February 2, 2022 at 4:53 pm #74534
Author, archetypal consultant, and recognized futurist Kristina Dryža is once again our guest in Conversations of a Higher Order for a discussion of “Missteps as a Redemptive Path to Destiny” (click on title to read), her latest offering in JCF’s MythBlast essay series. Ms. Dryža’s work focuses on archetypal and mythic patterns and their influence on creativity, innovation and leadership.
Please remember that this is not an interview. This thread is your opportunity for you to share your questions, comments, and observations about Ms. Dryža’s essay with her (and with each other), which is what makes this a “conversation of a higher order.”
Kristina, thank you for highlighting what is often ignored in today’s success-oriented society, where critics are poised to pounce on any hint of a misstep, no matter how slight. Where would we be without the gift of failure? As I would point out to middle-school students when teaching math, pencils have erasers for a reason: we are expected to make mistakes – that’s how we learn.
But, more than a simple error that helps us learn how to perform a task, I appreciate your focus on those life-changing blunders that help us come to know ourselves:
Parzival teaches us that what appears as a misstep, may actually be the very necessary step of destiny. Everything can be redeemed. Every new moment offers the possibility of a new beginning.”
Half a life-time ago, during my father’s struggle with stomach cancer, I filled in for him on the job to keep his income intact. When he passed away a few months later, I continued in that position (which was really my first big blunder). Over the next couple of years I became used to a level of prosperity unusual for someone in their mid-twenties, though the work I was doing did not speak to my soul – definitely not my bliss.
With my heart not in it, what followed were a series of major missteps. I’ll spare the blow-by-blow details, but in a relatively brief span I lost everything – home, vehicle, income, the respect of family and friends, and even my health (naturally, after my career-related insurance had lapsed). The sense of failure and despair in that moment proved overwhelming.
That fall from grace marked a crucial turning point in my life; despite all the angst and agony at the time, having everything I had counted on stripped away ultimately proved liberating. Previously, not only had I not been following my bliss, but the easy living distracted me from learning enough about myself to have even an inkling of what that bliss might be. Definitely took a few years to find my way back to the Grail Castle, but what I’ve learned about myself, the life I’ve lived, and where I am today would not have been possible without taking the wrong fork in the road way back when.
My background as a teacher tells me that real-world experience provides compelling confirmation of the truths the myths convey. Do you have an example you can share of a time when a blunder turned out to be an essential step in realizing your destiny?February 5, 2022 at 7:59 am #74543
How wonderful to be here with you all again for Conversations of a Higher Order. And thank you for sharing your story, where I nodded my head to every single sentence in a gesture of deep knowing.
Now, in answer to your question, how much time do we have??? I suffer frequently from rumination and obsessive thinking and running ‘would’ve, could’ve, should’ve’ scenarios in my head, which I know can’t change the past. And yet still I valiantly try!!! I have good days and bad days. And like many, I often feel like an outsider aimlessly wandering in the forest picking up the pieces of my ‘mistakes’ and ‘lost opportunities.’ Before I speak to the question, I really relate to this scene in Season 2 Episode 4 of ‘The Witcher.’
Jaskier: What happened to you?
Yennefer: Chaos appears to be done with me.
Jaskier: You’ve lost your magic? Is that even possible?
Yennefer: Go on. Get your gloating in. Time’s limited.
Jaskier: Once upon a time, I would have used this opportunity to call you an empty, lonely, power hungry she-demon, but I’m an artist, Yennefer. It’s my job to put myself in other people’s shoes. Even if they are, in your case, large, clunky, and, I don’t know, probably full of snakes or something. I’m scared too. I’m scared that one day, the muses will stop speaking to me. Because who are we … when we can no longer do the one thing we were put on this Continent to do?
Yennefer: We find a new purpose. A better one. Hopefully.
Jaskier: Hmm. Chaos could never be done with the likes of you, Yennefer of Vengerberg. Of that much, I am certain.
I’m currently going through a situation where it feels that chaos appears to be done with me. And it has reawakened life’s regrets and disillusionments. It’s made me think back to times of past trials and tribulations, wondering how they could’ve been different if I were 100% present. If I was actually ‘there’ and in my body. It’s intensely painful to look back on those moments of yourself at your absolute worst! As Campbell wrote, “Every failure to cope with a life situation must be laid, in the end, to a restriction of consciousness. Wars and temper tantrums are the makeshifts of ignorance; regrets are illuminations come too late.”
How do we live ‘with’ the past, never ‘in’ it? It can accompany us as an echoing, lingering memory, but we ought never to stay in it, though I do seem to have this ferocious loyalty to stewing in regret. Why? A mentor more than once has suggested that I was meant to go and get this far lost off the beaten path. I needed the Parzival experience to develop the courage to seek redemption and to question what’s beyond this temporal existence. To feel that which always is. And always will be.
He reminds me that there’s no other way the situation could’ve been, nor any other way it will be. Every left turn was meant to have me turning left, no matter how much my hindsight bias tells me that I should’ve turned right. I feel that I’ve made so many bad choices. Mistakes that keep tripping me up. A faux pas for every hour of the day it feels. I ache to go back … to revisit … to redo a past that no longer exists.
But I must trust that if I could’ve done it differently, I would have. We are where we’re meant to be. And really, in all honesty, could I have met the situation in any other way? How could I have turned right instead of left when I wasn’t present enough, or sufficiently grounded within my own body, nor adequately empowered to choose differently? Let alone aware that I actually had a range of choices available to me. Maturity can’t be forced. It’s impossible to fill up with life experiences at a greater speed than our nervous system allows. Or through sheer force of will.
So currently I am in the dark forest. I have not found myself back at the Grail Castle. Yet. Nor has chaos gifted me with a new purpose. Yet. But I trust the myth.
Looking forward to being in dialogue with you this week – Kristina.February 7, 2022 at 3:58 pm #74542
I really enjoyed your piece comparing our life journey to Parzival searching for the grail in the forest. Thank you for your insight. I look back over my life and can see specific incidents—circumstances, opportunities, even conversations that I wish I could change and re-do. This is why your thoughts speak to me. You are right. We cannot change the past and it may be that those encounters were necessary to get us where we are now. I have a lot to be grateful for in my life and it has been part of the journey. Please keep writing for JCF.org and I look forward to reading you in the future. Tom CallahanFebruary 7, 2022 at 10:30 pm #74541
I love the image of “chaos being done with me” – a state of grace I have yet to obtain. On the other hand, I don’t find chaos as personally disruptive as I once did.
As for regretting past missteps and worse, that’s not so much a factor anymore, either. Of course there are occasional moments of chagrin when I wake in the middle of the night and find myself thinking of the embarrassing thing I said to that pretty girl at a party thirty years ago – but I’m much more comfortable with my gran mal failures than I once was, an attitude I attribute to Joseph Campbell.
Now Nietzsche is the one and he’s my boy, if you want to know; he says if you fail to affirm everything in your life that has come to you with amor fati (‘the love of your fate’), you have unraveled the whole life. Any significant moment in your life, if it had been the least bit different, the whole life is different from there on. If you say no to any detail of your life, you’ve said no to the whole web because everything is so interlocked. And if you want to get in the way of affirmation, just say no to the failure . . .”
This observation surfaced as I was compiling and editing a book drawn from Campbell’s many interviews and question-and-answer sessions (slated for publication next year). He had just been asked a question about whether he regretted giving up his track career:
I was on the point of making a decision to start into scholarship when I lost one race, and it was the one I really wanted to win. And I’d never lost a race before. I’ve rerun that race five times a week, you know. If I had won that race I would not have given up running, and I would have stayed there as a jock for two or three or four years.
The 1928 Olympics were the next year, but I broke off. In 1928 I was in Paris when all my friends were in Amsterdam. After the games they came down and we had a party, but I wasn’t there at the Olympics. And it was the failure at that point that, from the standpoint of a career—I mean, I know the chap who won the half mile at the Olympics that year. I had run against him many times. And you think, ‘Oh jeez,’ you know? So I didn’t get the Olympics. Thank God I didn’t is what I’m saying now. I have to see that . . .
I would not have had the life I’ve had if I had won that race. I know it.”
Someone asked Campbell if his experience, “affirming what comes to us with amor fati,” requires a leap of faith that in the end it will be better. Joe’s response?
No, no. Not that it would have been better. That it’s good. You affirm it. It may be a mess, but you’re affirming the mess too.”
Now that messed with my New Age sensibilities, that sense of life will be better if we follow our bliss. Joe’s sense of amor fati includes “saying yea to it all” even when life is a disaster and doesn’t get better.
That was a difficult pill to swallow – but saying “yea” to everything that happens, without the expectation that will make life better, actually proves liberating. It doesn’t always lead to a change in external circumstances, but does foster a change in perception that makes one’s reality easier to bear – there is less reacting, and more a sense of self-acceptance, and fully participating, in life, which does feel a damn sight better than the default victim mode so many experience today.February 8, 2022 at 9:23 pm #74540
Stephen, your words and Campbell’s quotes are a healing balm to me. They bring me that much closer to being able to say ‘amor fati’ with heart instead of cognitive dissonance – Kristina.February 8, 2022 at 9:33 pm #74539
Thank you Tom for your kind words. The pain of not living our potential can be unbearable. But we can’t think like that because we haven’t breathed our last breath yet. Often we haven’t had the time, energy, space, or spiritual maturity to even begin to connect to our potential in a way that isn’t laced with shame. Imagining our ‘best life’ is dangerous when we first haven’t even grasped the preciousness of having a life. So yes, gratitude and compassion are essential for not letting the past haunt us – Kristina.February 9, 2022 at 11:19 pm #74538jamesn.Participant
Kristina, it’s so good to have you back again, and the way you illustrate this subject I think is so important right now. So many of us don’t know what is pushing us from the inside, and indeed so often we are unaware as you and Stephen both talk about how the “misstep” can give us a clue. One of the ways Joseph addresses this is by his quotes about what a “personal myth” is; and that by looking back over our lives we can actually see these events that seem like catastrophes are really major clues that help point the way in revealing what our path is telling us.
Stephen’s moving account of his earlier life history is a great example where like for many of us we hit a brick wall before we get the message that our life is asking for something else and we must affirm, find, and follow that inner search for the answers. And also, as Tomcallahan8 mentions we can’t change the past but must use what happened as a clue when we start looking ahead to find our way forward. This grateful: “love of our fate” they both refer to I think could also be seen as our (call) to our inner destiny; and when Joseph mentions his research into the work of: Frobenius, Bastian, Frazer, and Spengler on various occasions; (as well as Jung); these themes seem to bear this out.
For instance, when he asks: Do you know what would sustain you in the face of a total catastrophe where you lose everything you have? And then he says it’s not the 5 values most people usually rely on for their main purpose or meaning in life of: survival, security, personal relationships, prestige, or self-development; but something deeper of more inward value. An inward zeal that drives you mad; something that you would sacrifice your very life for; not something that makes you comfortable, but something that gives you meaning and purpose, something that fulfils you to your very core and sense of existence. Something that pulls you out of yourself that tells you it’s time to leave and find out what this thing is that’s driving you crazy. “Do you know what that is? Joseph says that’s your “personal myth”, and it’s not your career, not your bio or your resume; but what fulfills and sustains you, and it’s not a destination, but a life changing and morphing journey that tells you: “this is what I need and who I am”.
Something I think that confuses us so often is that as our life stages change, we must change and go with it. In other words, as Jung mentions also, the life requirements must match this metamorphosis as we age from that of achievement to that of meaning. “He who looks outward sees; but he who looks inward awakens” Why is this so? Because as Jung also mentions: “we are in a constant state of becoming until we die”. And that is to say that what informs and sustains us must match what our inner world is asking for; not what the outer world deems as important. And that we are each unique individual human beings, and each one of us has a destiny; (if we can find it), and that destiny expresses this unique potential that lies within each one of us. We are not clones, we are not robots, and we are to resist the claims of the outward “wasteland”; with its system of requirements that it says are important; and it indeed is a hero’s journey that calls us from inside to live that life that we hear and feel to the very depths of our soul; even though at the beginning we may not know what that call to adventure really is; we only know we must go and find it.
One of the things I like that is helpful to me he said is we can construct our own individual inner sanctuary or “sacred space” that we can utilize to figure some of these things out. As a matter of fact, Joseph thought doing this was critical if the modern individual is going to have any kind of inward life that helps to provide the meaning and purpose, they may need to navigate with to find their way. What did you do as a child? he asks. There lies one of the clues in finding and constructing one’s own inner world and navigation system; and if they do this something will happen. “Symbols” are good too. If you can find some that help you to identify some of the problems you are having, then you can use these things as tools to help identify and turn them into references that help to point the way out of your dilemma. (One I like is the: “Ariadne Thread”); but of course, there are many others to choose from.
I really like the way you have framed this discussion because you have made it very easy to grapple with; and your clarity is unmistakable in a very warm, comfortable, and apprehendable way. Sometimes these topics can get all tangled up in mythological references with multiple meanings that can sometimes be difficult to unravel and identify the proper references and applications that are being discussed. Thank you for this, and I very much look forward to hearing your thoughts. (Stephen; btw, that was an extremely moving personal account you shared; and I very much appreciated hearing it.)February 10, 2022 at 5:02 pm #74537
Thank you for your lovely words James.
Our wounds often keep us bound and tied, frozen in one era of time and space, to help us discover who we really are. The immobilisation keeps us exactly where we must be to unearth our eternal presence, which lies underneath the caked-on mud that we’ve plastered around what is gold within us. Too often we keep mistaking ourselves as the mud.
The challenge when we’re lost in the forest is to treat ourselves like a newborn baby i.e. tenderly. We don’t get rid of our muddy wounds, instead we experience what they can reveal to us. We get curious about their purpose. We get moved by the soul’s impersonal wisdom. We get to know who we really are underneath all of our defences.
We don’t cure our wounds. They cure us. There’ll always be things that we don’t understand and aren’t yet – nor will ever be – in our realm of understanding. Struggling to understand what the mind can’t means that we’re always in an active fight. A continuously alive war, which exhausts us. We are guided by an invisible string. We all are. We must trust this and put our internal weapons down.
Life provides everything that’s required for the evolution of our spirit. And all evolution is, is love in action – Kristina.February 10, 2022 at 7:05 pm #74536
James & Kristina,
Two incredible take-aways for me from your exchange:
One is James’ observation:
Something I think that confuses us so often is that as our life stages change, we must change and go with it. In other words, as Jung mentions also, the life requirements must match this metamorphosis as we age from that of achievement to that of meaning.”
So easy to forget that change is the one constant – not just in the external world, but within as well.
That’s not easy to accept. I am reminded of some of the initial reaction to The Last Jedi, the middle film in the final Star Wars trilogy, where Luke Skywalker assumes the role of mentor rather than the central character. I read numerous vociferous criticisms on fan sites at the time, complaining that Luke should have been the hero of this trilogy, as in the first three Lucas films (Episodes IV – VI).
I understand their disappointment, but was pleased that the writer and director depicted the interior changes the character had undergone over the course of a lifetime, which served as a mirror for me in which to recognize my own evolution.
And then there’s this statement from Kristina:
We don’t cure our wounds. They cure us.”
Powerful, and poignant. I am reminded of something I swear I read in James Hillman’s work a few decades back, though the exact reference continues to elude me to this day:
“Our wounds are the eyes through which we see ourselves.”
Your observation, Kristina, is liberating (as is your essay), affording us the opportunity to reimagine our lives, past and present. In a literal sense, nothing has changed – but with this shift in perspective, the poison we’d been drinking transforms into the elixir of life, and the whole world opens up
. . . which brings us back to Joe, and this quote of his, which graces JCF’s home page this week:
Blunders are not the merest chance. They are the results of suppressed desires and conflicts. They are ripples on the surface of life, produced by unsuspected springs. And these may be very deep—as deep as the soul itself. The blunder may amount to the opening of a destiny” (The Hero with a Thousand Faces, 42)February 14, 2022 at 5:18 pm #74535
This is very beautiful and poignant Kristina! So do not feel there is much I can add from my thoughts. (Or the usual chatter in my mind heh heh)
Think I wound off on some other tangents when responding to one of your other essays.
But here you have opened this raw but heart felt path and I know many can relate to this.
You started a ripple like a small pebble and with Stephen’s, James and Tom’s responses…yes.
The Resonance is here. I enjoyed reading all of these responses, which again reflect that poignant awareness. 🙏 Beautiful from everyone!
“we don’t cure our wounds. They cure us.”
This feels true…and sometimes one is glad of the scars (grief) though it’s hard to say at its rawest time *care* because sometimes the scars symbolize love and that we loved those who are gone and in reflection for me would have it no other way…if the “scars” were not there I would worry…but the tears and “arrr” heart clench and the smiles, which flicker in between help remind of what is best of being human and then one feels that spontaneous something, which has been there calling all along in the heart (as Parzival felt and realized by reaching out with the question)
For some, those five years of wandering can feel aimless and strange until something inside begins to awake. Or perhaps one wakes to what is already waiting to be noticed?
And then the trick is to find the light or rather feel the light again.
So thank you Kristina and thank you all for this Wake of Ripples (observed and shared with compassion and empathy…so needed now)
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