The Reason Why I Should Wake up @ 3 am to Watch Star Wars’ Last Episode

Just seen images of different cinemas (London and Paris) with young people waiting since as early as 3 am for the early show. Is it a mania? A fad created by the western society in these past forty years? After all, we all contributed with some coins to the amazing 33 bil $ that the franchise amassed from its films, comics, cartoons and merchandises issued under the brand.  On October 31, 2012, George Lucas’s selling of his Star Wars over to Disney for 4. 05 billion dollars made waves in the media. It is not a current event in the movie industry, not in any other industry. The most expensive sell of movie rights so far rightfully entails the question: “Why would Disney be so interested in buying this particular movie?”, and “Why the elevated price?” Obviously, because it is worth it: six parts already and people around the world are still hugely interested. What is it that makes this one stand out among all the other successful movies?

I imagine that, for Disney to have advanced  4. 05 billion, it must be safe to assume that it knows what it’s doing, and it is everyone’s knowledge that, among the immense production of Hollywood’s dream factory over the years, Star Wars stands out by its enormously successful previous six parts. But why should this particular structure be so attractive to the public?

Not many would care to know, but Lucas  acknowledges his source of inspiration to Campbell’s 1949 book The Hero With a Thousand Faces. He just came upon it right in the middle of his first draft of the Star Wars, so his genius idea was to import the ancient myths from that rich mass of myth and folklore and dress them  into the modern dress of the 20th C (and now 21st ) cinematography special effects.

But Star Wars is not about ” myth and folklore”, at least not in the trite meaning that we are used to give to these words. In The Hero With a Thousand Faces Campbell first introduced his theory of the Monomyth, a concentrate of all the hero journeys from the world’s literatures and religions, capturing in it the essential moments, challenges and initiation stages taken by heroes of all ages and cultures found  in world mythologies. Campbell elaborated extensively on the hero archetype and on the archetypal journey of trials and transformation, so much so that no story or heroic movie ever gets to be born in Hollywood unless it follows to the letter Christopher Vaugler’s Writer’s Journey – Mythical Structure for Writers, his textbook for screenwriters (for more info on that, you can go to https://chrisvogler.wordpress.com/) conceived, of course, as a writers’ guide into Campbell’s Hero’s Journey.

The story structure of Star Wars is, of course, the journey of the archetypal hero, one that we all go through in life on our path through transformation, and this is what gives it the special appeal it has over audiences around the world: the hero in us cannot fail to identify him/herself with the universal hero pattern. Whatever the background,  living situation and the nature of our aspirations, truth is that we all get to go through the same many aspects of the human experience – and this is the main and first reason of existence for fiction, this is what we all mainly look for when we go to the cinema or start reading a new book. In Jung terms, the hero is a symbol of the Self where the human part in us aspires to its communion with the Divinity, the divine part in us, after having had integrated all our parts of shadow. In Lucas terms our road of trials awakens us to our communion with The Force, the one that supports us in our eternal battle against the Darkness, mostly the one inside ourselves.

There is another aspect to the genesis of the Star Wars, that of continuity and of transmission communion and ultimately, of unity and oneness. In spite of what copyright and anti-piracy laws claiming exclusive ownership on any individual work, in fact no idea and no work of man is just the result of that one man’s (or woman’s) work or idea, but the influences come from many sources. In this instance we have a happy instance of a conducive thread to follow which shows us the most important influences – that is, only up to a point.

First Lucas, and then Campbell in turn, acknowledges two ideators as his source of inspiration: Joice and Jung. The Monomyth is not Campbell’s own term, but is has been coined by James Joyce in his Finnegan’s Fin, inspired in turn by the German Adolf Bastian’s pioneering idea of “psychic unity of the mind”.  In the true spirit of a Renaissance man, this man has used his extensive knowledge and his direct experience gained through exploring the populations and mythologies of the world along his extensive voyages around the world ( he was a ship doctor) to come up with an unheard of, complex and unifying theory. But Campbell also traveled to Bollingen, Switzerland to meet Jung in person. He uses Jung’s insights into archetypes in his book Pathways to Bliss by introducing Jung’s theory of the constituents of the soul: anima/animus, the shadow, the ego-consciousness to his American readership.

Then Jung, in turn, acknowledges Adolf Bastian’s concept of the “psychic unity of the mind” as being an early source of inspiration for his theory of the unconscious and archetypes.

And think that, without the strenuous work of all these people, we wouldn’t have felt the need and impulse to skip work today, wake up before sunset, or skipping sleep all together, to go watch Star Gates – Episode VII, The Last Jedi. But this effort is just another challenge on our individual Road of Trials??

“#Me Too”, AI and Singularity – a Woman’s Musings

Every woman who has ever been presented with a career/sex quid pro quo in the entertainment industry should come forward and simply say, “Me, too.” Alissa Milano

“#Me Too”, the 2006 dormant  hashtag explodes in October 15th, 2017, to 4.6 million tweets and uses, Facebook posts and shares – in just one day . In just one month it spreas to 86 countries. Is this the first time ever that we hear about widespread sexual misconduct? 

Fr – balanceTon Pork  Can-MoiAussi Ar -أنا_كمان  Chin– #我也是   Sp- YoTambién   Viet-TôiCũngVậy      It -QuellaVoltaChe

 

It’s been barely one month since The New York Times’ article containing allegations of sexual misconduct by film producer Harvey Weinstein, and women – men, too – reacted like never before to a social issue. A tsunami of denunciations of all sorts of blamable acts performed by men against women (with some exceptions) brought to our awareness all levels of unhealthy and demeaning attitudes. The open truth hit us all with the force of a tidal wave, and high-placed, important heads have been pulled out from their previous place of power like bad teeth.

    But why this reaction, and why now? We used to be quite familiar with the way things were, we were OK with bosses pinching women’s derriere inside the meeting room. Nobody was as naive as to imagine that in the case of Clinton and his internship Monica Lewinsky it was she who begged him on her knees, as nobody was naive to believe that those accusations made against Trump before the elections were unfounded. There has been also the  2011 DSK (Dominique Strauss-Kahn) scandal. For having sexually assaulted a hotel maid in New York, the man payed it heavily, he’d lost his position of manager director of the IMF and an almost certain nomination at the French presidency, lost in favor of Francois Hollande in the coming year.

However, none of these pushed, like now, millions of women to stop hiding and come forward with their suffered experiences. What caused it this time? It could be that women are feeling more liberated now in 2017 than they have ever been in their lifetime – in any case, less exposed to shaming and to criticism than they used to.

As a woman, I acknowledge that I have been confronted to all sorts of “manly” attentions, from the mild level and up to the hard one, when I had to ask my husband to intervene. Was I provoking it – their attention, I mean? No, not in the least – I have never thought of myself as someone fatally attractive and irresistible to men. At best, when I didn’t feel insulted by the pressure after saying my stern “no”, I felt mildly satisfied: “Oh, I am turning heads, too.” We are all men and women after all, and there are ways of manifest admiration while still remaining in that respectful zone. I find it natural that a man looks at a woman with certain admiration or gallantry. Women do it too, these days, or am I wrong??

By saying this I’m not justifying men’s abuse of position, power and influence to illicit needs or pleasures – by all means, women should feel free to invite or reject the man or the behavior that they consider unsolicited.

At the same time I would also caution women against using this sudden window, or platform, against incriminating for the sake of incriminating – we wouldn’t want to be transforming our legitimate ailments into wizard hunts, and neither should we abuse this opportunity to settle old accounts with someone who’d hurt us, or caused us some damage in ways unrelated to sexual misconduct – let’s keep things in their separate boxes.

Women have their own part of responsibility for the way things are; in as much as it is true that women ARE being forced to suffer unsolicited attentions, there are also women who  are using their charms in plays of power, in all awareness, to easily climb a hierarchy, to get specific favors, to satisfy specific interests. And this is why I’m not sure that this “me too” meme is all about men abusers and women victims; what about the women in power, also found on the lists of abusers?

An other issue would be that society has always been overly permissive to certain attitudes, deemed totally appropriate and fit for an overt patriarchal context. After all, we have inherited millennia-old patterns of culturally accepted behavior with inflamed gods chasing and impregnating unwilling goddesses . And who dares to go back and watch those old, once endeared movies in any culture, American, French or Italian cinema, with favorite male actors engaged in actions and attitudes that sparked our grandmothers’ admiration, but which would make a girl these days go straight to the police section? How much right do we have now to judge and hit back at actions that were socially appropriate only thirty, or even ten years ago (except, of course, rape and violence that were not, for sure)? Therefore, I find it the more amazing that this something that we even didn’t dare dream to achieve, this sudden awareness to misconduct, we are achieving it, right now.

I believe all this is mostly a social awakening. We need to clarify what can and what cannot be appropriate, to draw the red line between what is acceptable and what isn’t. We need to get rid of this concept of short-cuts to pleasure, in men’s case, or of short-cuts to ascension, in women’s case, we need to start building a culture of fair-play. We should all climb the stairs of prominence and find social empowerment not through “stealing” others’ dignity, not through selling or buying pleasures at the office and inside institutions with destinations other than the designated facilities for that.

But I can see even a bit further. Misogyny and men’s misconduct against women may seem pale issues in confronts to other burning ones like pedophilia, forced prostitution, slavery and warfare, malnutrition and endemic poverty, irresponsible use of science in the detriment of Nature and natural. I see these issues as shameful enough not to be compatible with the ambitions of a society ready for the upcoming, “robotic” era, now that the take over of the artificial intelligence is imminent – oh, yes, this is the kind of intelligent beings that we are: we keep on focusing on one burning issue while disregarding all other burning issues, incapable of beholding the larger scale of things. Fact is that while we are still sorting out our dirty laundry, AI is forcing its way into our society at an exponential speed, on the pretext that we have become so blind, so dumb and vile, compared to its Superiority, that only Its Highness, a higher than human intelligence could put an end to all our ailments. And some guys who know their stuff, guys like Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking or Bill Gates keep warning us against it, together with being “inevitable.” Wouldn’t this be way scarier than any man/woman/child/nature/religious/human-right abuse?

And this is why any victory against our shadow nature, any rise in consciousness at the level of our society is a giant victory. But are we awakening at the necessary speed, before things get totally out of control?

To Be Read by Parents Over Fifty, Under Adult Children’s Strict Supervision

I’ve never cried while out or driving; not even with my eldest daughter’s divorce two years ago, when she dropped the bombshell on us, four years into a marriage based on a love story. Not even when my daughter is being invited over to her son’s school, to meet a whole team of teachers, psychologist and councilor because her five-year-old son is misbehaving again. And I know why: he feels deeply hurt because his loving dad isn’t living with him and his mom, but in a different country. He keeps on talking about “crushing” or destroying stuff, from a toy to planes or even the world.

But today I couldn’t hold it and I kept crying… behind a pair of sunglasses, true, but this didn’t stop people who’d cross my way from eyeing me strangely. It’s my second daughter who made me cry. Because she herself has been crying for the past two days. Because her father and I demanded that she stops seeing the guy she’s been in love with for the past two years.

No,we aren’t that kind of mean parents – we aren’t any Capulets. But we did it because we are afraid for her, and we are trying to protect her – or, maybe, ourselves? Or, maybe, because of our first daughter’s failed marriage?

Fact is, we always had a vulnerable spot regarding our second daughter, now 26, more fragile, in our eyes, than her eldest. And we wanted to avoid her what was, in our eyes, a relationship destined to sure failure.

We had no preconceived, bad intentions before meeting the guy. I even bought myself a dress and tried on accessories that would go fine with it for the engagement. I even made efforts and lost weight. Not that the guy is a terrible one; he seems nice, polite and polished. But what we saw in him was below our standards for her, in terms of personal merits, self assurance, confidence; he gave us all (including the rest of the family) the impression of lacking grounding and centeredness. She said that he’s full of promises, but we didn’t judge him with the same indulgence. At 31, a young man should have already some base, other than the job he recently got after many changes. And now, maybe she hates us. And maybe she’s right.

“It’s her business whether she wants or not to be with him, if she likes him,” some people would argue, or would strongly advise: “Don’t interfere into the lives of your adult children!” I know, I always did that to others, but it’s always easier to shower advice on others.

We aren’t the kind of parents to interfere in their children’s major life decisions. We didn’t interfere with our first daughter’s marriage. We didn’t interfere with all our children’s choices of career; we didn’t either with their choice to go study, work and leave abroad. But this time we felt we had to; our accumulated life experience, our understanding of people’s personalities pushed us to assume this kind of responsibility.

And now I feel lost… I always put my personal interests aside to live vicariously, in accordance to the victories and failures, the comings and goings of my children. I always wanted to be there for them, because my own parents were not always there for me when I badly needed.

I wrote a book on family relationships which I deem important for everyone and relevant in as much as a culmination of a lifetime of focus and from my years of experience;  one cannot but build one’s own my philosophy of life, and I deem mine comprehensive, rich and consistent. I believe that living a fruitful life, giving out the product of your accumulated wisdom is the utmost meaning of this brief existence.          However, I didn’t do anything to bring this book, this other child of mine into the world, because every time when I would push for it, my children would need me. But this wouldn’t stop me from feeling frustrated and failing myself.

And now, for the first time in her life, my daughter is not that willing to talk to us as she used to. She wants to be left alone. I don’t think she trusts our judgment… she’d rather listen to the voice of her heart. And I wonder… is this voice ALWAYS right??

This is the moment when you realize that you should have left them alone, make their own choices. Even at the price of you living with hurts and sleepless nights caring, worrying for them… or driving and crying.

This is the moment when you realize that no, you needn’t see yourself smarter than your parents. By now you stop seeing how they’ve  done a terrible job at shaping and upbringing you and begin to understand their reasons. By making those mistakes they may have given you the right model… or the wrong one?? Here I am, the result of my parents’ upbringing, they, in turn, the result of theirs… and so on. Who knows which way is right? To care, or not to care? To interfere, or not to interfere? To suffer, or not to suffer?… as if we had any choice.

 

Writers, Beware of The Need for Safety!

I never had the courage to pitch the book I have been writing for the past three years – I am a Cancer, and am afraid of hurts. Eventually, as reality would have it, by shaking and hitting me against the walls of my isolation, I got it: there is no way out of it for me, but write, distill, bring to its quintessence my best possible query letter; I did it, but still, I didn’t have the guts to send it. I just feel the need to be safe – Cancer fears: what if they rejected me?? My world, then, would shatter, collapse, crash, crumble to dust, be annihilated, then I would be worse than dead.

Recently, I got a call for a boot camp, where a well-seasoned literary agent from an important agency is offering to give a fair feedback on the first ten pages. I said to myself, well, if I have to pay for it, maybe they’d be nice enough as to wrap their deadly fists, deadly to the writers’ egos, in lots of bubble wrap, so, in I jumped. I sent my first ten pages. Upon reception, the boot camp agents are supposed to give you a first opinion, following which you have two days to re-send the revised pages.

Here’s her first revision (I haven’t got the second, yet):

 

“There’s a lot of great material here. You have a powerful father/daughter story everyone will be able to relate to, and you a great voice with which to tell it. The challenge for you is to shape this material into a compelling dramatic narrative. The following are suggestions to help you do just that:

 1) As now written, it’s all telling and no showing. You need to fully dramatize your material, that is, write it in fully realized scenes. Right now it’s mostly exposition; it’s you talking and telling. 

2) Because you are not writing in scenes, your story lacks narrative thrust. It’s like one very long opening shot. Narrative thrust is the taut building of story, beat by beat, scene by scene, chapter by chapter, propelling the narrative forward in a dramatic arc that peaks at the climax of the story. You must write each scene so that it leads logically to the next, as if you were connecting a model train, car by car, and presenting story questions as you proceed down the track, pushing the action forward to its inevitable if unpredictable ending. You need to make sure that each scene has a point; that in every scene it’s clear what your heroine wants/needs, and whether or not she gets it. 

3) Stories like this often benefit from an organizing principle, which can help you differentiate your story from the others of its ilk. For example, in The Secret Life of Bees, each chapter begins with a snippet from various texts on beekeeping. Even the title, The Secret Life of Bees, speaks to this organizing principle—the metaphor of her novel. Other examples include:

  • Eat Pray Love (three acts)
  • Bridget Jones’s Diary (diary entries)
  • The Know It All (the encyclopedia)
  • Julie and Julia (blogs and recipes)
  • Wild (the journey)
  • My Horizontal Life (life as a series of one-night stands)

I don’t know what you might best use, because I don’t know your story, but think about it. You might consider doing it day by day for 30 days, since you say the story covers the last month of your father’s life.

4) You need to get to your father’s bedside sooner. That’s when your story really begins and you will find it easier to dramatize the interaction between the two of you and between you and the rest of your family. Try starting there.

Again, you have great material here. Now you just have to bring all that material to life by dramatizing your story.”

“Aha”, I said to myself: “great material”,””great voice”…hmm, it sounded good to my writer-to-be ego. But bad for my story. I have this devil in me that, although is terribly afraid of hurts – like every devil – doesn’t hesitate to use its horns and gore when it can (it’s my Aries rising sign). I felt that my agent here didn’t understand this thing (how can anyone get it, from reading the standardized “ten pages”??). My writing here isn’t about a daughter-father story, how I used to sit by my father’s bed and consume tissues by the dozen, not at all. It is about Existential Patterns, about archetypes that get and grab us within their absolute power … about the Journey we take, about Life and Death, and Meaning.

 

We live in chaotic times where there is no place for “standard”, for “safe”; however, what essentially agents want and look for, is a “safe story”, one that has proven itself, time and again saleable, entertaining. But what is “entertaining”?? It’s not only “delightful” and “amusing,” but it’s also “intriguing” and “compelling”, in the sense of The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, or The Power of Now. Agents don’t stop and think that “safe”, by force of repetition, can be a recipe for trite, for already consumed, for fast food, mass-consumption. The newest “invention” in “entertaining writing” is computer writing. Programmers identify the ingredients, the structure, the plot that make story telling compelling, then design algorithms for what makes successful stories – we can purchase now the genre on Amazon.

That agents feel the need to stay safe, is understandable. Flooded by hundreds, even thousands of queries a day, they don’t want any headache by taking risks – and I’m not far from this need for “safe” when I don’t dare to send that query letter.  However, there is a chance in taking risks, one that is not possible when staying “safe”. Books like Eat Pray Love, Bridget Jones’s Diary, The Know It All, Julie and Julia (these have been mentioned by an agent), all like Fifty Shades of Grey, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, etc, have all been seen as “un-safe”, rejected countless times by agents. However, these books are what they are because they didn’t follow the required publishing standards in their given time.

 

Well, this is it. And now, I’m waiting for her answer. I’m sure that it’s gonna hurt, ouch!!! But I’ll have to gather all my courage and send that query letter.

While you, other people keep on blogging, exchanging recipes and pictures, thoughts and musings, I just sank down to the bottom of my ocean, like the crab (read: Cancer) that I am. Why?? Because I had a final month with my father, with whom I used to have a stormy relationship.  His passing away hit me in ways I would have never thought possible. After the shaking, deep to my roots, I had to write the story, in its reality, as well as in its “non-reality”. I did it to bring some order into my thoughts, my emotions, my new world without my father –  but, ultimately, it can reveal unsuspected mechanisms at work in any family, anywhere around the world.  I also wrote it because it is testifying on the greatness of existence.

This blog’s name is Patterns of Soul Development – beyond what our narrow reality there is a wider, deeper one that is full of meaning. Caught up in our everyday life turbulence we have the vision of the ant within a cup of water, unaware of the surrounding room, building, city, state, continent, planet, galaxy, Local Group (our galaxy cluster) part of the Virgo Supercluster, part of the Laniakea Supercluster, etc, part of a Universe within a Multiverse.  We all get to follow, insignificant ants as we are, these same universal patterns incumbent on all kinds of systems within our universe – it’s not I who says it, it’s cosmology, System Sciences, Chaos Theory, etc.

It is this kind of pattern that this story is about: it reveals our personal and collective unconscious psyche, the patterns that we fall into. The chaos and the turbulence in our lives force us to develop and grow, according to archetypal patterns in the evolution in consciousness.  I’ll have to pitch the story, send that query letter…

PS: The answer did come, in just ten words: “Ultimately it’s your story to tell. Tell it your way!” Hmm… thanx, but no thanx. I felt is sharp and snappy – or is it just my sensitivity?? After I got over the pain, however, I sat down and crafted a better, more-in-the-line-with-her-recommendations hind of beginning. And I’m really happy with it. Thanx, and thanx again.

Goodbye and Hello Dad – a memoir of enlightenment

 

 

Virginia Wolf describes Consciousness “a wave in the mind”; which is the Mind she is talking about, what is the wave?? I see the Mind as the universal field of consciousness, in which our own, individual minds are the waves.

With each birth, we come anew to the shore of life, each time a different wave, but with somehow the memory of those previous waves we’ve been before. At the scale of the universe, we may be less significant than the wave at my feet is to the Ocean. But we keep the memory of all the water, and we hold the experience of all the Ocean we will return to, time after time. Each time we go back charged with the baggage of new experiences, of lived emotions, of the enlightening “aha” moments.

 

First Chapter

The Dragon Strikes From The Back

“And so it is that in our childhood years the foundation is laid of our later view of the world, and therewith as well of its superficiality or depth: it will be in later years unfolded and fulfilled, not essentially changed. J Campbell, Pathways to Bliss, 186-7

“I don’t wish for this to happen to anyone, but, if it happens, I have it all here.”  By “this” he refers to the illness carrying the name of my zodiac sign, the one in mid-summer.  But there’s nothing to worry about, since dad says he has it “under control.”

If many are scared to death, running for cover as fast as they can, just when they hear its name, to me, the probability for “this” to happen to anyone in my family, especially to my father, is less likely than, say, getting sunburns inside a mountain cave.  For as long as I can remember, dad has been this self-taught valiant knight, who, mounted on his horse, stirrups, armor and all, has been fighting the Cancer dragon with shield and spear (read: medical books and own improvised laboratory.) If I am to believe him, the dragon could never raise its head higher than the horse-knee level, as dad slew it with a lethal blow.  I heard my creative father saying, perhaps, half-a-million times along the years, at the dinner table, on the bus or train, over the phone, whenever I would call to give him news about myself:

“I got it all here; the Krebs cycle gets to be reversed, because of the lack of oxygen in the mitochondrial respiration…,” and so on.  My dad was never a doctor or a scientist. By career, he is an army officer, and with army men, it is well known: their reason for being is to wedge fights.  And dad’s choice of enemy to fight, has been, I have no idea why, since we never had it in the family,  nothing less than the cancer disease. With him, cancer became an obsession.

Fathers usually keep talking at the dinner table about bills, car repair and planned holidays; at our dinner table I kept hearing my father talking, besides tales on Greek philosophers, about mitochondrial respiration and reversed Krebs cycle, anions and enzymes, hyperoxides, unpaired electrons and electron spins. It wasn’t easy. I just wanted a normal dad – was it asking too much??

May 26 – Destiny Games

Finally, I hear my phone ringing…. it’s Julian who calls.

“Look, it’s not… just the stroke; there’s something more…”

The dreaded news drops heavily, like a lump of lead, like a punch in the stomach that leaves you nauseating, dizzy. After Dad’s stroke I had no idea that the worst was yet to come, and the disease that was his life enemy, or life companion, announced itself in the nastiest way.

“Don’t tell me…. Dad?!”

For as long as we can remember, our father, a self-taught researcher, has been studying the cancer disease looking for therapies, with his own means, on his own body. Dad made us all believe that he was the Master, that he was in control of it, that he had the cure, but now, the MRI and the CT show the opposite. On top of the stroke.

“Dad knows what’s going on, and I permanently keep him updated. I had to promise him since the first day that I won’t agree to a longer stay at the hospital, no more than imposed by investigations,” my brother tells me.

“What?? Did you tell him…?

His answer is long to come, and I hear hesitation in his voice:

“Oh, no, I couldn’t. He knows only about the stroke – and it is he who first advanced the idea… I mean, the doctors only had to confirm it to him. Guess what?? He tells me he’s in control – and that, once at home, he’ll get back well.”

“I see … but there must be some therapy that he must do inside, something, at least??”

“Well, you know him. He also insists that I decline any therapy or procedures to be followed inside here. I’m telling you, he knows what he is doing. I had to promise him that I am going to ask for immediate discharge – under family’s signature … I can’t do it alone. I want your opinion.”

“Of course…” But, instead of giving an answer, I choose caution – which, sometimes, is just the way of the coward. Sure I know that neither mom, nor my brother are any more comfortable with this choice than I am right now … over the phone. Gosh, am I lucky to be far away…

“What does mom think of that?” I ask, when I very well know that mom would not even consider contradicting dad’s will.

“She wants us to decide.”

“I know… I mean, I needn’t even ask. I’m also thinking that keeping him against his will would only worsen his condition,” I say. But I still cannot decide. I don’t know whether telling him the whole truth, or just letting him know half of it… which one could be better, in his state…

“He says he’ll take medication at home, if they’ll discharge him today – I made him promise that,” says Julian. Dad keeps his promises, I know.

In the evening, I have a long talk with my husband… as a doctor, and from his personal experience, even in his family, I trust him best to give us council. He knows Dad, too… only too well.

“Well,” he sighs, “I guess he would not stay inside the hospital for treatment under any circumstances, would he??”

My husband knows something about this from having had a similar experience close in the family,  not just as a doctor. Finding someone you love, tied up arms and legs to a hospital bed because he’s opposing treatment is not an easy thing, especially when you are a doctor yourself. He agrees with me; of course Dad won’t stay in a hospital, of course it would be like a death sentence to him. He would feel it a direct outrage to himself and to his work of a lifetime, a clear proof that we don’t trust him … or that we never did. Dad had spent the most beautiful years of his youth in hospital beds, and he dedicated his lifetime to invent a Utopian world where people would not have to go to hospitals, unless it was for routine procedures, acute symptoms or surgery. Obviously, he didn’t succeed to make it true, for himself, in the first place.

Before I book my flight, I call my brother and ask him to sign a “discharge of responsibility,” with no second thoughts. I well know that my brother and his wife, and my mother in the first place, must have gone through harder times than I did here…

Second Sample:

        June 7  – Why Flights Should Last Longer

3 a.m. is not my favorite time for traveling; my flight isn’t either late enough, so that one can get some sleep before the flight, neither long enough for a nap on the plane. I didn’t quite sleep these past nights, and now I resent it. The other boarding people around me do not seem to mind the timing. Many of them seem to know each other, from frequent traveling on the same route; they talk out loud, happy and laughing, calling one another, sending wishes of a good summer across the aisle, over the chairs. Lots of children on board … is it possible that summer break has already started? I struggle for a while with my handbag; it won’t fit that easy into the crowded overhead compartment, but when it does, finally, I can fall into my seat.

I am surprised to see my own reflection in the window on my right; the dark vacuum outside is showing, like the back coating of a mirror, a distorted version of myself. Not only time, but also space is playing tricks on my perception. Space and time … neither is my ally.

With this flight I’m leaving my normal life behind, to plunge myself into a new, different, unexpected, never-considered-before reality.  In the next minutes, the reality I always used to know begins to slowly drip into a parallel universe, just like sand would slip through the narrow neck of an hourglass, and part of that “normal life” was also my absolute belief that I have an invincible, healthy and strong father.

“Have a good summer…” I have just discovered that it is time what separates us, and not space. I have never had enough time for the important people in my life.

Science tells us there is no time, that it’s only in our subjective perception, but, independently of what science wants me to believe, to me, time does exist. Time has just caught me unprepared, forcing me to deal with powerlessness and frustration, the feelings that overwhelm us when confronted to the unfairness of things. We are all used to take life for granted; the little or big things of everyday life only help us entrench and solidify our illusion of forever and ever, making us lose sight of the real, true things in life. I failed to realize the impermanence of things, of those we love. I kept telling myself that I will make it up to my parents, and also to my Self, for the long separation, for my long absences. Am I still in time for that??

Struggling to keep up with everyday time issues, I failed to realize the true meaning of Time … and now, existential time, higher in ranking value, just knocked on my door. It came to sharply remind me that I have lost sight of Time as universal dimension of existence, the one that makes the difference between the being and the non-being. With dad’s sudden illness, Time is reminding me that I, too, am only a temporary passenger on an impermanent journey. “Time is not forever”, the soul is desperately trying to make the message fall in place for the rational mind, and the stark reality of the passing time strikes me on a level deeper than intellectual. I have lost grandparents and close relatives before, but with them I was “graced” with that necessary preparation time. It was that lapse between hope and hopelessness what contributed to erode the fear, made it lose its sharpness. But now, I feel that the closer it hits, the sharper it gets… acute, like an elbow pain. It is the abruptness, the unexpected, what makes us feel it to the bone, at levels that resonate with our primary, survival instinct.

And now my soul is craving for more time… time for mending and patching, for tightening back the loose relationship, for closer, truer communication. All my life I missed that genuine, soul-to-soul exchange with him … am I still in time for that?

During these past days I kept on overhearing dialogues between my Guilty and my Soothing Self. They keep talking about things that I may have done wrong, things that I shouldn’t have done and said, had I known the vulnerability of my father, had I known that my choice of time was wrong. There are plenty of unresolved issues between dad and me, things that I would have wanted to say, but I didn’t – things in the range of the beautiful and the loving, and things on the opposite range, things that source from old resentments and from newer ones, too.

I may have pestered my father on one of our last calls, a couple of weeks before Easter. Unaware of the bad timing, I had called him that day to talk about a promising opportunity, the possibility to have his active principle under study in one of the best laboratories in the world. This could have been the resolution of a lifetime of strenuous work, dad’s dream of a lifetime. But he was evasive, and I felt irritated, and pushy. Now, I see, I should have been more considerate, given the situation.

     “My mind is not on these things right now,” dad said. Then, he casually mentioned: “Did I tell you your grandma was in the hospital this week??”

“What happened? Grandma has never had health worries… I’m sorry, I’m not used to think of her as being sick,” I said, kind of dismissing the gravity of the news.

     “Nothing serious, they say. Just a passing weakness… at 96, and she’s still fasting. You know how she is…”

 When we next talked, grandmother was already discharged, dad told me.

“She’s fine… she needs to follow the doctor’s prescriptions; they asked her not keep on fasting the whole six-week Easter Lent.” Dad sounded confident and reassuring… actually, more matter-of-factly.

About my proposal of a week ago, he didn’t seem willing to talk. But I knew I had to make him surpass his limitations of a lifetime; as usual, dad’s paralyzing perfectionism didn’t allow him to go out into the world if everything wasn’t “perfect.” I had to try and push him outside of his comfort zone, even if that angered him. But, anyway, how could I know? I felt I had to force the issue. I felt I had to do it because dad is dad, and he is like no others.

  “Dad, are you serious about that? I’m talking about the chance of having your active principle studied in a world-famous lab, and you won’t seize it??”

     “Why don’t you understand, I’m telling you, for me it’s kind of late,” he said. “Besides, I have been telling you all along, I cannot do it alone. Not anymore.”

 “But do you see the pattern?? All these years you keep on telling us that the world is not being open and receptive; you know you already have enough material to show and be convincing – it doesn’t need to be so perfect, dad. This may be your last chance, and you’ll have to take it! Now!”

     I hoped I sounded imperious enough. But I couldn’t give up. Not after all these years. True, the moment was not right, but, then, how could I know??       

In the end, I concluded that nothing had changed, after all. Except for the difference in his tone, it was just one more of those same repetitive conversations we kept on having lately. I wouldn’t have dared to push him, if I wasn’t really upset by his obvious resistance and well-known reluctance to get out there in the fighting ring, fight for his ideas – a concept that I hold from him, I didn’t take it from anywhere else. I did it from my firm belief that this is the time for him, that at some point, he needs to take the bull by its horns. Here and there self-taught people started piercing some previously unbreakable ceilings, and a renewed trust in alternative medicine is making specialists more open to this kind of thought. I there was ever to be a chance that people be interested in his active principle, this was it, this was the time. And this was what I was proposing dad: work with a postdoctoral researcher in Japan, already interested in his work, in view of starting a research program. Only to find out now that Dad is not that interested. Along the years, his throw in the towel attitude used to make me feel frustrated, exasperated.

I had long decided to not allow myself to fall into old, inherited models of emotional arguments with dad anymore, but this time I didn’t have to: I sensed a kind of weariness, of helplessness in his voice. Instead of accepting my proposal and engaging himself, all I got was dad’s reproach:

    “All these years I kept on telling you, come, come all of you! I kept on waiting and hoping, that you and your husband would finally understand and come over here. Your children are grown-ups now. Do you realize the team we could make? It’s great, it’s big, here is where all the world is going to look up to – I have it all here, do you understand? But I can’t do it alone, no more…”

He can’t do it alone… how many times did I hear that before??

“I’m sorry I have to tell you dad, but this is your challenge … you chose it, now it’s you who will get to see it through, not us!” I told him, a little angered that he always tries to place the ball in our camp – in everybody else’s camp, as long as it won’t stay in his.

My voice must have sounded out loud and somehow inquisitorial to him, on the other end of the screen – I myself can’t believe I did that. I wonder if I could have talked that way if we were face to face in the real, not virtual space. But, instead of promptly and sharply putting me in my place, dad said:

 “No need of your sarcasm …  I have already done what I could, the best I could… alone, all by myself… and my thoughts are now elsewhere…”

Was it my impression, or was it real? Dad’s voice tremored with a certain kind of sadness, almost apologetic on the other side. I didn’t know how attached to his mother dad was… even at his age… But I have known even older men who remain, deeply, profoundly attached to their mother. I can’t recall him being as touched when grandfather was sick – but then, grandfather had been sick for longer periods of time.

     “You keep on saying that you are coming, but you don’t seem to have a real notion of time. I’ve been thinking that we never got to take that family picture we have been talking about,” he added.

After the birth of my grandson, dad has been a very proud great-grandfather. He kept updating his desktop wallpaper with the latest of the little boy’s pictures, and insisted that we should come and take a picture of all five generations, from my grandmother to my grandson, who is now two, already.

      “This coming Easter I’m going there, be with her. I only hope this spring is warm,” dad said.

       “You’ve no idea how I wish I could go with you, dad; but I’m coming in summer. We are all planning to come, and we’ll definitely take that picture, no worry, dad,” I said.

That conversation was kind of different than usual, but also shorter. Dad slipped aside the matters that made his focus for the past decades, to engage me in a heart-felt conversation, the kind that leave me with the feeling that we are indeed in touch. We have never been able to touch, dad and I, levels deeper than skin surface in matters that are close and personal. On my side, I feel I have to be respectful of his will and interests. On his side, he would immediately put up a wall, and communication would suddenly get stifled.

If I put the onus on dad, maybe I’m doing it more for myself: I really need a victory – it’s my battered ego that is craving for it. My world, all like the world around, is increasingly chaotic and I am badly in need for meaning. Nothing of all the principles, ideas and ideals that dad fed us with, brought us up with, nothing seems to still have any value if none of his dreams materialize. I expect an acknowledgment of his merits, at least, if he can’t achieve the recognition of valuable, concrete work. It’s something more than success. Much more. Success is some ephemeral bright light shone on a person – today it is, tomorrow it may be no more. Acknowledgment is something in the natural order of things, long programmed in our basic making.  It is society’s basic function of assigning objective value to people and things on a true scale of values.

I, too, have been on my own quest for a while… the middle-age crisis, I guess. All like my dad, somewhere, somehow, I seem to be hurting the same walls, the walls of my own powerlessness and shattered dreams. And, without meaning, my world is losing trueness and trustiness. I may be no more at an age when I still depend on my father, but his values are my values, and I fear that, deep inside, I am still tightly connected to his successes and failures. There is this Sisyphus pattern in my life, the same that I have observed with my father: I keep on building, constructing myself, and then I lose it all, again and again. I have been losing jobs, repeatedly… too very often to my understanding … Times are tense and it’s a bad economy, but others do keep their place, they don’t keep moving around like I do.

I wish it was my fault, that would have made sense, but it wasn’t – like when I’ve lost two courses that I used to give, to another colleague. I spent a whole semester doubting and questioning myself, until the chief of department called me and asked me to prepare the exams in my colleague’s place, for his were not presentable. She explained it all: my colleague had been offered my courses, though they were not in his competence, because, being a man, he is supposed to be under more obligation to provide for his family than a woman would be. According to a widespread concept around here – and in the world at large – women are at their work places just for the fun, so why on earth would they need “equal pay??” Besides, my colleague “successfully” compensated for the lack of academic skills in the required matter with entertaining moments, wildly savored by students, who kept deserting my class to go join his. The “unbearable lady” – that would be me, pressured for real work.

I have, of course, been hit by the unorthodox practices of my woman-colleagues, too.  Like the one whom I kept helping for over two years,  just out of sympathy … but, then, when string-pulling behind the scenes prompted her as our new chief of department, she made sure there was no more place for me inside there. Professional life is tough for women… at least, tougher than it is for men. Some would use charm and influence over professionalism and intellect. Others would throw to the dogs any ethical considerations to get a firm contract or just some extra hours, like my colleague who drills exactly the same subject exams before, in order to achieve high grading from her students.

I wasn’t always being pushed aside; there are instances when I decided to leave. I felt I had to get out of the places where it became clear to me that I didn’t belong. Maybe all this wouldn’t be an issue with a different kind of father. Not with mine. I need recognition for my high standards and my perfectionism, since dad never gave it to me. But, lately, an insidious doubt began eating up at me: what if this misfit syndrome that runs in the family is the result of sticking on to the “mere” ideals dad taught and instilled in us?? I already know that this is not an ideal world, but I also fear that this is no more a time for principles, so obsolete these days. “Unfit for the world” seems to be our family curse. No, I’m not just disappointed with myself, but with dad and his principles, too.

From here the clashes.  I always doubted that I would ever have the guts, but, here I am, daring to tell dad that I am totally disappointed in him – I, telling that, to him!! For the biggest part of my life, I would have had the vertigo just considering the possibility. When did the roles inverse, I have no idea – it must have happened gradually, time erosion, I guess.

The last time I’ve been back home, two years ago, I had, in case I was missing it, a chance to refresh my memories of dad’s familiar, patronizing ways. In my opinion. Because, in his, it’s just the rightful concern of a parent for his not-so-very-bright child.

That day I had just arrived, straight from the airport, and I had barely taken off my winter coat and my boots. Like in the old days, dad took me to the kitchen, to exchange things, while he would make himself a big cup of strong coffee. I could see that he was looking around for something, but he was hesitant to tell me … already an unusual thing for him.

    “Mom is not here?” I asked, although I very well knew she was still at the village, at grandmother’s house.

   “You know where she is,” he said. “It looks like she hates coming here, to her own home.”

    “Maybe she hates to be criticized and being nagged at, all the time??” But I had to change the subject fast, lest he’d start feeling irritated by my insinuations and start acting defensive.

    “What, can I help you with anything, dad? If you want me, I can make the coffee; just tell me how you want it.” I knew he will decline my offer: it’s only he who knows to make it just right.

   “The matter is… I ran out of cigarettes, and I wouldn’t want to leave you waiting.” This came as a surprise. Dad being nice…polite.

   “Why, dad, let me go in your place – I just need to put on my coat and boots, and I’m ready, you know.” I am afraid he’ll  understand that I am offering my assistance to make it easier on him – this would imply that he needs help, and he “doesn’t need my help,” for sure.

    “Do you have any money?” he asked.

    “I’m sorry, I haven’t had the time to pass by an exchange office. I’m coming straight from the airport.”

   “Well, the problem is, I don’t have cash either – I‘ll have to extract money from an ATM.”

   “Ok, then I’ll do that for you”, I said.

   “Do you think you can use an ATM?”

    “Why, dad, where do you think I’m coming from? We are all using ATMs, be sure.”

    “But… you need to know my code number”

    “OK, tell me.”

    “’You sure you’ll remember it?”

    “I’m a big girl, dad, and I can use an ATM, secret code and all. Unless… maybe you won’t trust me with it?”

    “It’s not that… it’s that I’m afraid that you’ll forget it, or you’ll dial it wrong… then they’ll keep my card.”

    “No, dad, trust me, I use my own card daily, and I never make mistakes.”

He tells me the number. I repeat it. Like when I was little, and he made me repeat his words, to make sure I understand, that I remember. “That’s how it’s done in the army”, he used to tell me.

   “Say it again,” he asked, coming back from his room, the card in his hand. I dutifully demonstrated him that my memory is still OK, then he handed me the card – I was sure he held it a little longer than he needed. I put on my boots that I took off when I arrived, then I was ready to go, but he still retained me with a last minute request:

    “One more thing: there’s a button you need to press, so that they’ll issue you a receipt – hmm… I’m not sure you’ll know it.”

    “Yes, dad, I know the button too, don’t worry”, I said, leaving, not before he told me through the door:

    “And don’t be long, I’ll be waiting, you know.”

He closed the door behind me, before he could see that I bumped into this neighbor down at the entrance. I couldn’t liberate myself  before the “It’s been a long time”, “Yes, quite so”, “You look great”, “Thanks, so do you”, exchange. But, once the ice was broken, longer questions and answers followed, which required more detail. After the questions on kids, work, and the general situation, to which I politely answered, one more neighbor popped in. The same question and answer round happened again, and I couldn’t dismiss their curiosity and attention, I had to be polite – dad taught me that.

I took, after that,  the familiar alley past the one-story building of the Polyclinic, to finally reach the “Tower”,  a ten-story building that made me smile. I remembered that, seen from the height of our ten year old life experience, the building looked so futuristic to me and my friends, unimaginably tall when all other buildings in the area did not go over four.  I found the ATM, followed dad’s strict instructions – See, I didn’t forget the code, nor the button, dad – I then bought him cigarettes, and I was on my way back. Barely one third on the way back home, I saw a slim silhouette dark against the white background of the snow, coming in my direction. It somehow  looked familiar, like coming  from remote childhood  memories. I know I walk fast, like when I was little, and dad would send me to buy bread, or any other little thing, asking me to return fast. With dad, but with mom as well, I always had to hurry, lest he would get impatient and scold me for being late.

It quickly turned into a fast-walking, tall man, wearing a long winter coat and Astrakhan fur hat – just the two of us in the silent, late winter afternoon. It can’t be. No, this can’t be him, I told myself, in denial. But it turned out that my first impression was right: it was dad.

    “What took you so long? What happened?” he asked me as soon as his voice could reach me.

    “I can’t believe it, dad. You are still coming after me? At my age??

    “You stayed so long, I was worried,” he said, kind of justifying himself.

    “I was late because of some neighbors, I had to stay and talk with them, you know. You have to trust me.”

    “How could I know?”

   “No, you couldn’t.”

The thing made me both laugh and cry. For a moment, I turned back being a little girl again, with her dad, protective, worrying for her. Like any little girl. But then, the one little girl that I was years ago, fell in, and she remembered the bitter times. Nothing had changed. After all these years.

After a lifetime of waiting and hoping that his work, his ambition and dream, the one to which he sacrificed it all, us included, would be of any value to the world and finally get validated, dad can’t afford to just kick this chance out of his life again… not this time, not anymore. Can’t he realize that he is now getting closer to endings, not to beginnings? That he’s not getting any younger? He loses credibility and saps my trust with his youth fountain clichés: “I feel young! I’m going to be young even at hundred, while you and the rest are only getting older”, he’d tell me, boastfully, both provoking and vexing, whenever the age subject comes on the table. There are more versions of the same, like: “It’s you who are getting older, not I.” or, “You are going shortly to be an old lady, and I am still young.” Maladroit, as usual. He doesn’t realize that I would have all the rights to feel hurt, if I had a  narcissistic ego. Like him, I am proud and believe in the power of our family genes. Jokingly, of course, the duel goes on, each one boasting about own genetic advantages, as if we were two strangers.  Eventually, I’ll have to remind him: “Don’t forget that I am double lucky with my good genes, I have them from both sides…” just to annoy him. I know he can’t bear being contradicted, and he knows I’m better off: from my mother’s side, grandfather lived to celebrate his ninety-six, and grandmother, “just” ninety-two.

Maybe this is just a facade; maybe, by claiming he is forever young, dad is exorcising ill-fate: “I’m not done yet, and far from being it”. That could explain why, at some unconscious level, dad still treats me like I was that little girl he used to patronize, unaware that the roles ceased fitting us since a long while. He makes me feel like an immature child trapped in an old-skin, reminding me of some ladies I know, who, with obnoxious face lifts and botoxed faces, styled in unbecomingly young dresses despite their respectable age,  believe that they look younger by the year.

Usually we had longer talks. The kind I wanted to cut short. If we didn’t talk for a month or two, he would start right away by telling me about things under his immediate focus, about his latest work,  as if I was there, with him, in touch with his latest events, day in- day out. I wasn’t really interested in his impasses, deadlocks and breakthroughs, as most of the time I didn’t understand a thing – but more often than not I was left with the feeling that he didn’t care of what I had to say, blocking me with his casual, matter-of-fact talk.

    “Hi, dad, it’s me. How are you, how’s everyone,” I would start, conventionally.

    “You have no idea how this thing was long and painful to come. But I have finally grasped it – just last night, I had a great idea – it is exactly what I have been looking for!” he would answer. The rest of the conversation would get to be filled with the details of the issue – the much I cared. Whatever I did, I could never bring him to the heart-felt kind of conversation that I so craved for: hear him say that he missed me. In the end, I would rush it all, telling him I was running short of time.

    “How’s everyone?” he would then wake up to reality – the reality that I wasn’t there, sharing everyday life and momentous thoughts with him. But then he would start another subject that I equally wanted to avoid.

    “Tell them to come here, everyone, this would the best solution for everything, for everyone – it is here that the start button for a new world is … we could create a great thing all together, and set everything on the proper rails!” he would say, trying to convince me how, and in what ways this could be a win-win solution for us all, my husband, my grown-up children, my son-in-law and grandson included. His grandiose plans, over-sized hopes, dreams, calculations, would make me feel uneasy every time. On the one hand, things are not under my control, and I perfectly know how unrealistic would be for me to hope to convince anyone around to leave everything behind and start the Great Adventure with dad. Everybody is ready to acknowledge dad’s many skills and passions, but also that he has spread too thin, split into too many parts – a general factotum with an unsurpassed talent for failing to finalize and deliver, and one who never consults or takes advice willingly. At the same time, I wish I could do something for dad, help him in some way to cross over this hurdle.

    “Dad, I don’t have time for that, you know – nobody’s free to do what one pleases,” I would try to calm down his eloquence and curb his high-expectations. How was I to know that this was his clumsy way to say that he missed us, that he so much wanted us all to be together? But I seldom gathered the courage – maybe, once, or twice – to tell him that, even if we could, we wouldn’t.

    “Why??”

    “Your personality is too oppressive and unrestrained, dad.”

    “Who, me?” He would get upset and feel misunderstood. “Why, if I have never been the most comprehensive, tolerant, understanding and supportive father, I don’t know who else was.” And his indignation was real – he can be so short-sighted with some issues….

I finally understand why he is having such a hard time to finish his work; I think he is too blind to see that he is the one who is standing in his own way. Like with many other things, this, too, should be a strong signal for my own person, pointing at the wooden beam in my own eye.

After the call when dad told me about grandmother, that she was out of the hospital and out of danger, my next call was on dad’s birthday. I was to realize, however, that there couldn’t have been a worse superposition of events; instead of answering my wishes, dad told me he was just coming from my grandmother’s funeral… although he looked so composed, so… matter-of-factly. His only comment was that it had been so cold – and that I do not keep my promises.

    “Who would have thought…”, I said, careful not to set foot in dangerous terrain.

    “There are instances when time is faster than our plans. That’s why I keep telling you to come, stop delaying things, as usual.”

I know that he refers to that photo never taken… and I wish I could make amends to that… but now, no more…

    “I know, dad, you are absolutely right. I told you, I am coming in the next two or three months – I’ll be there this coming summer. And I have a plan…” At least, if we could go on that planed family trip that we have been planning it together, Julian and I.

   “Let’s go on a trip around the country,” I say. “Just the four of us, like we were dreaming to, when we were little: you, mom, Justin and I. We never had a proper trip the four of us, and always went on separate jaunts, remember? Let’s try and do it now. I’m planning to come home earlier than usual, so that we can work it out.” This time, I am determined to real, practical action.

    “We’ll see about it; just come,” he said, before excusing himself:

    “Now I’m tired and kind of cold – the cold I have accumulated at…there… you know how cold it is until late spring??” I notice that he cannot bring himself to say the word “funeral”.

    “Yes, dad, I can still remember. Grandma’s house is in the mountains.” I was close to say it was, but I realized that I don’t need to put a finger in his fresh wound – besides, it wouldn’t be correct: her house is still there, my youngest uncle’s family is still there, even though grandmother is no more.

 

How could I have known that this was the last time we got to “normally” exchange some thoughts, that he would never again be as available as he used me to. Dad has always been available for talking – albeit on his own, favorite subjects. I called him back two or three times, but, most unusual thing, it was never the right time: either he was taking a nap, or he would like to talk later. I didn’t read anything wrong, even though it was so unlike him. Dad has adjusted his life to be more work time than rest, changing night into day, with very light sleeps. I put his unavailability on the account of his recent grief, persuaded that dad was mourning the loss of his mother, in his own way.

Suddenly, the fact strikes me with forceful evidence: I don’t know if dad is going to live to be hundred… I don’t know if he’s going to live to be seventy-eight, his next birthday … dad’s life is in danger. It could be that we will never quarrel, never again…

“Never again…” When did the haunting refrain from my childhood sneaked back? I remember my disheartening, unexplained emotion around this phrase. Once in a while my parents would have a distant relative or friends coming, some from a great distance for some unexpected matter, like one of their kids sitting for an entrance exam, and my parents would accommodate them for a couple of nights. I used to get so attached to the visitors, that their parting left me with too heavy a pain for my little years. I felt the same for the pets that we lost, for flowers, for the trees that my grandfather cut for some reason, for all things that were lost for ever – the never again  reality made me cry my eyes off  with an early, too early realization of the non-repeatability of things.  I cannot say that I thought it buried in the past, because I totally forgot it, and now it is revising me – this time, accompanied by fear. I so took dad for granted. Inside, within my deepest self, I am still the little daughter, my mother’s and my father’s child.

*

“Coffee, or tea??” The flight attendant is offering a cup of coffee to the man in the middle seat on my left, while she seems to be waiting for my answer. I didn’t notice her coming, as I didn’t notice when she collected the rests of the frugal meal. I may have fallen asleep. To my right, the sky is already lighting up. The horizon line from up here is different than when seen from the ground, much sharper, and surprisingly near. I am lucky; from this side of the plane I can gorge myself on the spectacular daybreak. The rare clouds add drama to the show, and the quickly changing eastern sky has now taken the colors of abalone shell. Ever-brighter, the canvas is changing fast its iridescent colors, from violet and blue-green to fuchsia, orange and pink, only to melt in a sea of bright gold. I can’t resist taking some shots, although I well know that, once I take them, I never go back to see the pictures: “I don’t have time for the past” is my favorite motto.

When I’m at home, grounded in my everyday routine, I don’t have this impression of being connected to the Larger Life, but now, there’s this sensation of elatedness, of expansion that is gradually building up inside. In synergy with this day that is announcing itself with iridescent colors, my mood is soaring. I feel inspired and supported, and I feel lighter than I have been for all these past days. I take this early June glorious sunrise like the promise of a good outcome, a foretoken of new life. “Dad isn’t like everyone else, he’s going to put this one behind him,  like he always does,” my inner voice is telling me. “Everything is going to be OK”, my conscious mind chimes in.

I’ve had an idea!

Addiction Support Blog

Making it write

lauraagain12

It’s 2.30am, and I should be in bed. I should leave this post for a time when I can express myself clearly, but I have to get it out there now. People are suffering and dying as a result of addiction, andI think I’ve found a unique way to help addicts.

It’s all thanks to my wonderful, compassionate WP friends. I hope you all know who you are. Ever since I started blogging I’ve been looking for a way to help addicts and their families. I’ve been convinced that there’s something I can do which hasn’t been done before. Maybe this has, but I’ve never seen it.

I’ll explain how you fantastic friends gave me the idea, and then I’ll tell you the plan.

From the very first time I began writing about my children’s addictions – and particularly Laura’s (that’s her in the picture), you have sent messages…

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Happy 2017!

Hello to All My Fellow Bloggers!

I haven’t been present this year, but I made attempts to keep in touch with your posts and life musings. I haven’t been idle, though: I tried to work as hard as I could at the Memoir I am currently editing, hoping to put it out there into the collective cloud of good, inspiring stuff to read. I am hopeful that, the way that it haunted me (in a positive way, of course) and I couldn’t tear myself away from writing it, it will similarly be touching, soul-stirring my readers. It is my dearest hope that all the raw experience and knowledge that I have been pouring into those pages will inspire and help at least a fellow being or two.

I wish you all the best possibilities to manifest and be the best you can be, I pray for Peace in the World and for Love!

Happy New 2017!

 

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Reblog: The Role Of The Ego, by Risha Joshi

Many things are being said about the mischief that our overly inflated Ego is doing to our world – and many are true. But we are usually being mislead: ego is an essential part of who we are, and we couldn’t exist (the way that we intend to, of course) without it. Imagine a world without education, healthcare, abundant food, science, technology, art, economy, luxury and so on – our whole civilization is being built by the ego.

It’s only harmful when it goes overboard. Big Ego stirs waves, from ripples to tsunamis, worldwide – the chaos we are currently living in. This is the kind of ego that we would want to gain awareness about, and which we should try to keep under control. But, like Donald Rumsfeld is acknowledging in the above quote, many would “do little to moderate their ego.”

Dr. Risha Joshi, mentor and coach, has a very interesting and competent point of view on this, and you can read it on his blogsite here: http://rishajoshi.com/2015/12/16/the-role-of-the-ego/ 

“I Can’t Afford To Hate Myself”, Says The Self-Defending Ego – Incest and Child Abuse From A Different Perspective

 

Only in the past two month I happened to find out about three of such situations, from people I know.  It is hard to hear about it. But everyone knows that it is way harder to those directly involved. It is increasingly common to hear testimonies of parent-child ill-treatment and abuse, of past and ugly mistakes that leave unhealed wounds for years ahead, at times for a lifetime. The victim feels that it is to blame. We usually try and comfort the victim with the usual… “Well, it was long ago,” “It wasn’t your fault,” “It will pass,” etc. But the meaning and causes behind the “parent perpetrator / child victim” behavior have a life-long, time-bomb effect, and the damage is very profound, and the victims, defenseless little children no more, have yet a hard time in coming to terms with it.

Yet, in these chaotic times, the current process of evolution in consciousness we are undergoing wants the old society to be transformed, and, in order for this to happen, the ugly elements in the collective unconscious need to come out into the light of consciousness. So that they happen no more.

 

 

ego
Ego is very touchy and allergic to pain; it wants to defend itself at any cost. When I say “I AM” this “I” is partly unconscious, because, without my conscious awareness, it denies the aspects of myself that I find unacceptable. The strategies that the ego uses are quite a handful, but I also find that creating a mask, “who I would like to be seen as” is also an effective defense*. Jung calls this mask “persona”, after the masks actors used in ancient  theater.

We may keep on asking, what makes someone (at times, the closest to you, the one that gave you life, that is supposed to protect you above all and everything) attack you physically and psychologically, you, a defenseless child? Would it be that the child is so undeserving that he, or she, deserves punishment and maltreatment? According to common sense, and to new science, a child is coming to this life totally innocent, helpless and unprepared, so it is up to us, parents, to provide to all its needs.
If, at any time along the child’s development there are reasons to believe that he/she didn’t progress well enough, or less well than expected, then it must be the parents’ fault, and not the child’s. A child may defend himself/herself ferociously against a stranger, for instance, but cannot defend against parental authority – even adults cannot defend themselves against authority (Milgram experiment)

But these are only rational speculations, while there is nothing rational in this type of behavior. Whatever the reason, it leaves indelible traces in the abused child – for life. Not for the physical damage, but for the psychological one. All our psychological wounds come from any kind of action that is being perceived as out of the norm, condemnable at the societal level. It is a long, well established religious dogma: no incestuous relations between close relatives – it may be that people were observant enough to realize that along time such relations would generate offspring less fit for survival and procreation, something that genetics discovered relatively recently. If animals, wild or domesticated, are avoiding interbreeding, there must be some evolved instinct in nature in order to discourage it.
However, humans have found their way, as usual, to go around religious and natural prohibitions: ancient Egyptians’ royalty encouraged the practice, so that it became a sort of “privilege of the gods” (pharaohs were “gods on earth”). Christianity also knows of glamorous examples (among who knows how many secret ones) like the illustrious family that gave the world three popes. “Borgia were an incestuous family”, says Giovanni Sforza about the family of his wife, Lucretia – their Vatican orgies were quite famous and in plain daylight.

child protection
There is no evidence that in these examples, people were in no way affected by the weight of their acts, on the contrary, they caused their singular ways to be seen as privileged and exclusive – who knows how many envious followers they left in their historic trace??
In our days, conventions in our society dictate that incestuous relations be prohibited and blamable – probably partly on the religious bases, partly as a natural instinct that even animals follow. How does a child, victim of such abuse, know that this is an outrageous thing, outrageous enough as to cause deep psychological trauma for a life time? Maybe the child knows it deeply, innately, the same way animals “know”. Why does the abusive parent do it? Because there must be something gone terribly wrong with him or her, something to have rendered him/her psychologically and emotionally impaired – maybe, most probably, something similar had happened to himself (or herself, as mothers and grandmothers are known to do it too).

projection

When a person is acting this way against his/her own progeny, he, or she is doing it because he/she is deeply hurt, hateful towards self, even desperate and disgusted with oneself – and it doesn’t have to be consciously known. In fact, their biggest problem is that they are not conscious that they are so profoundly hurt, and why. They can only act blindly, repeat and mirror the reprovable behavior that caused them such painful emotions on a similarly vulnerable victim, the way they were themselves. Which makes them feel even worse: this is why they blame the victim, the child, for their own ugliness and helplessness – from here the bad words, the beating, the worsening of the abuse. This is a typical example for “projection”: a psychological term that explains how unacceptable, negative behavior is being projected, reflected on others. A liar would see that everybody is lying, a thief would claim that everybody is a thief, a stingy, avaricious man would poke fun at others for their stinginess.

I am amazed at how many brave men and women, even children, decide to speak up, let the world become aware that all these reprovable things like incest and pedophilia are happening. It is by bringing dark things to the light that dark, uncontrollable instincts lose their power and become harmless, as awareness and reason gain over emotion and instinct.

light into darkness

We are humans in the process of bringing light into millenia of unconsciousness and darkness – we are collectively paining in the process of transformation of the animal instinct into evolved awareness. Hard as may be, we are the transforming heroes, so that these things never happen again in the next generations.

  • Polly Y. Eisendrath, James James Albert Hall, “Jung’s Self Psychology – A Constructivist Perspective” p 6

“I Am” – What Makes The I-ness? Individual And Collective Mind – The Ego

Self-Righteousness Is Trying Too Hard To Be Good – It Comes From The Collective Ego

I always think that we are trying too hard to be good. Really. Because, if we weren’t striving that much for purity, righteousness, perfection and sanctity (in the hopes of being allowed to be rambling in God’s garden), we wouldn’t do all the demented things we are doing.

It is in the name of good – God – that we practice religious mass killings. And it’s not only the “bad” religions (like ISIS  is doing in the name of Islam), but let’s not forget Christianity’s strive for “goodness” in the past.  Along the years, entire populations and whole continents have been  enslaved, sold,  exterminated by armies and missionarism. But this isn’t Religion: this is Ego.

my dog, my cat and my ego
a wonderful post on Ego’s “goods” and “bads” down below*

 

As we cringe today at the abominable actions perpetrated, also in the name of God (but, alas, the one from a different book), we seem to be forgetful of all that terrible past now. But this is not just “past” – this is Present. The next day after the 9/11 president Bush announced the beginning of a new Crusade War, affirming his commitment to address the “evil” at its own home – in fact, he initiated the chaos that we are now witnessing in the Middle East. ISIS and the refugee crisis wold not exist if not for the 3rd millennium Crusade War, and as much as we mind the mess, imagine what those populations’ everyday lives have become.

Could it be that in real life, the mythic fight between good and evil is not that clearly cut along white and black zones? If we tried to gain some perspective, we might see that in the middle of darkness there is a pure white spot, and in the middle of whiteness, there is a pitch dark one.

good vs Bad

Our medias keep on displaying for our hungry eyes endless, repetitive, real-life stories with horrific images. How ugly the others are, to us, the good and the right ones… But these stories ever fail to mention the  western politics of separating and dissolution, of dissipation, of squandering their human and land resources… How their dictators have been selected and supported by the powers of the West, how inhumane politics were tolerated in place, in exchange for oil and other resources… how it was convenient to maintain those populations in the darkness of dogmas and madrasas, rather than pressuring their rulers for social, economic and educational reforms… The stories that media shows us are freshly cut for modern consumer’s eye; the stories fail to mention that, for ages, since the Roman Empire to today, the western slogan for the politics in the Middle East has been “divide ad impera”: divide and rule! Medias fail to tell that today’s affluent western society is built on centuries of colonization and exploitation of exactly those populations that today, exhausted by wars and famine, are crossing over the frozen and agitated seawaters on boats of fortune, to knock at the door of an indignant and frustrated West.

human rights

The epic battle between right and wrong is being enacted right now, and we are the protagonists. Let’s remember that the only time where “right” is justified is when it comes with the adjective “human”. What we are living now will be history for the coming generations – they will have the perspective to judge, let’s hope, with a more impartial eye, free of our blinding self-righteousness. What will they think of us??

  • see article on The Role of The Ego here: http://rishajoshi.com/2015/12/16/the-role-of-the-ego/

“I Am” – What Makes The I-ness? Individual And Collective Mind – The Shadow

 

Show Me My Shadow

James J. O’Donnell, author and classic scholar, tells us that “People kill because it’s the right thing to do.” And he is terribly right. Only this last Christmas, a woman in Arizona shot in the eye another woman because that one didn’t believe in God – at Christmas!

He goes on: “elected statesmen—American no less than from countries we aren’t so fond of—are no less prone to pull the trigger on killing with exact justifications based in the soundest moral arguments. We glance away nervously and mutter about exceptions. What if the exceptions are the rule?” And then he leaves us with a warning: The good guys are the bad guys. Teaching your children to do the right thing can get people killed.”

More than half-a-century ago, Jung identified our own Shadow to be the source for the problem: we never pay attention to our own flaws, to the spiderwebs in our own closets – this is a wink to those who are into psychology.

To those into religion, the Bible says: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” But maybe we pick in our religions the stuff that suits us and dispose of the rest??  Cause “there is nothing wrong about it, God would never see it anyway, if we hide it well”… or so we’d like to believe. But God, whoever, whatever this is, is not much into any spying system – it is our own soul that cannot bear hypocrisy, lying, finger-pointing, wrong-doing… because human soul has this property, it always wants to be neat and clean. Rather than being saintly, the soul would want things to be honest and straight.

So, who and what am I, the good, or the bad one?? I am the two – and seeing this is my utmost, foremost “soul assignment” in this life: seeing the log in my own eye. It is just that – but it’s so hard.

I have been watching the fear, the hatred, the suspicions, the accusations and incrimination at the coming of the Syrian and Afghan refugees in Europe and in the States. Not all of them are good people. Not all of them are genuine refugees. But the biggest majority are.

But meanwhile, for who knows, maybe 0,0001 % of the infiltrated bad ones, Europe is radicalizing its policies, all like the US: we may be testimonies to the process of electing an American president not because he may be the best man for the job, but because he is the one most skilled at scaring the frightened child inside us.

shadow Jung

There has been another president before who declared a new “Crusade War” to the Middle East. And he didn’t hesitate, he went for it: what we are living now is just the aftermath. If a new president will follow in his footsteps, we are going to live a new edition, the “Crusade War Two”.

And, the aftermath to that…?? The aftermath to that wold be total Chaos, if this one we are living now was not enough.

Finally, rather than deliberating whether “They are good” or “They are bad”,  a change of pronoun may help enormously: “I am good” or “I am bad”.

The Bible didn’t say: “see the log in your eye” and mend it. Just seeing, becoming aware of it would be equal to fixing it and accepting that”I am good” and “I am bad”. Maybe if I see my own dark corners I won’t be that ready to throw stones at another fellow human being?

 

 

What Is My Place in The Universe?

The featured image is a visualization of the routing paths through a portion of the Internet. As the Internet is now the means, the tool, the depository of data and the projection wall for our collective knowledge, we can easily see it as a collective brain. The connections and pathways can be easily imagined as the pathways of neurons and synapses in this global brain. But this is not the only parallel; the neuron connections can also parallel the structures shown by our cities viewed from aboard the space station, or the images of the deep space in the visible universe – it seems that, the larger the diversity of scales, the more similarity we find. Science names this repetition of patterns from the micro to the macro scale fractality, which is a fundamental property of our universe. A fractal is “an object whose parts, at infinitely many levels of magnification, appear geometrically similar to the whole.
city neurons space station
The cities-at-night photos on the left were taken from aboard the space station; they show remarkable similarity with the neuronal structures in the photos on the right (source: sciencenote.tumblr.com) The following image is also a comparison, this time between a brain cell and the universe:

brain cell - universe

a word of fractals
Fractality is only one example of universality of patterns and systems; as the common trait of many fractals is self-similarity, there is a whole world of scale-free complex networks that suggest common self-organization dynamics. The complex networks are self-repeating patterns on all length scales.  At human scale we can observe real-life systems like the world-wide web,  biological and social networks – we are part of all three. As we are also part of the universe. As the universe is part of us.
consciousness eye
Helix Nebula
blue iris
human eye
One of the most common patterns of self-similarity is the spiral. We see spirals everywhere; besides being a beautiful shape, a spiral is a truly efficient form. The marvelous curves are not only nature’s way to organize space efficiently, but they also convey energy and motion.

subatomic particles

chemistry Belousov
Chemistry: Belousov-Zhabotinski reaction
Sacred-Geometry-Golden-Ratio-Spiral-of-Life-Nature-Fibonacci-Sunflower
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Bismuth crystal
When we analyse the geometry of a spiral we realize that it is possibly the most simple mathematic pattern that occurs in nature at all levels, from the tracks made by atomic particles (this is how far “small” we can see) to chemical reactions (Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction) to bacteria-growth patterns, to crystals (bismuth), to clouds, to turbulence in water and air, to weather patterns on distant planets, to galaxies and nebula; we see curves in a wave, in the shells and snails, in animals’ tails and horns, in flowers, and plants. We can hear because of such a spiral – cochlea.

cochlea

 

Mathematics is our way to translate the universe into numbers.Numbers are only what we use to organize quantitative information. If we analyse the spiral, it is always the repetition of the same ratio, the so called “Golden Number”, 1.61803399, represented as the Greek letter Phi. Along time it has been called a number of names, all of them containing “golden” or “divine” as adjective: Golden Ratio, Golden Proportion, Golden Mean, Golden Section, suggestive of how people can be fascinated and awed by the “divine” intelligence of the universe: it is also known as the “Divine Proportion” and the “Divine Section”.
The Golden Ratio is generated by a specific, easy to calculate sequence of numbers: starting from zero, then one and two, each number is to be additioned to the one before it:
zero, one + one = two,  two +one =three,  three + two = five, and so on, to infinity.
 The potentially infinite series, called Fibonnaci after the nickname of the Italian matematician who first published a book on the series, is now well known in the mainstream of pop culture. A Fibonacci Spiral is a logarithmic spiral with a growth factor of phi, or a rectangle with sides in the ratio of 1 : φ – the Golden Rectangle, or the Golden Spiral, widely used in arts and architecture. Throughout history, but particularly in the Renaissance art with Leonardo da Vinci and his peers, many artists and architects proportioned their works according to the Golden Ratio – which explains why, innately, we find their works aesthetically pleasing  (what about this inclination we commonly share, that of liking and loving, of disliking or hating the same things – as much as we would like to deny it, there are more similarities among us to unite, than are differences to separate us).

golden ratio

As we are all webbed  within our human society, we are already one example of a complex system, and there is a whole hierarchy of systems inside us – fractality. Human society is itself being webbed in the larger system of life on the planet, as the planet is also part of its solar system, itself part of … .
It is undeniable, and today more obvious than ever, that we are intricate, irreplaceable parts embedded in ever larger complex systems; we cannot hold ourselves apart from the laws of a universe ruled by self-organizing processes. This is our place in the order of Being. This is our Identity. This is our Right. This is our Responsibility.
Man has instinctively complied to the laws dictated by nature, first by imitating nature, and now through understanding nature, realizing that he is nature itself, that nature’s intelligence is man’s intelligence. Everything that our mind perceives and is aware of is the universe looking at itself.  Since the numbers are everywhere, everything is part of a pattern. The same patterns that are outside us, in the infinite universe, are also inside us. We reflect on them, as they reflect on us: we, as individuals, are holograms within the holographic universe: images within images. Life itself is a Fractal. The initial question: “What is our place inside the universe?” is gradually finding its answer; in as much as it is hard to believe it, this is, however, the true answer.
you are the universe expressing itself

       

“I Am” – What Makes The I-ness? Individual And Collective Mind – I –

Can You Trust Mainstream Definition of The Self?

If you are one of those who still thinks that there is nothing wrong with our world, don’t read this. But if you, too, think that our world is going through chaos, maybe you would want to read on.

My musings here have been originated by the mainstream worldview usually expressed in terms similar to this:

“…  if you really want to change how you view humanity, I guess you start viewing humanity as nothing but another species that developed on a planet with optimal circumstances for the evolution of that species.

This can be hard to do if you are religious or exceptionally spiritual [*my highlighting].  

You could just think “I am just one in 7 billion living homo sapiens. My existence is no more meaningful than that of anybody or anything else. I am not here for any reason worth thinking about. I just am. Like other (advanced) species I desire shelter and food and my ultimate evolutionary goal is to procreate and ensure the continuation of my genes.” That’s it.

It’s not fun, but it’s not wrong, per say [sic].

I guess it helps if you look up pictures of space so you see how minuscule humanity is and that our existence (whether we become a utopian race or literally blow up the planet) is not in any way important or exceptional relative to the universe.”

     

Is that so?? Is it not important, really? If tomorrow our grandchildren will ask us “Why did you let that happen to the planet, to the animals and plants, and to the world?”, would it look like sound judgment to them if we told them: “See, you, and the world are not important in any way”? Or, perhaps, they would ask us: “Are you in your right mind?”

With all the chaos happening around us, I have recently had a good number of reasons to see that human life (and life in general) has become quite a negligible concept in a sea of more important things, like government, security, the military, the economy, the stock market, bonds, shares,  the investment market, so on, and so forth.

Actually in what regards the crucial issue of identity, there is more polarity than ever before in the whole of our mass consciousness.

At one extreme, religious dogma has been telling us for two thousand years that we are sinners and unworthy, guilty of some “original” sin. At the other, science is telling us that we are just accidentally here, and the technocrats consider that we humans (are themselves included?) have become less apt than the increasingly smart artificial intelligence – AI, even at such uncomplicated tasks as driving, for instance. That’s why there are serious propositions to replace human driving with self-driving cars.

What I find mostly disturbing in this general frame of mind is not that humans are being unfavorably compared to AI – we do have less computation power or less memory – it is the belief that the ultimate solution to our current problems would be the machines. It is expected that they should teach us empathy and ethics: “the machines teach empathy, prospection, and correct agency attribution”, according to a  Computer Science professor at the University of Vermont (here).

 

singularity love
“We are already cyborgs”

But I don’t think that I should entrust my children, my children’s children and the planet to the empathy of machines. Why don’t we “teach” them by showing empathy ourselves? Is it that hard?

Would it be easier to risk it all just because we are being too lazy to make an effort? Or too irresponsible? Too careless? Too “inhuman”?

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Master Your Emotions and Control Your Anger

This is an interesting and useful post from The Gorilla Mindset blogsite.

Mike Cernovich, author of The Gorilla Mindset self-help book, in this podcast is talking about how to deal with, and what to do in order to control our emotions.

“Why do people have trouble controlling their emotions? What do so many people have anger management issues? The answer is simple.

No one trained you how to control your emotions.

It’s just assumed that if you get angry, you’ll stop being angry. Thus you get angry, shoot your load, and then look around at the carnage.

Emotions can be controlled. A man need not be a slave to his emotions. Find out how to master your emotions in the last podcast.”

http://www.dangerandplay.com/2014/09/12/master-emotions-control-anger

One Author’s Recipe for Loving Food and Losing Weight

We live better and perform better whenever we are mindful about our routine actions. We need to focus, be conscious, aware of everything we do: a good cooperation between the body and the mind is always enhanced by conscious communication. We hardly realize that our cells respond to emotions as well as to mind’s conscious command – yet, this is the reality.

The about.me Blog

Darya Rose’s secret lies in real food and real science.

Darya helps people fall back in love with food and redefine their relationships with health. Growing up in Southern California during the Bay Watch era, Darya admits she spent 15 years on diets. Darya’s dieting caused body anxiety and weight gain and she soon realized that magazines and doctors were not giving her the right answer.

Science gave Darya her answer. Darya discovered that in order to be her healthiest self she needed to start focusing on eating what she loved. Darya’s since written Foodist, created the blog Summer Tomato and acquired a Ph.D. in neuroscience. 

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Deppression: Chaos In and Out – “Have You Lost Your Mind??” “No, I Have Only Now Recovered It”- The Role that Chaos Is Playing in Our Lives

 Depression, Why Are You Coming Into My Life?

                                             Why Me, Depression? Are you here to harm me??

follow the path of your heartDuring years 2000 and 2007 (more or less) I was grappling with shadows in the depths of depression; at the time I didn’t know what depression was, I didn’t see any psychoanalyst and I was convinced that That Was It, I mean, the end of me.

Maybe the worst part of it was that nothing made any sense; I had no idea what, and why all this was happening to me. From the perspective I have now on things, I realize that my depression was in fact the outcome of a powerful inner struggle for clarity and self-knowledge, fueled by my gasping for outside validation, acceptance and acknowledgment; in short, I wasn’t quite “fitting in”, neither in my own vision of myself, nor in the outsiders’ view.

But why would anything like this happen to anyone? Is it a downgrading of the personality? Is it a disease – and if so, what is there that it’s sick, the mind … the brain? The soul? Is it a heavenly punishment for nobody knows what personal, or “original sin”, ancestral mistake of our fathers’ fathers – good to know in case you are a believer??

If religion would attribute all our ills and evils to some sinful nature (see “original sin”), scientists still grapple in the dark. One evolutionary theory attributes the finality of depression to nature’s programs: to help select or restructure next generations’ DNA for better adaptive features – not unlike Darwin’s “survival of the fittest”(*see: Fumagalli, M. et alSignatures of environmental genetic adaptation pinpoint pathogens as the main selective pressure through human evolution: http://journals.plos.org/plosgenetics/article?id=10.1371/journal.pgen.1002355).

But then, view that countless people have come out of it without the use of medication, what are the mechanisms in and out of depression ?

We are “social animals”. In my own case, depression wasn’t triggered either by my own feelings of inadequacy alone, or by the image which outsiders, I thought, may have held of me, but it was rather a combination of the two, in a closed loop of cause and effect. Whether everyone with depression is aware of this one mechanism or not, it is always true that our inner picture reflects what others project on us, and the outer picture – the one that others form of us, is itself a mirror of how we see ourselves.

And this yet would be an oversimplification, as it shows just a short segment of our cause-and-effect type of reality.  Whatever we feel that we are at any point in life is just a construct that we make based on all our previous lived experiences.

Daniel Kahneman (https://www.ted.com/talks/daniel_kahneman_the_riddle_of_experience_vs_memory/transcript?language=en) has successfully argued on how our self-image is not  made of objective memories, but it is, in fact, our subjective interpretation of those experiences.

It could be that, back in my childhood, my mother didn’t give me that last pancake,  but gave it to my little brother because she had nothing else left to feed him, while I was supposed to go have my breakfast at the school cafeteria – meaning not at all that my mother stopped loving me and gave all of her love to the newest baby (yea, I agree, too many times mothers do fall into that ancient mammalian instinct of  shunning the older baby so that she can provide for the new, helpless one).

It is also true that lots of people fall into depression unexpectedly, unable to see any possible reason that may justify all that terrible fall into darkness. Midlife crisis, if one didn’t know depression before, is sure to come and shake all the solid ground on which an individual has carefully built his whole personality. It is so unavoidable that it is lately seen just as a normal, necessary period of transition from youth’s folly to the appeasement of mature age. If so, why not embrace it?

 

Midlife Crisis – Time for Transition

                              When things get stale, when you start growing mold on your soul, it is time for change – want it or not, chaos will come.

the hero's journeyThey say that depression is often triggered by the midlife crisis, that creeps into your life always unexpected, and, surely, uninvited. I believe in that; I am the active type, the one that looks for and accepts challenges, so I was struggling at the time to achieve more, do more and conquer yet other peaks and heights. It is then that we quit our job impulsively, quit a long-loved spouse, decide to leave everything behind to start a new life, go battle own demons, etc, etc… .

In our quest for happiness we all start from the false premises that this or that thing or achievement will make us happy – we never seem to realize how fast after the realization of our goal, it almost suddenly loses its initial appeal and significance. Or, if we do, we don’t seem to care, because we immediately start aiming for a new one, just to keep going, in a perpetual “chasing the carrot” type of journey.

It’s been established as a routine fact that, at some point in life, the questions begin pounding with ever more persistence: “What is the meaning of it all??”, “Who am I, and what am I doing here?” If all this wasn’t already hard enough for those with faith, it is way harder to get your answers when you are traveling on your own, when there’s no God in sight to agent it, to guide or to support you.

When this happened to me, I didn’t know of any symptom questions or routine signs – I fell in it totally, blindly – I was trying to make myself a place and find recognition inside a culture that was not mine, among people that would perceive me, at least unconsciously, that I didn’t belong – but don’t we all do that to our own “strangers”??

I now recognize how I just fitted perfectly in the pattern: after having been teaching at the same school for nine years, I suddenly decided to quit, on the spur of the moment (sudden bouts of anger are my driving engine), realizing that the school owner and principal would never keep promises and would never allow me to move forward.

Leave the safety of a relatively easy, unchallenging job, for God knows what new challenges must have sounded stupid, I know. It was an especially risky move on my part, due to the unfavorable time and place, inside a culture that was not mine, and not particularly open to foreigners, particularly to those coming from the eastern, ex-communist bloc. Some people around me rightfully asked: “Have you lost your mind??”

That was the step of a Fool, I acknowledge.

 

The Fool – That I Was, And Still Hope to Remain 

Be a Fool – it’s not dangerous: “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”

I had no idea of arcanas, fools and journeys at the time – far less of archetypes playing defining roles into our lives. My mindset at the time was as aligned to the mainstream as possible: within the “right” materialist-scientific worldview no “esoteric” or “obscure mysteries” could enter my impermeable mind.

But if I choose today to speak with quasi authority on the field of Tarot is my encounter (through his work, at least) with a cutting-edge physicist and specialist in System Sciences. In his book, Genesis of The Cosmos – The Ancient Science of Continuous Creation, PhD Paul La Violette finds amazing parallels between ancient Egypt history, ancient myths and system sciences.

Through his book he is guiding the reader into the realization that some cutting edge scientific principles reflect ancient knowledge kept hidden for eras as utmost spiritual truth – the most guarded occult mysteries. For the first time, due my previous familiarity with the history of religions and compared mythology, I sensed how ancient myths and symbols began glittering with their own light. Could it be that, what mainstream science used to see as “mystical, supernatural, magical powers, practices, or phenomena”, can enter the domain of scientific theory, due to 21st century advances in scientific discovery ?

I was already knowledgeable in the domain of ancient, compared religions and mythology, but the idea never crossed my mind that all those things could be something more than gibberish, not worthy to be told even to little children – I got them just as required studies. But I was in to learn much more: that general, universal truths have been coded and preserved, in the intention of those advanced enough as to grasp, seize and understand an unfathomed, advanced view on the true reality.

Truths are being hidden, suggested or disguised in the allegories and the metaphors of ancient texts, myths, stories, rituals, and none of these had any chance of being scarcely understood before the 20th century advances in quantum physics and mechanics, before the advent of chaos – catastrophe theory and system sciences.

In the Tarot system the Fool is the protagonist of a story that is right about to begin, and as such, it is the zero-point card of the Major Arcana (from here the arcane: known or understood by very few; mysterious; secret; obscure; esoteric”), a number of 21 cards, or images representing human archetypes or instances along a schematic, spiritual journey,  “the path to spiritual awareness”. The cards mark, or depict, “the various stages we encounter as we search for greater meaning and understanding” along our own journey.

Unknowingly, the path I just initiated was marked by the Fool, and my journey ahead, designated in Tarot language as the “Fool’s Journey”, was to be a journey of discovery and initiation.  The Fool

The journey is guided by the main human archetypes (Gr: archein, “original or old”; and typos, “pattern, model or type”) that will pop up at diverse stages through dreams or other means. They may stand for real people and real-life events that will prompt you to the next stage or the next leg of the journey, or they may only appear as symbols signaled by the unconscious – or both.

Looking back at that point in time I can realize with no difficulty that my journey effectively started exactly as described by the “Fool” card: I actually was at a turning point in my life, eager for the next stage of the journey, and, while my foot was already in the air, ready to step forward, I was totally unaware that I was on the edge of a cliff, and that the next step was going to be in the void.

What I find most intriguing is that, this process being autonomous, while it is happening to us, we are never aware of what is going on – or, at least, not consciously aware – maybe we are too engulfed into our suffering and existential pain (and who could blame us?), which renders us incapable of objectivity. We lack the necessary distance and detachment, unable to grasp the bigger picture.

From the perspective that the passage of time allows me, I can also say, although I am against the clichés and the overly used chunks of wisdom:”What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.

I am not writing this to describe the journey, but to introduce the “transformation archetype”, the one that Jung rightfully considered the major archetype that dominates our lives.

 

The Individuation Journey – The Journey of A Lifetime

    Absorbed into the transformation archetype we are  jumping into the dangerous void of our own insecurities, the realm where our demons dwell. But demons always hide the treasure of our own greatest potential.

the individuation processWe are all, at least once, if not repeatedly, on the point of starting a new journey: leaving home for continuing own education, marriage, a change in the workplace or a new job altogether, a major change of the living place to a new city or country, a newly declared, life-threatening medical condition, a divorce, or the loss of a dear one.  Whatever the reason, at some point in life we are about to change our previous worldview and previous identity – our approach to life altogether.

One thing, increasingly common to these times, is that Crisis and Chaos comes with the destructiveness of  a tornado that, once has you lifted, whirling and swirling in the void, won’t let you down until it has shattered all your previous assumptions and identifications.

But when it lets you down, you are a new you, a self-contained, stand-alone individual, capable of existing by oneself and through oneself, free from the need to please others, to follow others, to conform and comply; you finally get to be “the real you”, and be fine with it.

Under this new light, the imperative “know thyself” is not a witty, catchy phrase to enchant the ears of generations of theater-goers; it has as deep a meaning as can be.  At the other end of the self-interrogation “Who am I?”, “Know thyself!” has been the highest imperative along ages, known to all those who wanted to grasp the meaning of their life. Starting at least as far back as with the ancient Eastern philosophies, it was known to Socrates and Plato, to Shakespeare, and to modern psychology today.

Swiss psychiatrist and depth psychoanalyst C.G. Jung coined the term “individuation journey” for this journey of finding oneself, the journey of transcending the Ego towards finding one’s own center, the Self.

Jung: individuation process: a journey of personal achievement guided by myth, archetypes and symbols that aim at achieving balance between the person’s conscious and personal unconscious; the journey is figured as a spiral movement towards a center, the center of one’s personality. The journey aims at delivering the person towards its final destiny that can be plenitude and a religious integration” (Andrew Colman’s Dictionary of Psychology, Oxford)

I have found a few excerpts about Jung’s individuation on the net that I’d like to share – these are from mindstructures.com (October 07, 2012):

“According to Jungian psychology, individuation is the process of transforming one’s psyche by bringing the personal and collective unconscious into conscious.

  • Individuation has a holistic healing effect on the person, both mentally and physically.
  • Individuation is a process of psychological differentiation, having for its goal the development of the individual personality. In general, it is the process by which individual beings are formed and differentiated; in particular, it is the development of the psychological individual as a being distinct from the general, collective psychology.
  • Besides achieving physical and mental health, people who have advanced towards individuation, they tend to become harmonious, mature, responsible, they promote freedom and justice and have a good understanding about the workings of human nature and the universe.”

So, from the perspective that the passage of time is offering us, chaos and crisis in our lives may serve us well – could it be that it also takes us closer to finding the meaning, to the fulfillment and the scope of our lives??

dragon treasureThis will be the subject for my next post.