Thank you, Stephen. How refreshing is your “so what?” You do right by me to open the conversation on this practical note.
Equally refreshing is your “like stapling jello to the wall/conceptualizing archetypes, symbol, image” analogy. So let me begin there and employ your analogy via analogy in an attempt to reverse-engineer a path back to the practical. And first by diving into potential concrete detail of the image: that faint jello-residue that remains, however briefly (a week maybe?) coating the bottom surface-area of the staple, a negligible portion of the wall and, of course, those two punctures that sent an even thinner residue farther in, and which has perhaps begun nourishing a city of microscopic something-or-others.
I could be practical and say “scale” and save the day. For example, we sort of know that there’s as much (so-called) “space” between atomic particles as there is between the planets, and maybe stars—again, in terms of scale and not actual miles or lightyears. But that’s not the practical card I want to play. Quality of life in the moment is. And deep experience. But for now, I’m more interested in getting (or remaining) partially lost in the details—an important aspect.
So back to our (now) ocean of jello beneath that great staple-lid, and to our city of teeming something-or-others which we could call pelagiacter ubique bacteria (400-900 nanometers long, and one of the smallest known living things). But better to go with “Nanobes,” whose structural existence is confirmed (at a mere 20 nanometers), yet whether or not living (by present scientific standards) remains inconclusive.
Why select something that is more questionable? more unverified? Again, we’re looking for ways in which to sustain being somewhat lost, that way we have a foot in each world, so to speak, of the known and unknown. Hence, the story of the questionable Nanobes (over the blatant and now almost-cliché, 50x-larger pelagiacter ubique bacteria) which will hopefully lead us, or point us (like the image of a symbol) the way further down this path that eventually dissolves, and us with it, into the pure experience. Yum. By the way, this is how my meditation-practice functions, a mantra (sonic image) that tangibly occupies the awareness and then, like a symbol’s image, dissolves and carries my awareness over with it, into the dissolution. Also, yum. I mention this because awareness, and methods of cultivating our faculties of awareness like meditation, exercising the body, reflection, thoughtfulness, etc., deepen our relationship to the concrete details, indeed, pervades them. And when complemented by conceptual knowledge of the structural mechanics of what an image can do, its role in symbol and archetype, we have an effective formula for landing ourselves in the experience beyond the image.
Okay, almost there—to the “practical,” that is. One last piece to add to our specific-detailing of our analogy: the very relevant ALH84001—a meteorite ejected from the body of Mars from some probably ancient unwitnessed impact-event and later found in Antarctica, harboring, you guessed it, Nanobes. So at least we now know our “wall” is made of rock. And that our staple and stapler are of heavier-duty than the ones at the office.
Okay, I’m done. There’s the tangible bedrock: plenty of specific, although arbitrarily (and imaginally) rendered imagery and concept, embedded in a more thorough narrative, albeit mostly expository.
So, what of the practical? How does the imagery and intel of Nanobes and (potential) microscopic space-aliens teeming upon ALH84001 at the Johnson Space Center in Houston help me file my taxes, take out the recycling on Thursdays?
One answer: attentiveness and thoughtfulness—i.e., interaction with the concrete detail, that’s the first step.
The second answer, and step, is by analogy (and not metaphor). One way to approach analogy is as a structural aspect of metaphor—its base skeleton, so to speak. To clarify analogy with an analogy: analogy is to metaphor as sign is to symbol. But news alert: analogies and signs are not the devil. They are structure—conceptual centers of gravity that provide enough intellectual “foundness” to keep us from being fully lost in the endless images, and that sustain our precious condition of remaining partially lost which is also partially found—basically, the human-condition in a nutshell.
And what of archetypes, symbols, myth, for the layperson who has not made a profession of this kind of stuff?
Process. Process of attentiveness, thoughtfulness, to the concrete, to the myriad details, the images (of all five categories—i.e., perceived by all five senses) that we encounter, alongside a recognition and understanding of the mechanical functionings of conceptual organizing structures—recognizing that these exist and function somewhere in the interface or overlapping of our awareness with the images we encounter. And good to remind Jung’s emphasis of how whether an image functions as a sign or symbol is dependent upon the consciousness of the perceiver.
And, more importantly, to recognize that these “structural functions” somehow participate in the transmutation of image as sign into image as living symbol. That this latter happens, and how it happens, is mysterious. Some call it (and this is approaching it structurally) “seeing through” the images. But first we have to “stick to the images.” And, to approach it mystically and mythically, I can only quote Marie-Louise von Franz quoting Jung quoting some “obscure alchemical text”: “For those who have the symbol, the transformation is easy.”
But let me finish by backing way up, and take out the recycling on Thursday night, while keeping the example of the whole Nanobes/ALH84001 narrative in mind, analogically. What we must do, from our end, in two parts: The first is perceiving the concrete specificity, the last is knowing the structures at work, and somewhat of how they work. And if “how” they work is too ambitious, then simply by wrestling with figuring this out. For that practice adds to our knowing, as well. Like honing on a steep upward slope. By engaging it alone, I have a kind of knowledge, and quite deep, of what a steep upward slope is about.
So, First, the perceiving of concrete specifics and that there is the story of my taking out the recycling, revealed to me by the concrete content that I offer my attention to (and even that I don’t offer my attention to, but won’t touch that now): the trill of cicadas from the neighbor’s yard, rising and falling, spilling over the fence, the stars somewhat dimmed by the ambient house-light, the way the grass gently resists my steps, then gives way, brushing over my bare feet a light coat of dew, which hopefully is refreshing. And increases, however negligibly, the quality of my present moment. After all, it all goes down in the inescapable present moment, which I guess is synonymous with eternity or something like that.
And Last, KNOWING that these “images,” coexisting in their, and my, story—exist in a narrative which also possesses inert, skeletal, conceptual structure that can come to life, as sign can to symbol, and analogy to metaphor, denotation to connotation, so-called “reality” to imagination, mundane to mythic.
I think this is at least the beginning of the formula that leads to the deep water. Both up and running concurrently. At first this requires some work, but as with all things we train in, it begins to flow—all to the improvement of quality of life in the present, to deep, rich experience, which is pleasant to have accompanying us while taking out the recycling. And if this end is not of practical value, then my apologies for the whole Nanobes/ALH84001-analogy which was also an exercise and example in the practice of that first step, attention to concrete detail. I guess we’ll just have to wait till Thursday night to find out.