How could we even consider the possibility of any connection between wisdom and virus? Framed as a question, the theme of this blog is intentionally a challenge, which is designed to make us pause. Virus belongs to the lowest possibility of life on the planet, a protein bundle on the very boundary between living and non-living entities. Wisdom belongs to the highest capacity of human reason.
Mary Shelley’s story of Victor Frankenstein retells the Christian story of creation in which Victor Frankenstein is the new creator god who would make use of the powers of science and technology available in his time to create a new race of beings who would never know the stain of death. In her story, the creature that Victor creates abandons, and then would destroy, haunts his maker from the margins where his side of the story waits to be told.
In Mary Shelley’s story, Victor Frankenstein and the ‘Monster’ personify two opposite attitudes toward the natural world. Frankenstein intentionally cuts himself off from the natural order and rhythms of nature, eschewing the beauty of the changing seasons, refusing to be distracted from his work to reanimate dead matter. In his obsession, he adopts a purely utilitarian attitude toward the natural world.
Today, there’s a lot of buzz about mindfulness, which is wonderful. But we often neglect our sleep and dreams. Imagine how much more your life could transform if you brought mindfulness into the third of your life that you spend asleep! Our dreams are like a movie reel of our own deep unconscious imagery.
In the myth, Prometheus, whose name means forethought or foresight, is the creator of humankind but dissatisfied with the lot imposed upon them by the gods, he steals fire from the gods and gives it to mortal beings. Angered by this action, the gods take their revenge through Epimetheus, whose name means afterthought or hindsight.
Without a mythic context as a backdrop for our lives, we are all too easily swept up in the current of the times. This dynamic applies not only to one’s personal life, but also to the collective lives of all of us. Myths are the larger stories that provide context and as such can often have therapeutic value in times of need.
How are we framing this pandemic? Some compare it to a war, or more specifically to WWII. Some use as their measure the seasonal flu or the 1918 Spanish flu. Such comparisons, however, carry with them not only the belief this crisis will pass as did the others, but they also engender the idea that we will be able to carry on as usual once the crisis has passed.
Mary Shelley’s story of Frankenstein is a psychological primer on how we make monsters. The interaction between Victor Frankenstein and the creature he makes enact this drama. Like a mirror, the monster reflects Victor’s horror of his dream to be a new god who would erase death from life.
Our existence is fundamentally interpersonal. Human beings are not isolated, free-floating objects, but subjects existing in perpetual, multiple, shifting relationships. Life is defined by these myriad interactions – by the push and pull of inter-subjectivity as well as the overt and covert social contracts. Through them we realize our incompleteness and vulnerability.
Lucid dreaming is an ancient and revolutionary psychological tool for exploration, which has been scientifically confirmed in recent times. By understanding it as a relational tool, you can move deeper and deeper, achieving new and more powerful realizations. I taught myself how to lucid dream in the spring of 1975. This turns out to be the same spring that researcher Keith Hearne recorded the first ‘eye signal’ of lucid awareness in the University of Hull sleep lab from the sleeping lucid dreamer, Alan Worsley.
In the last few years a resurgence in the nature of narrative, of story and personal and collective identity has gained widespread attention. My interest in one’s personal narrative is tied to the nature and structure of myths, both personal, national and global. So what is it to make a myth and to live by a myth?
A tall, dark-skinned, successful professional woman, Anya grew up feeling she was “too much”. Her body size, feelings, and needs were “too big”. When I’d ask her about her feelings, she reported keeping them “shoved in her body” where she “held on tight”. This manifested in stooping to reduce her height, gathering her shoulders up around her ears, and collapsing in her chest.