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Reply To: The Way of Art and Two-Way Roads” with Mythologist Craig Deininger”


Thanks, Jamesn.

I am just now coming back from the work which always seems to take longer than how I envision it will. Well, Saturn’s in his own sign these days, so that settles that. Anyway, being a bit clearer, there was one thought I wanted to build on a moment, which deals with all the claiming of autonomy/individuation business and the risk/courage aspect, too.

As I reread what I had written, I heard a some inflation in the tone (even if I did say this kind of claiming is not the inflated type…). And I hold to that as a principle. But lately been feeling that if one is not in Samadhi/enlightened status, and not holding that supreme Middle Road, razor’s edge between the opposites, then one is to err in one direction or another. Or even if the enlightened do go off the middle road, I bet they take that not-middle road very middle-roadedly!

Anyway, inflation and deflation. With my creative writing students I respect both, so when I nudge them a little to the inflated side, they question it. Rightly so. I’ll call it “attitude” both in lay terms and in Jungian, though with the latter, deflation equally qualifies as attitude. At its worst, inflated expression is narcissistic, indulgent, and smug. But at its best it can make for pretty damn interesting writing! And outside of writing, surely it often can accomplish valuable things in the day-to-day, and in its lighter form, could we simply call it “confidence?” Confidence accomplishes things. Just look at athletes. How likely to see the task through were the baseball player to say: “Oh, he’s throwing 90 mph, I don’t think I’ll be able to hit it.” So, in seeking out things like what on earth “numinous” means, I think it can open some ways that otherwise would not have been opened. Or, to quote Wendy Doniger: “It is impossible to define myth, but it is cowardly not to try.” And perhaps connect on that fastball.

By the way, to reveal my bias, although it doesn’t sound like it I’m sure, I do prefer the deflated, or even humble side. Since there is a sincerity to that, and since I prefer the quiet spaces where the resonance is on, and volume is simply redundant, or worse, it just cheaply drowns out the subtler, deeper aspects of a thing. And also there’s the virtues that accompany the humble (and now I’m conflating deflated and humble, but will be inflated enough to press on): thoughtfulness, patience, acceptance, are usually associated with this humility/deflation. And archetypally, it pairs well with wisdom and spiritual development (Buddha and the begging bowl, the less or “emptier” of the Tao: like how the walls make the room, but the empty space that the walls define are where the value resides. Or “He who does not know speaks. He who knows speaks not.” (Maybe I should be mindful of that last part–ha).

I guess the whole point is that sometimes, against all wisdom, (or perhaps a greater wisdom?) inflation is the side to err on. Perhaps, just a little bit. Too deep into it and an Icarus crash and burn, or crash and sink, rather, is inevitable.

I remember one time in Los Angeles, a young man, maybe 15, was testing out his inflated attitude. He had the pants cinched by a belt at his thighs, boxers up to the waist, arms swinging, stomping like an elephant down the sidewalk. And he ruled that sidewalk! because we got out his way! But then the hem of his pants tripped him up and he went down hard–like a board. He quickly got up and scurried off. We all quietly smiled at each other. No one laughed out loud, though. We felt ambivalent. I mean, it was amusing as hell, but also empathy was activated. But on top of that, even if it was overdone, there was a courage involved in just commandeering the sidewalk like that. Only in this case, it didn’t quite open out into some profound mythic discovery. But then, maybe it had.

Okay, been going on long enough, Anyway, I think embracing a position of imbalance between the opposites is valuable. Life regularly pushes us into having to anyway!  So bottom line, I suppose embracing imbalance is a balancing act. And knowing when to mildly inflate or step down in a particular context, a kind of wisdom. And bottom bottom line, I think there are times when all parties involved lose when we don’t take a little risk and step up into it, like approaching “what is numinous,” for example.  And if we miss, strike out, fall hard on the concrete, well, in the solid, confident, courageous words of Jack Nicholson’s McMurphy: “Well I tried, didn’t I?  Goddammit, at least I did that.”