unlocks a lot of these doors that hold such much of this inner material we are trying to get at can get hijacked by theory and school of thought. To further this idea of the child voice I offer how this pandemic has brought the Shadow front and center into the room whenever we pick up a newspaper or look at our newsfeed and see what’s playing for our attention.
Please forgive me for going on so long about this but I think it’s important to keep it in mind while we are exploring this topic. In other words it’s not all about myths and legends; it’s also about human beings; and it’s not that no one is not aware of this; but I think this tender little voice that Marianne has illustrated often gets drowned out by the volume of the other.
Shaaheda’s request to revisit this story has been on my mind alot these last few days and I couldn’t quite understand why until I got a hint this morning from something I was reading about the childhood transition into adulthood and how all these simple childhood memories stay with us and in many ways determine who we become. If we are introduced to good stories and influences that reference good solid value systems such as developing empathy and compassion then the child is more likely to look for these things in others later on. But so often in modern times it seems that children often become marketing devices targeted at purchasing consumer items and services connected to other themes not necessarily related to the older story values that were passed down; or that have in some way been reversioned, revisioned, or repurposed if you will; with other more profit motivated purposes in mind such as Disney, Mattel, or any other of the many corporations that market these kinds of children’s products. But to me what has become the greatest threat is the use of violence in many of these new stories and products. (Fred Rogers was particularly sensitive to this issue as he made his case before Congress for the establishment of children’s television with programs specifically centered around teaching children how to make the transition into adulthood with as little trauma as possible.)
Now the point I’m attempting to establish is not remaking the world to shelter a child from the harsh realities of life; but to give that child a kind of guidance system that will help them navigate the various crisis situations they will inevitably encounter throughout their life course. Joseph understood that a myth if properly introduced would provide just such a tool; and indeed much of his work was centered around this understanding. And indeed when Bill Moyers in the “Power of Myth”; asked him about why myths were important to which Campbell replied: “You bet they are because otherwise the individual may be headed for a schizophrenia crackup. The world is full of people who have stopped listening to themselves and have put themselves on a course that the body is not interested at all.” This inner world that becomes the life guide is directly related to the child that resides within us all; and to ignore or disregard the implications of this relationship to later life outcomes is to take away the meaning from which life values first come.
I was passing by a conversation on Facebook that was discussing the importance of the loss of innocence of childhood and it occurred to me that in many cases if not “properly implemented” this often dramatic transition is exactly what comes back to haunt the adult in later life. Now in my mind no one is saying that the often harsh realities of modern life are ever going to totally disappear; and to completely disregard this reality would be at one’s peril to be sure. But it seems to me that Joseph’s suggestion of finding and living out one’s: “personal myth” would a good way to reinterpret a more modern and doable approach to this age old problem as he describes the 4 functions that myth serves and his most well known theme of: “Follow your bliss” is what immediately grabbed me when I first encountered him on Public Television in 1988 after going through just such a crisis as I described above. And part of my problem as I was later to find out had to do with the conflict surrounding the difference between the: “Right and Left Hand Paths” that Joseph describes below.