Saturday, December 10, 2005

What's Your (Arche)Type?

I rarely go anywhere without one of my archetypes.

I've gotten to know my psyche pretty well over the last three or four years. Like any of us, my life has many moments of beauty along with formidable stretches of darkness and confusion. When I went through a particularly bad stretch several years ago -- which turned out to be only the beginning of a journey that brought me here and on which I continue -- I discovered how badly I needed a better way to frame my inner work, my seeking, my quest for self-understanding, so that I could bring to my conscious life all that it deserves.

In doing so, I fell in love with the writing of Robert Johnson, a Jungian analyst who died only in the last few years. His work has been a pillar in my evolution. It is no surprise that one of his heroes was the great Joseph Campbell, creator of the "Power of Myth" work that has been so helpful to many everyday seekers.

What I learned was, if I had no human counterpart who could explain or understand or help me bear my odyssey, I could take up the journey alongside a historical or mythological or literary figure, and that by walking his or her path for a while, I could bring those lessons back to my own experience.

Most of my archetypes are lone wolves. Powerful women that few men will have the nerve to love, powerful men with the ability to get us to see things differently. The only lasting remnant of my Catholic upbringing may be the ability to engage in this practice of turning inward and using my imagination to get beyond fear and keep going.

Now, of course I don't sit around doing this all day, or even have time for it every day, but I find that a little imagination goes a long way. I like the notion Jung created of the collective unconscious -- the idea that timeless themes like love, death, fear, hope, good conquering evil (or light over shadow) belong to all of us and play as our subtext while we go about making our plans and living our daily lives. I love the notion that as I go about writing out the lunch money checks or setting appointments to interview candidates -- tasks that keep my everyday, unromantic life rolling along -- I'm on a parallel inner journey in which the person I'm to become wrestles with any number of challenges along the path toward marrying the Self to its meaning.

What in blazes does all this mumbo jumbo have to do with Bluegrass?

Somehow, back when all this started, nothing reached me the way traditional and bluegrass music did. It somehow seemed the perfect "soundtrack" for this journey. Believe it or not, I had not yet seen T-Bone Burnett's wildly successful adaptation of Homer, "O! Brother, Where Art Thou?" and did not in fact see it until this past summer. Still, I knew of its success, and had to ask, couldn't part of that success be due to more than just the refreshing sound of the mythological Soggy Bottom Boys? Ten million soundtrack copies sold can't be wrong.

At that moment, the journey that began as a charge to regain my authentic Self -- once a little girl spending countless hours wandering the acres of her country home nestled in the rolling Appalachian foothills of Eastern Ohio -- split into two journeys. One was to find my true path; the other, to help lead others to this music, and to what it means for them. I was girded by the knowledge that so many people already hungered for it, and remain pretty convinced that now, more than ever, many Americans are struggling to reconcile their own origins of Self with the fact that in their day to day lives they exist under a relentless counterattack of commercialization, corporate greed, politicism, and the drive to achieve homogeneity.

I wish the seeker in you, readers, the thrill of the journey and the strength to see it through.

Man Of Constant Sorrow
Lyrics & Music : Traditional

Played by Jerry Garcia with David Grisman in 1991, and much earlier with the Sleepy Hollow Hog Stompers and with David Nelson in the 1960s. Sung by Dan Tyminski in the movie, "O! Brother, Where Art Thou?" and more recently played by Phil Lesh & Friends in 2005.

I am a man of constant sorrow
I have seen trouble all my days
I bid farewell to old Kentucky
The State where I was born and raised

For six long years I've been in trouble
No pleasure here on earth I've found
For in this world I'm bound to travel
I have no friends to help me now

You may bury me in some deep valley
For many years where I may lay
Then you may learn to love another
While I am sleeping in my grave

Maybe your friends think I'm just a stranger
My face you'll never see no more
But there is one promise that is given
I'll meet you on God's golden shore


At December 12, 2005 8:48 AM, Blogger Danielle said...

How r u!
Just wanted to say thanks for visiting my blog.
I am going to catch up on your posts now.
Have a great day.

At December 12, 2005 5:34 PM, Blogger Shannon said...

And yet, once again, when I read your thoughts like this, I want to throw my hands up and say, "I give up" (on writing and trying to share my thoughts and musings).

But then again, with time and effort I too will be able to write about my Archetypes with such joy and dexterity.

By the way, in my brief readings of Campbell I long to find my connection to the greater good and world yet often find myself not able to come to common ground with most of the world.

But perhaps therin lies my commonality with most of the world whom I would guess feels the same way.

At December 12, 2005 10:51 PM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Hey, D! Thanks for stopping by. Glad the snow ain't gotcha down, yet.

Shannon, you're silly. My rants and musings are nothing compared to actually writing, say, POETRY the way you've written. What comes out of my head is mostly psychic vomit; sometimes it smells like magnolias, sometimes, like, well, vomit.

I think what Campbell tried to accomplish in that series, and what Jung and Johnson mean, is just that most people don't pay attention to the fact that they have or need Archetypes and don't appreciate their value. In that sense, we do not yet share common ground with most of humanity. But it's not all of humanity that matters; it's the few connections we can make that make life taste so rich and feel so meaningful. Maybe that's why you and I have become like family over almost 20 years -- once that connection is made, we recognize the importance of sustaining and nurturing it.


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