As this week draws to a close on this very insightful discussion; I want to add a few footnotes that I have been thinking about on this topic concerning: cemeteries, meaning, mortality, and legacy for we all with grapple with this subject in one way or another as a fact or consequence of the living of our lives. In other words, as the curtain of our lives draws to a close, we are compelled to ask ourselves: “What is the meaning of my life? What do I leave behind as my legacy for others? Is it a boon, a story, a task completed, a family or children to which my life draws meaning, or perhaps some other nebulous or undefined aspect from which I drew purpose to which my life was tethered? Perhaps a story unfinished, or a road taken that ended badly?
So often society sends us messages that a life worth living is something “grandiose”, some heroic act or accomplishment that promotes celebrity or turns one’s self-image into a persona mask that hides what is really behind the facade. The masquerade of surface display over which the choreography of our everyday life can become inflated.) Jung warns us not to mistake this veneer for who we really are, for in later life what is behind this mask begins to show through and we must integrate this reality of our shadow side to become whole. In other words, we may not be who we think we are, and part of the task of our journey is to come to terms with this other side of our nature.
So many things in the media for instance “mistake a hero for a celebrity”, and they are not the same. As Joseph mentions to Bill Moyers in “The Power of Myth”, the hero goes for something that benefits others as well as him or herself; and the hero is “not a brand”, but an archetype or mode of experience of transcendence that wears many faces that refers to that aspect potential in all of us. So often I think many of us see our lives in such a way that unless some kind of victory or accomplishment is achieved that our life might be seen as a failure. (In my view that is mistaking the act for the intent.) How many parents, teachers, friends, and others whom we have known through which our life has been enriched; that without knowing them or having them in our lives for whatever brief moment we’ve been allowed – our life would be so much poorer.
Every life has value and is worth remembering, yet how many people die and the life they lived disappears into the ethers. The homeless many times have no grave markers that they were here. Cemetaries sometimes disappear that contain the graves of countless individuals over time are gone forever without a trace for whatever reason. Indian burial sites torn up for some kind of development of one type or another. Civilizations come and go, yet we stand on this very same “timeless ground” they once occupied.
We look to the stars for answers to these huge questions about the meaning of our existence and the overwhelming experience that we are but grains of sand on the endless shores of time and what it all means, and yet we get silence. These questions are not new, but the same ones that man has asked throughout human history. And wars have been fought about which God or belief system we must follow. But Joseph mentions in numerous places throughout his work that “we” supply the answer of what our life means, not the “thou-shalt” system of some religion, priest, or guru. And the meaning must come from us, from our experience, from our compassion and empathy for others, from the trials and tribulations we endure. From the alchemy of our struggles to find out who and what we are, and that the rapture and horror of our experience of life: “is” the gift; “right here – right now”. Not in heaven at some future date; but in our journey/process of now.
He mentions “time” is a duality, and duality always brings one side losses and one side wins. But the experience of our life and its’ purpose lies in the middle way. That the “epiphany” revelation of the transcendent function; (which Jung talks about); comes from holding the tension in our psyche between the opposing warring sides of our individual crisis when we are being pulled apart, and the symbolic realization which unites these opposing realities into a new way of being or thinking dissolves the blockage that keeps us out of our Garden. (The Garden is here spread upon the earth, but men do not see it.); is the biblical quote he uses. But the journey to getting there to find this Holy Grail through all the trials of the Dark Forest that Parsival struggles through is the dark night of the soul that must be battled though. We go down into the depths of our inner psyche to slay our inner Dragons and personal demons, and by doing so we “earn” the answer to our quest through our struggles, and this hero element is in every one of us as we ask these eternal big questions about: Cemetaries, existence, and what it all means.
I so very much appreciate John’s and Stephen’s insights concerning my earlier questions for they helped me resolve a number of internal issues I have been struggling with concerning this topic. And I hope my humble entry makes a bit of sense. Namaste