Forum Replies Created
July 27, 2022 at 4:11 pm in reply to: Truth or Consequences,” with Gabrielle Basha, MFA” #74694
Stephen, I’m glad you mentioned extremist movements, especially the fact that they’ve moved beyond simply gaining steam and are now a major component of our social and political landscape, with a grasp on our shared future. It makes me think of Jung’s emphasis on the difference between individuals and individuation (emphasis mine):
“It is obvious that a social group consisting of stunted individuals cannot be a healthy and viable institution; only a society that can preserve its internal cohesion and collective values, while at the same time granting the individual the greatest possible freedom, has any prospect of enduring vitality. As the individual is not just a single, separate being, but by his very existence presupposes a collective relationship, it follows that the process of individuation must lead to more intense and broader collective relationships and not to isolation. . . .”
The freedom is what stands out to me, here. What we see in these extremist movements in the US is the absolute lack of such freedom, even as they claim it as their most precious value.
While I saw the MythBlast as an opportunity to discuss how we might focus on growing the healthier side of community, the truth is that most of my time—both personal and professional—is spent thinking about how to battle the mis- and disinformation that works as a gateway to extremism.
The methods used by white supremacists in the US, for example, can seem slap-dash but are incredibly pernicious, fueled by misinformation campaigns on virtually every internet surface. True statements such as “many manufacturing jobs have moved to Asia,” for example, are twisted to put the blame on immigrants or foreigners rather than on the shoulders of the person in charge—as it often does come down to only one or a few people who make this decision, and always to line their own pockets.
I love that Campbell brought this up specifically, and I so appreciate you linking that in! So not only is myth weaponized but, by extension, our own human nature. One of the most heartbreaking things for me is knowing that the loved ones who have been pulled into these Shadow communities are the only ones who can get themselves out. As a culture, as a country, as a global citizenry, it’s imperative that we continue attempting to see all colors of the refracted prism, and to keep our friends from the precipice if they start falling victim to thinking there’s just one. This collective responsibility to and for one another is what’s taken the hardest hit as we’ve been literally and figuratively kept farther apart by the pandemic.July 26, 2022 at 1:56 pm in reply to: Truth or Consequences,” with Gabrielle Basha, MFA” #74698
Thank you @jamesn., for this extension of the topic and for your kind words. One of the wonderful things about the MythBlast series is also its most challenging: the pithiness necessary to introduce and complete a thought within a topic! One of the reasons I’m so grateful for COHO.
I love this exploration of the Jungian discussion to be had around lie vs. metaphor. I absolutely agree that there will be shades of disagreement around the details of truth, but my main concerns in this piece are the facts that are subverted because they are uncomfortable. I want to tread lightly with respect to COHO’s rules around discussion of current/political events, but I will say this: Turning away from the challenge of facing our shadow self creates the rifts between us, but when this rift serves the minority in power and maintains the status quo, there’s a concerted effort to keep the general population from recognizing (and realizing) their power over their own fate.
Indeed, the religion question *is* relevant, as it’s generally accepted that most (if not all, but I’m not by any means a religious scholar) religious texts rely heavily on the reader understanding metaphor, and it’s when we take the words literally that we end up defending the indefensible. The Truth of Creationism shouldn’t be put forth as a counter-argument to the facts of Evolution, to use your example—it not only ignores science, but diminishes the power of the metaphor of Creation. Likewise, if we sit with the science but have none of the story, we’re missing a vital piece of what makes us human!
Jung’s point about Truth as a prism really speaks to this, and I think to what you’re saying as well: The light is refracted, so some believe there’s only blue light of science or red light of metaphor, when the reality is: It’s both, and it’s more. But this reality is uncomfortable, maybe involves travel and reading, time and energy, and other things people either don’t want to spend time on or (often, now, by design) do not have the ability to spend time on. Who benefits from a population who only sees one color of light at a time?
I know this is only scratching the surface of your response, but I hope it speaks to what you’re getting at!July 24, 2022 at 10:55 pm in reply to: Truth or Consequences,” with Gabrielle Basha, MFA” #74701
Stephen, thanks as always for the warm welcome — it’s a joy to connect with the community!
And you’re not off-base a bit. I especially like your comparison with the Tao. That, to me, is what makes the concept of truth such a tricky one, and gets to the heart of the disconnect: do we even have shared definitions to the words we use? We’d hope there’s overlap, but what I wrote about this week has been percolating for a while, and I suspect is a relatable question for many of us, because it feels less and less like we have anything in common with the people we disagree with.
The difference between what I see as truth vs. capital-T Truth (which you quite rightly identified as archetypal) is best explained, wouldn’t you know it, by one of my favorite Campbell quotes from his conversation with Bill Moyers. While I use truth as an analogue for universal fact, the archetypal Truth is the type we find in story—emotional truth, the truth of the human experience, etc.:
“Mythology is not a lie; mythology is poetry, it is metaphorical. It has been well said that mythology is the penultimate truth –– penultimate because the ultimate cannot be put into words. It is beyond words, beyond images, beyond that bounding rim of the Buddhist Wheel of Becoming. Mythology pitches the mind beyond that rim, to what can be known but not told.”
If I had another thousand words, I might have gotten even more granular about all t/Truth’s flavors, because that’s really where we find ourselves now. I almost feel like Campbell’s description of Truth has been weaponized, or at the very least conflated, in a really unhelpful way, with fact. A good comparison could be emotions: Our emotions are real—we feel them, they impact and are impacted by our physiology, they can steer us if we don’t keep them in check—but they are not reality. They’re a response to reality, but they themselves are not reality. Archetypal Truth, I think, is like this in the way it relates to fact—and we can share Truth through story.
Stephen, thank you so much for the introduction and the thoughtful comments and question.
I want to start by saying I’m thrilled you’ve picked up on the connection to Station Eleven and this weekend’s holiday (it feels way too on-the-nose to call it an Easter egg, but…). It was challenging for me to keep my essay this week brief because there’s SO much that can be said about the Christian allegory in Mandel’s excellent novel: from the plague to the title’s reference to sacrifice (and life after death!), the text is brief but incredibly rich. I found myself thinking about it for months after reading it and before even knowing there was a TV show in production.
As for how we ourselves can be more Fool-ish, there’s so much to be said about bravery in art—Leigh Melander’s MythBlast kicking off our April theme two weeks ago really struck a chord with me. The invisible spine within my own essay is this concept that the courtly fool, the jester, is the only one in the room who can speak truth to power. The jester is seen by the court as simply the clown, but in reality they have to be absolutely surgical with their calculations in how to use truth to get laughs and not literally lose their head in the process. They have to be both carefree and calculated at the same time, all the time. They have to have the tension of a survivor. In this way, the fool in the castle, the actor on the stage, and the survivor on the post-apocalyptic road have to have the same mindset.
These people can’t have their guard down, and for some of us, things aren’t *quite* that dire right now, but for many others, they absolutely are. People around the world at all times are in the position to ask themselves every day: Is my art worth my safety? Is my expression worth my life? You have to make those decisions for yourself. And people who decide no, it’s not worth it, you know, we can’t possibly blame them. Those who decide yes, it is worth it, become legends. Or, of course, are remembered as fools. It depends on who’s telling the story.
(I’d also be remiss not to point to the book Art & Fear as the formative text for me while I was studying art history for my undergraduate degree. Anyone interested in this concept who hasn’t read it should pick it up ASAP.)
I’ve always admired the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of Stoppard’s play, not only because it’s a very funny show but because he portrays them with such genuine curiosity and depth of wonder. That is something I try to remind myself to carry with me. It’s something I really love about talking to children. We should all strive to have the Fool’s sense of wonder.March 17, 2022 at 1:39 pm in reply to: The Power of Tenderness: Ted Lasso, Grail Hero,” with Gabrielle Basha” #74216
Stephen, I’m so happy you’ve come back to this one! I love that Ted Lasso is still on our minds months later.
I did want to touch on Ted’s static first season: specifically, I want to draw a distinction between Ted himself changing and Ted’s full character being revealed to the audience. I will admit he gives way to change in accepting his divorce, but most of the revelations of the episode are actually just aspects of the character that were hidden from the audience until now: the panic attacks, the realization (or proof) that not everyone loves Ted’s endless positivity. Ted’s acceptance of his divorce is a sort of quest acceptance — a first step on the road to transformation, to being open to transformation.
It was a great setup for things to come. Maybe I’ll write a follow-up now that most have us seem to have seen Season 2. A LOT going on there to chew on!August 26, 2021 at 2:54 pm in reply to: The Power of Tenderness: Ted Lasso, Grail Hero,” with Gabrielle Basha” #74221
You’re absolutely right. We can do only what’s in our power to be more open, more compassionate, but we still need to protect ourselves. Think of the scene where Ted beats Rupert at darts to keep him from the box for the season: Ted never raises his voice. He never makes ad hominem attacks. He even has the humility and intelligence to let Rupert think he’s winning. This is a great example of how Ted uses his power of observation — much like we were discussing in another comment comparing him to the Agatha Christie Detective, Hercule Poirot — to protect himself and others without being fueled by fear.
Roy is fueled by anger, certainly, but he’s curious. Anger alone isn’t toxic; in fact, I would say it’s vital to challenging systems of oppression. He isn’t driven by fear. You can feel whatever you’d like, but being measured in your response it what achieves results.
Thank you for your contributions to this conversation! I’m glad to be able to talk through this outside the bounds of what a 1k word essay allows.August 26, 2021 at 1:06 am in reply to: The Power of Tenderness: Ted Lasso, Grail Hero,” with Gabrielle Basha” #74223
@Jamesn, I’m so sorry, I thought I replied to you but it looks like I didn’t! Thank you so much for your kind comments, and absolutely agree with your mentions of Atticus Finch and the other excellent film/books. There are some fantastic examples of masculinity that doesn’t hinge on power and control above all else, but on humility and wonder. It shouldn’t be a performance, though, or one more thing for us to live up to; rather it’s a stripping away of the barriers that keep us from being these things naturally. I do believe people are naturally good. I know that’s not universal, but that’s my impression after working with children for many yearsAugust 25, 2021 at 3:57 pm in reply to: The Power of Tenderness: Ted Lasso, Grail Hero,” with Gabrielle Basha” #74225
I love your parallel to Inspector Clouseau, who was largely inspired by one of my very favorite fictional characters, Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot. Talk about reserving judgment! Things are not always what they seem, and you must keep an open mind to get to the truth.
You’ve really touched on something I’ve been thinking about lately with de-centering the story from Ted to any of the other characters, especially female characters. Maybe one day I’ll be able to write a piece about Rebecca and Keeley, a fascinating dynamic that packs a major punch in understanding the feminine — but also, vitally, the masculine as it presents in someone outside of the male characters. You’re quite right in calling Ted the Call. It was difficult for me to see how Ted himself changed over the course of the first season, rather he was a catalyst for change in others. I’m about to start season 2, and I expect to see some development there for him.August 25, 2021 at 3:46 pm in reply to: The Power of Tenderness: Ted Lasso, Grail Hero,” with Gabrielle Basha” #74226
Well, I can’t deny that Ted has some real cringe-y turns of phrase! He’s a comedic character, after all, definitely a caricature of the type of person we might admire in real life. Either way, to your point around judgment: Ted isn’t judging people, but situations. Judgement is very important, as in use-your-best. Ted encourages us to reserve your judgement of people, and assume good will when possible. (When not possible, completely hustle them at darts.)
You bring up a great point around kindness and strength, and if I had more space in my piece I would have loved to compare the kindness of Ted with the kindness of a totally different character: Roy Kent.
Roy is a great example of a character who is kind but not nice. He’s angry, he’s guarded, but as the captain of the team, he also looks out for his players – even the kit man, Nathan, who’s being bullied by other players. He’s furious Ted isn’t handling the situation, and so stands up to Jamie (the perfect example of this toxicity I’m talking about) to get the team to fall in line.
A lot of toxicity is based in fear. Jamie reveals he’s competitive and aggressive because his father literally beat these qualities into him, telling him it’s the only way to be a man. This doesn’t only hurt Jamie as an individual, but the entire team suffers when he puts his ego first. In fact, when he’s playing for Manchester (Man City! Fantastic pun there) and does pass the ball to a teammate, it results in a goal and Man City taking the game. Ted comes to congratulate him (an honorable thing to do after his team has lost) and sees Jamie being berated by his father for passing the ball – even though it won his team the match.
What’s the risk inherent in passing the ball? Why be so concerned about “looking weak”? What’s the fear here? The toxic masculine must remain on top, untouchable, or risk falling lower in the pecking order and being pecked themselves, even if this isn’t a risk in their environment.August 24, 2021 at 9:19 pm in reply to: The Power of Tenderness: Ted Lasso, Grail Hero,” with Gabrielle Basha” #74232
I think I get what you’re saying, @drewie. Let me know if I’m off base.
You’re right about the world being unforgiving; most people don’t get a second shot at the Grail Castle. There is a cost to choosing kindness over competition, and we get the chance to make that choice over and over every day. I don’t expect that being tender means being naive; Ted said to “be like the goldfish” and forget past hurt, which feels naive. He also says to “be curious, not judgmental,” and “do the right-est thing,” which are both much closer sentiments to the one I hope readers take away from this essay. There are lots of reasons, situational and institutional, that allow Ted to come out ahead. If all of us bent a bit more and had that same compassion for ourselves and others, we may be surprised what would happen.
To be blunt, “nice guys” don’t finish last because they’re nice, but because it’s a quality that isn’t valued in our society as much as competitiveness, power, and rugged individualism. (Note: this is a totally different conversation if we talk about “nice guys” in the romantic sphere, so please take all of the above as regarding more concrete endeavors! I’m talking specifically of career here, based on what we see of Ted and Parcival’s aspirations.)August 24, 2021 at 9:09 pm in reply to: The Power of Tenderness: Ted Lasso, Grail Hero,” with Gabrielle Basha” #74233
Well, not quite. What I’d like to get across here is that there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer. The nature that Ted and Parcival both seem to share is that of openness, of asking questions. Why does Parcival fail when he fights his nature, yet Ted follows his nature and still fails? The Grail King is not one man, and the Wasteland is complex, even if the solution itself is simple. In writing this piece, I began thinking of Ted as an evolution of Parcival: perhaps he did learn why it was important to follow his gut instinct earlier, before we met him, which leads to him believing he can save Rebecca the same way. What Ted learns is that there isn’t one solution to healing others, and there’s a certain amount of responsibility they have to take on themselves. How could Parcival, from his perspective, have known a simple question would heal the Fisher King? You live, you learn, and hopefully you get the change to get up and try again.August 23, 2021 at 3:10 pm in reply to: The Power of Tenderness: Ted Lasso, Grail Hero,” with Gabrielle Basha” #74236
Thank you for your comment, and your question. Both these men are strangers in an uncertain situation far from home. While Parcival fights his nature to appear as a proper knight, Ted leans into his nature as something of a crutch. Whatever the reason, he makes the opposite blunder of Parcival: rather than holding it all back for appearances, he lets it all out, appearances be damned.
Whereas Parcival would have been able to heal the Grail King with his nature, try as he might, Ted will not be able to do the same with Rebecca. Maybe there was no “What ails thee?” equivalent in Ted’s case. Not to spoil the plot too much, but Rebecca does eventually bend. Ted himself doesn’t heal Rebecca, though his nature does show her there’s another way to live; she’s responsible for healing herself.August 23, 2021 at 2:59 pm in reply to: The Power of Tenderness: Ted Lasso, Grail Hero,” with Gabrielle Basha” #74237
Thank you very much for your kind words – and isn’t it funny how discovering Campbell is like finding a door to a room in your house you didn’t even know was there? His work puts so much else into perspective.
I also love how much our stories have in common. Thank god for mothers!August 22, 2021 at 4:02 pm in reply to: The Power of Tenderness: Ted Lasso, Grail Hero,” with Gabrielle Basha” #74241
Thank you for the introduction, Stephen! I’m glad to be able to talk about this week’s MythBlast with the community. I have to admit, there was so much more I wanted to say, it was tough to keep the word count within bounds.
I was first introduced to Campbell’s work through my mom, herself a myth-minded storyteller and artist. We watched the Bill Moyers special the summer after my senior year of high school and I was riveted. My introduction to Campbell that summer, then to John Berger soon after through Ways of Seeing, was a one-two punch that bust open up my understanding of what art can do.
It feels notable to me that the men I have admired in my early life as a reader and artist have had a gentleness to them, a humility that lets wonder in. As a child of the 1980s and ’90s, for me this includes Fred Rogers, Jim Henson, and Bob Ross: paragons of what masculinity can be in our modern Western culture (being American, I can and will only speak to representation in Western culture, in this piece and beyond, so please keep that in mind). It’s also important to note here that these are all white men who have likely been afforded the relative space and comfort in their lives to be able to remain creative and thoughtful, so there is privilege there as well. This doesn’t preclude anyone from accessing this type of masculinity, but it sure does make it easier for some.
Masculinity manifests in so many different ways, so I want to make a small note about what I mean here: in this essay and for the purposes of this conversation, let’s have a shared understanding of masculinity as this quality in people who identify as men, who move through the world in what’s perceived as a male body.
What’s interesting to me is that we often talk about our “humanity,” whether it’s about finding it, losing it, or having faith in it restored. Unlike masculinity, “humanity” isn’t gendered… and yet I think we are talking about so many of the same qualities. Compassion, humility, kindness, justice, empathy, the desire to do the right thing and support others, to put them before yourself.
I feel compelled to add, too, that this gentleness isn’t just a “nice to have,” but a necessity. Masculinity lacking these qualities is what we call “toxic” for a reason. It’s truly a matter of life and death that the masculine among us conform to more human qualities.
What I love about Ted is his ability to not take things personally, including how people see him. He strives to understand how other people work. He forgives, and it’s genuine. Anyone who’s spent time in an American high school knows sincerity is the death of coolness, and really, what’s more powerful that a person who chooses kindness and understanding over fearful respect and aloofness? To me, that’s bravery.