Monday, February 27, 2012

Jung and the novel - Powder Dreams

I just finished Powder Dreams by David Ward-Nanney and I found it to be a riveting tale, which I hope to see more of as contemporary individuals search for a life of meaning. It's a deceptively complex book and pushes so many buttons, - so many things to address. The reader can't help but connect with Bo, despite his flaws, despite his mistakes. We want to be him when he's on the slopes, not just with him (until a certain incident); but when he entered analysis - that's when I saw his real strength. There were times I had to put the book down for a short while because I felt squirmy, as if I were sitting in that chair across from Dr. Attfield - I was terrified on a visceral level. 
This book is packed with so much, it starts off kind of laid back, like Bo's lifestyle. But when it picks up, there's so much going on your head is spinning, all these undercurrents: from dangerous deep powder skiing to dealing with for floor of The Chicago stock market' from drug dealers to corporate business and the Martha Stewarts of that world; from fragmenting to finding to pull back together again.

There's commentary galore, but what it's really about is people, how people screw up, how people struggle, how people enter those liminal zones, those transitory grey areas where they don't know what's right for them anymore. 

We come to like and really care about so many of the characters, Dr, Kalb, Pearson, and Claire, Abbie, even Marty, who tries to get what he wants via the wrong methods.  

Bo embarks on lifestyles, a number of diverse lifestyles, widely different from each one previous, lifestyles most people envy, yet he tosses them away, a feeling that "something's not quite right, a yearning for something more, a way to feel authentic and yet still function in the adult world which he avoided longer than most. All set against a rollicking contemporary journey across the United States and beyond, into the internal world, the world of Jung, archetypes and powerful forces: tricksters and puer aeternus, the anima and the hero.When the fissures appear, and everything comes crumbling down  - Bo emerges as someone who can and can't take it - he has bouts of disillusionment with those who he trusted (friends, father, bosses) or those he should respect, he feels regret when looking back on things he would change.

I come to this novel from a variety of viewpoints, early on as the mom of a son who goes for the risk taking  sports, although my son chose car racing and skateboarding - he had the same yearnings, the need for freedom, for speed, for risk and the power of the human body tor endure and outwit them.   

I also approach Nanney's tale simply as a reader who wants to be swept away to another kind of life (which he did) and since I'm also an author and from my experience as an editor at Shadow Archer Press and Fissure Magazine, I read with a more critical eye looking how he connects with an audience, writes technically well, handles plot.  As an editor, I'm always searching for a great story, but most of all,  how he treats and develops his protagonist and characters, giving them obstacles and rewards to ensure their growth as human beings.  

And then I come to his novel as another seeker on the path of Jung.  I've read his books, as well as books about him for 29 years or more.  I've gone through therapy (not with Jungians) three or four times in my life, during crisis periods and loved it, I've studied my dreams and learned to live my life using the Jungian Types, archetypes and techniques most of my adult life.
As I write,  I discover my novels act as stages where my personal archetypes speak from somewhere in my subconscious, even before I realize it. Are we not all enduring the same human struggles going on over the centuries, power, will, the desire for fame, the desire for freedom, love, temptation and regret, forgiveness, hope and trust?
  All of these are human realities, lived and explored from ancient times, exploding or culled form the deepest reaches of our innermost selves.  A self often hidden, rejected and feared.  Yet Bo, rises to the challenge, ever an adventurer, one who learns to manage fear one step at a time, he takes the more difficult path in the office of Dr. Attfield, the most challenging task he will ever attempt, one which could bury him, like Nietzsche, like Goethe, like Morrison and Cobain.  he takes up the task of getting to the other side, a place he sought along,  and is wise enough to seek out a guide, A Jungian analyst.  My only disappointment with the book is how Bo left Dr. Attfield's sessions so abruptly, unfinished, I felt - perhaps there was a complicated transference with the father figure - which he didn't want to address, thereby leaving the therapist before he fully dealt with the father figure. I didn't want the sessions to stop - as I read them, I learned about myself, recognized some of my own repressed complexes, my own resistances. 

The complex and hard to pin Jungian type of therapy is hard to explore in a contemporary novel, without getting the reader lost in terminology or abstract dreams. There are aspects which date back to the archaic, not compatible with  what we would consider everyday life even when it enters such urban  pressure cookers as the stock market and drug world, yet Nanney pulls it off.  He has already led us down the fool's path on the journey and we're helpless to step off, until we too, as readers, endure the trials and powerful transformations of a system compared to the Eleusinian mysteries. I read this over the course of a few very busy days, savoring it, yet wanting to get back to it, even as my mind spiraled reassessing my own path in life.  Don't miss this thought provoking contemporary novel - it could have a  powerful and profound on the way you think and experience life.

A birthday dream from Jung

What a way to start a birthday - a guest appearance in my dreams with Dr. C. G. Jung himself!  Heady stuff!  And I remembered it!  It was a simple, but an unusual dream, not quite pleasant.  I was at the Burgholzi Clinic in Zurich and Dr. Jung asked us to all bring our "patients" into a room so he could see how we were doing.  At first we were all worried, what would all these unusual people do with each other?  Would there be trouble?  Would they get along?
So I left and got my patient (I never saw myself in the dream, I just know it was me in my own skin walking around and doing things. I never talked.)  I came back with my "patient" who was a large teddy bear sort of man, mute, who carried a large mason jar fulls of lightening bugs.  He moves very slowly - as in a dream within my dream, sort of  "not with it," a lumbering giant.  There wasn't much action after this, even when other people brought in their "patients."  We were all rather mesmerized by the beauty of the light in the jar, but also the bittersweet sadness of them being trapped in a jar.  The man, himself, was sad and poignant, not quite sure what to do.

Well, if this isn't a call from Dr. Jung for me to wake up and get my archetypes ("patients") to get together and have a chat! But it's frightening to think that if all these patients are my archetypes, then are all the individual analysts who treat these patients split off too?  That's why I need Jung to get all these analysts to talk to each other before they can help their "patients!" I see the jar of butterflies  as "illumination/enlightenment" trapped in the jar, beautiful but sad and wrong.  The man - I guess a big lumbering part of me, my "depressed, confused" self  isn't sure what to do - he wants to keep the illumination so it won't go away, but he too is sad they are trapped. 

I am in one of those transitional times, turning 61 today, walking the road to individuation, charting my dreams each morning, taking time to ruminate and figure them out, reading lots of books, by, on, about Jung. It's a time when I feel as if I'm running out of time.  I need more time to work with my clients, to spend with my daughter, son and granddaughters, to teach my oldest granddaughter more about art and writing, to finish two novels and edit three, as well as write a fifth which is already in my head, to draw, to paint, to visit far away friends.
 I've been reading Pilgrim now having finished Powder Dreams (review to come soon I promise) and Jung is a character in Pilgrim, who is treating a mute.  The lightening bugs in the jar came from a movie I took my granddaughter to see on Saturday, Journey to the Center of the Earth 2, where there were lightening bugs in jars.  The large teddy bear man I do not know.  He's not one of the archetypes I recognize.  The patient in Pilgrim is not a large teddy bear like man, although he is tall. My father was not a large teddy bear like man. Since I'm very short, I have never dated very tall teddy bear like men - so this part has me stumped.

Could this be an aspect of my Self?  I know a bit about Jung's techniques but only from reading books. I know I've been a wee bit fractured (well, maybe more than that lately)  Jacob - my animus, a Hermes, trickster, a witty instigator and courageous change-monger type figure, who has been popping up in everyday life when I least expect it, saying things I'm not smart or courageous enough to say, sometimes shocking people, sometimes causing trouble.  And then my editor archetype, bossy, controlling but really wanting the best for people - only from her perspective has been flashing her persona as well.  But Ishtar prevails in the evenings or early mornings, when I'm alone, reading, thinking, going into the depths, writing my dreams down and using active imagination when I'm awake, which sometimes even appears when I'm not looking for it. (which is one of the best gifts while I'm writing a novel, but I'm only writing in spurts now, mostly just thinking).
 I wish there was a Jungian analyst in Greenville, because I'd be there in a heartbeat. But the nearest one is in Asheville, NC and I've researched them and may try and start with one.  But it would be so much easier in Greenville?  Why can't this city be as progressive as Asheville.  More than 100 people showed up for George Frein's talk on Jung's Red Book at our museum!  So now I throw a tantrum like a spoiled child.  I am however also looking into a dream group and hope to start when they begin their next session.

So my plan is to keep thinking about this dream, do research on lightening bugs and their metaphors and symbolic meanings (I learned from Pilgrim that the goddess, Psyche is symbolized by butterflies) and hope that a future dream will help me talk to the silent man and see if he thinks the lightening bugs might be even more beautiful flying free around all of us in the room. I may even have to draw this one to make it even more graphic in my mind - get the two hemispheres of my brain to figure this all out.

Maybe, Dr. Professor Jung will grace me with his appearance once again!
  p.s. Anyone who knows me, knows I am addicted to pomegranate seeds  (recovering Persephone)  and yesterday (before this dream) my granddaughter and I had an adventure at Trader Joe's. And guess what she found for both of us? Dark chocolate covered pomegranate seeds! Is this git or temptation from the synchronisitic universe?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Powder Dreams by David Ward-Nanney

My Amazon package arrived with three great books on Thursday.  I just started Powder Dreams that night and have only had evenings to read it after work, but I'm already along for David Ward-Nanney's wild ride. Be forewarned, there are a few mild spoilers in there. The style is more straightforward than I've been reading lately (what with rereading some of my favorite books by A.S. Byatt and Iris Murdoch.  So I was in for a bit of a culture shock, but the story is a great story so far and I haven't even reached the Jungian part yet (a realistic section about the protagonist undergoing analysis, form what I've read in the reviews by Jungian analysts), which was why I bought it.  Since my son is a skateboarder, I can relate to how he writes about skiing to a degree - I know it;'s not the same but there's an element there that draws people like my son to being able to ride the "air," not to mention the whole aspects of speed and control.
Ward.-Nanney's description of being buried beneath an avalanche was a revelation and frightening at the same time.  I can't believe his ability to reason while in such a situation.  The one part of his brain was so professional, so oddly detached, allowing him to think and find a way to let his skiing buddy rescue him.  A brilliant piece of writing so far - gonna go off and see how much I can read today in between movies with my granddaughter, Kendall. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Individuation after mid life

The Individuation Process - one of the most important aspects of Jung's work, up to which all his techniques, methods, agonies and mistakes, insights and writing lead, is said to be the journey in the second half of life.  While the first half of life is a  Hero's Journey, the fool stepping out into outer world to develop an ego strong enough to withstand the descent into the unconscious, the second half of life is an entirely different kind of journey, sustained and only effective in the inner world as a search for the true self and a spiritual nature, which is not respected or supported in the outer world, but is necessary for teaching the younger generations and the healing both of the self and of those one encounters, perhaps even the world despite the limitations of society.
Without the Hero's journey, individuation is  a precarious path, one which can lead to wholeness and authenticity or to destruction as in the case of the Neitsczhes, Morrisons, and Cobains.

I've been on this spiral journey for years now, often stepping off to embrace life on a more simplistic level,  but the nudge comes, often from a depression of a unexplainable lethargy.  I stop listening to music, avoid writing, stop cataloging my dreams. Often it is some synchronistic event which kicks me "awake" and then I can't turn back.  That event this time was the lecture on Carl Jung on his Red Book. It has set me off on a whirlwind journey this time, back to the realms of Ishtar and Hecate, Orpheus and  Hermes, and a return again to Lily, Jacob, and writing more about Alex and Mavis of my published novel Shaman Circus, and an unfinished second novel Shaman in Exile. 
With the sight of so many people at the lecture on Jung and all those who joined the webinar  on the movie, A Dangerous Method, at the Asheville Jung Center, as well as carried on a highly animated conversation on the website's blog, I felt like I'd find what I'd hoped to find more than 20 years ago, people in the area interested in Jung. I even started looking for a Jungian therapist in the Greenville area, but unfortunately cannot find one, or even a discussion group - not unusual in the type of city Greenville is and the fact that most of those interested in Jung are introverts and not likely to shout of their interest to the outside world. So it looks like I'll have to revert to my usual methods which I came by out of desperation but ha e since discovered are techniques Jungian analysts suggest to their patients - painting, writing, poetry, recording and examining dreams,active imagination (which I've done often since being a shy and introspective child), even dance.
Introverts tend to find the path of individuation quicker than extroverts, who feel comfortable in and who rely on the outside world. And while my childhood was lonely and painful as an extreme introvert, I am grateful now. Turning inward is natural to me and to accomplish the lifelong task of individuation - the wholeness of the self, as opposed to the fractured person we often become thanks to the pulls of various aspects of society, we must be able to go inward - into the "pit" (as I call it), the dark and frightening places, the basements and caves for that is where we meet the sides we have repressed - but along with their frightening actions and aspect, they offer gifts, gifts of pieces of ourselves who we've cast off, judging them unfit for social consumption - which often is suggest by a society threatened by change.
  I hoped it would happen and it did - re-reading lots of Jung, alongside novels (currently Babel Tower) by A.S, Byatt, with Jungian undertones sets of dreams.
I've been really fortunate that in the midst of a couple of very stressful weeks at work in finding the best ways to care for my clients (I still find it out that I'm now a civil servant who can't talk about their job in any detail) I'm surprised that lately I've stopped dreaming about work and am dreaming some of those big dreams, Jung wrote of.  They're easily recognizable to anyone who has kept dream journals off and on for more than 30 years. My dreams often have the same elements, such as water, sometimes calm and welcoming like a pond, which often means good things to me or at other times wild and rushing oceans taking over whatever house I'm in during the dream. The night before last it was the basement of a cottage without a cottage on top -  that ones easy to figure out.  There were these huge bashing waves, like tsunamis hurling massive amounts of huge tree trunks as a if a log jam had just been broken up and they were curling to crash into the place and bury it when I got out the back door. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Jung's influence on the Novel - a plan

I've devised a new plan of study which I think will be highly entertaining and enlightening for me as a novelist (attempting to finish two novels and edit another.)
 I can't believe I've never though of it before. But it will be a study of novels influenced by Jung o the type of thought Jung taught. The idea came to me thanks to an amazing confluence of events, books, music influences brings the spiral around to one of those pivotal transitory times.  In the past few weeks, I've attended the Jung webinar on the film, A Dangerous Method, read a ton of books on Jung and by Jung, taken my granddaughter to art shows, cello concerts and have just had fun playing with her and her Monster High collection - all circling around, as Jung liked to do in his writings to view a concept from every possible angle.  Of course, with me the astrological and alchemical aspects are always flitting through my mind as I dive in and then attempt to stand back and observe. Books are once again fining their way to me after being referenced in some other, sometimes obscure volume and some quite by accident. New authors and old friends.  So now I also have a cache of Jungian style novels waiting for me even as I attempt to catalog and perhaps review the many in the past I've enjoyed and the particular stand outs (most notably, The Magus by John Fowles (unrevised edition - by far what I consider the best novel using Jungian approaches ever written - the novel which changed my life and which I read every year), Cymical Wedding and Alice's Masque by Lindsey Clarke in addition to The Virgin in the Garden and a number of other books by A.S. Byatt, not to mention books by Iris Murdoch and Doris Lessing. These all led, or sometimes even shoved, me onto my own particular journey into Jungian though and my own subconscious.  It helps that my dreams are cooperating as well, and I've once again started a dream journal, which I'd out away for a number of years.
The books I have waiting for me at the moment are Lindsay Clarke's, The Water Theatre, Timothy Findley's,  Pilgrim (where Jung is an actual character in the book) and Powder Dreams by David Ward-Nanney, where one the characters enters analysis, a topic which often defies description).   
Reviews and perhaps comparisons to come.
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