Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Sacred Laws of Psyche: The Law of Choice March 17, 2020

You and I are essentially infinite choice-makers. In every moment of our existence, we are in that field of all possibilities where we have access to an infinity of choices. ~Deepak Chopra

We need to teach the next generation of children from day one that they are responsible for their lives. Mankind’s greatest gift, also its greatest curse, is that we have free choice. We can make our choices built from love or from fear. ~Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

I am who I am today because of the choices I made yesterday. ~Eleanor Roosevelt

8.The Law of Choice: There are many choices you do not have the power to make. You cannot choose when, where, or to whom you were born. You did not choose your family, genetic inheritance, race, body type, or the early blessings and traumatic experiences that shaped your mind, emotions, and fundamental personality. You cannot choose to avoid suffering, or change the natural aging processes of your life.

But you do have the power to choose what to do with what life gives you. You can choose to confront your challenges with courage, confidence, and trust.  You can choose the values you want to serve, the friends you want to keep, the partner you want to spend your life with. You can set goals and act on them, or procrastinate lest you make a mistake. You can settle for a job or lifestyle that does not fulfill you, or design a path of your own. You can accept responsibility for your choices or blame someone else. You can cultivate your imagination or bury it. View yourself as separate or as connected. Integrate or fight otherness. Nurture love or hate. Trust or fear. Your choices will shape your life and influence yours and the world’s welfare.

The difficulty in life is the choice. George Moore, The Bending of the Bough, 1900, Act IV.

But the big choices that can permanently alter the course of your life are very difficult. How then do you decide? In my life I’ve found that impulsive decisions are rarely the answer. Most really big choices require a great deal of soul-searching, self-knowledge, and time before the gates open and the path becomes clear. You need to examine your motives — not the surface, idealistic ones your ego flatters itself with, but the ones deep in your unconscious that you struggle to disown, like those based on pride, hunger for power, fear, selfishness, hatred, the need to impress, or the desire for revenge.

It is not I who create myself, rather I happen to myself. (The Collected Works of Carl Jung, Vol. 11, Para 391)

Unknown forces in your psyche influence you every day: instincts, archetypes, typologies, complexes, emotions, attitudes, and memories. You can choose to ignore them. You can blame them on people and circumstances. Or you can choose to be mindful of them. You can ask yourself why you just behaved the way you did; look for alternative ways to respond next time. You can pay attention to the dramas that are enacted in the dream theaters of your soul every night.

Once you understand your psychological patterns and the negative affect these patterns have on your life, you can now make better life choices. This is a breakthrough! Those patterns have kept you stuck from living the life you have imagined. Of course, your experiences and the way you coped with them will never disappear. They are part of your spiritual development. However, the coping mechanisms and false beliefs are no longer dictating who you become, your authentic self is, the self that wants purpose and meaning in life. ~www.virtuesforlife.com

You must recognize, embrace, and be honest about what is real for you today and allow that understanding to inform the choices you make. Only then will you be able to build the future of your dreams. ~Suze Orman

We must make the choices that enable us to fulfill the deepest capacities of our real selves. ~Thomas Merton

At a crossroads

Honest choices that enable you to fulfill the deepest capacities of your Self are motivated by the Law of Love. Choices made from love change your life and the lives of those around you. They bridge opposites instead of creating divides. They bring hope, trust, and freedom. They nourish compassion and healing, dispel fear and despair.

May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears. ~Nelson Mandela

What choices motivated by self-knowledge, truth, and love can your country make as it prepares for the mounting crisis of the coronavirus pandemic? What choices can you make?

Image credit:  Doors, Pixabay

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Watch for her new book, The Soul’s Twins, to be launched in October of this year.

 

Sacred Laws of the Psyche: The Law of Love, Part II March 10, 2020

Love “bears all things” and “endures all things’* (i Cor. 13:7). These words say all there is to be said; nothing can be added to them. For we are in the deepest sense the victims and the instruments of cosmogonic “love.” ~Carl Jung; Memories Dreams and Reflections; Page 354ç

At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love. ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Love . . . is of fundamental importance in human life and . . . of far greater significance than the individual suspects. ~Carl Jung, CW 7, Page 218.

Where there is love, there is life. ~Mahatma Gandhi

AGAPE

Love of the soul. Charity. The love of human for human, God for humans, and humans for God. The highest form of love, the supreme value that sums up and encompasses all the others.

Quan Yin: Goddess of Mercy and Compassion

Emotion is one aspect of agape.The Greeks thought of it as empathy and feelings of lovingkindness for others, like sympathy, familiarity, affection, sentiment, and attraction. But agape is also a choice. We can choose to strive for the highest good of others as well as ourselves, even in the face of extreme adversity.

Yet agape is even more than this, and here we enter the realm of mysticism. For spirit persons throughout the world, agape also comes from outside the human body and ego. It is an intangible living thing that we are all born with and immersed in together.

Like the Self, the psyche’s core and circumference, the supreme form of love is a spiritual life force that we cannot escape. Whatever we want to call it, we’re in agapeagape is in us, and every form of love comes from it. Agape is something we are: the Self within us and the miracle of our life. God, Spirit,  Life, Love, and the Self are all the same thing.

This means you are sacred, I am sacred, all life is sacred. Why don’t we know it? Why is there so much suffering in this world? Because we have not yet learned the final kind of love I will discuss in this series.

No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” ~Nelson Mandela

PHILAUTIA

Love of the self.  To have regard for your own happiness or advantage. While this is a basic human necessity, many see it as a moral flaw akin to vanity, selfishness, and egotism.

Every human being yearns for love. But like all life, we are still evolving, and we haven’t come close enough to full consciousness yet. There are two sides to every quality — love and hate, good and evil, pro-social and antisocial — and we still don’t understand that we contain both. We haven’t learned philautia because we are unaware of our core of love and its shadow, hatred.

When we feel an impulse we think is evil, in our fear and ignorance we project it onto others and turn them into our scapegoats, then secretly hate ourselves for it. The more we do this, the more self-hate wins. Believing we are unworthy, we turn our most valuable commodity, our ability to love, into a sin. And in our self-hatred, we destroy ourselves and the capacity for love in those around us.

I cannot love anyone if I hate myself. ~Carl Jung, Psychological Reflections, Page 221.

To love someone else is easy, but to love what you are, the thing that is yourself, is just as if you were embracing a glowing red-hot iron: it burns into you and that is very painful. ~Carl Jung, Zarathustra Seminar, Page 1473.

Throughout history we’ve been furnished with many models of agape: Lao Tsu, Buddha, Quan Yin, Abraham, Leah, Jesus, Muhammad, Fatimah, Hildegard of Bingen, Oshun, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. are among these spiritual warriors. We have yet to fully understand their messages.

Who are your models of agape? What have you learned from them?

Image Credits: Google Images:  muslimmatters.org, thespruce.com, she knows, quotes.com.

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Watch for her new book, The Soul’s Twins, to be launched in October of this year.

 

Sacred Laws of Psyche: The Law of Love, Part I March 4, 2020

The language of religion defines God as “love,” there is always the great danger of confusing the love which works in man with the workings of God. ~Carl Jung; CW 5, Para. 98.

I don’t think we can separate love from overall human dignity and hope. ~Adrienne Rich, On Lies, Secrets, and Silence: Selected Prose 1966-1978

7. Sacred Laws of Psyche: The Law of Love: Love is the most powerful healing and unifying force in life. It has its roots in the heart — honest feeling, valuing, and respect, not in the head — ideas, words, theories, logic, and reason.

According to the ancient Greeks, there are seven types of love.

  • Eros: Love of the body. Eros was the Greek God of love and sexual desire. Romantic love.

  • Philia: Love of the mind. Philosophy means “love of Sophia,” the spark of life and wisdom in us.  Philia also refers to love between good friends.

  • Ludus: Playful love between partners and friends.

  • Pragma: longstanding, practical, systematic, business-like love of work.

  • Agape: Love of the soul. Charity, the love of human for human, and the love of God for humans and humans for God. The highest form of love.

  • Philautia: Love of the self.  To have regard for your own happiness or advantage. A basic human necessity, many see it as a moral flaw akin to vanity, selfishness, and egotism.

  • Storge: Love of the child. Natural or instinctual affection; family love,

Of these, I’d like to address four that seem most misunderstood and needed in today’s world:  Eros and Philia in this post, and Agape, and Philautia in Part II.

EROS

An honorable human relationship — that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word “love” — is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other. It is important to do this because it breaks down human self-delusion and isolation. It is important to do this because in doing so we do justice to our own complexity. It is important to do this because we can count on so few people to go that hard way with us. ~Adrienne Rich

American women rule the home because the American men have not yet learned to love them. ~Carl Jung, NY Times, 1912.

Whoever is in love is a full and overflowing vessel, and awaits the giving. Whoever is in fore thinking is deep and hollow and awaits fulfillment. ~Carl Jung, The Red Book, Page 253.

Fred and I married when I was 21. When I saw the above picture my brother recently digitalized from a slide taken in those days, I was surprised and saddened by how naive and unconscious I was.  I was wary, detached, and scattered. Self-conscious, anxious to please, and focused on looking good on the outside. A school-smart, church-religious, idealistic conformist, I thought I was a loving person, but had no conception of who I was or what love is.

Since then, I’ve learned that an intimate relationship is the perfect school for love. When both partners can tolerate the tension of self-discovery and change, they can experience a revitalizing new birth. As the light of consciousness emerges in us, so does love. We’re going on 56 years together now, and so far it seems to be working.

PHILIA

The ancients called the saving word the Logos, an expression of divine reason. So much unreason was in man that he needed reason to be saved. If one waits long enough, one sees how the Gods all change into serpents and underworld dragons in the end. This is also the fate of the Logos in the end it poisons us all. In time, we were all poisoned, but unknowingly we kept the One, the Powerful One, the eternal wanderer in us away from the poison. We spread poison and paralysis around us in that we want to educate all the world around us into reason. ~Carl Jung, The Red Book, Page 280.

Until now it has not truly and fundamentally been noted that our time, despite the prevalence of irreligiosity, is so to speak congenitally charged with the attainment of the Christian epoch, namely with the supremacy of the word, that Logos which the central figure of Christian faith represents. The word has literally become our God and has remained so” ~Carl Jung, CW 10, §554.

“Thinking is difficult, that’s why most people judge.” ~Carl Jung

An alchemical text says: “The mind should learn compassionate love for the body.” ~Carl Jung, Jung-Ostrowski, Page 25.

I love ideas. I love connecting my thoughts in a network that explains the big picture of life. But it’s taken most of my life to take my body, emotions, or relationships as seriously as my mind.

Today, too many people  scoff at subjective inner experiences that can’t be proven. Some even scoff at love. Humanity is paying a big price for our obsession with divine reason.

We’ve lost awe and respect for the miracles of nature, our bodies, our imagination, our myths, our emotions, the search for personal meaning, and our fullest potential. In so doing we’ve lost touch with love. If we destroy ourselves it will be because of one-sided thinking, complacency, psychological ignorance, and the inability to love.

I like this picture better. I see maturity and love in these eyes.

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Watch for her new book, The Soul’s Twins, to be launched in October of this year.

 

Sacred Laws Of Psyche: The Connection Between Psyche and Psychoid January 21, 2020

The inner universe

A few years back I wrote a post about eight sacred laws of the psyche and how our lack of understanding of them is responsible for the mess our world is in today.  In this post and a few to follow, I’d like to explore these laws more deeply in the hope of raising awareness about the interconnectedness of all things in One Mind and One God. The ability to think psychologically and live spiritually is a skill we desperately need to learn if we hope to heal ourselves and the world.

The inner universe of the mind is, like the physical universe, a living organism that functions according to natural laws. Deciphering them has been the work of holy fools, for who can presume to understand the sacred inner workings of creation? Yet everyone from scientists to artists to gurus tries to understand these autonomous patterns of energy (archetypes) in our minds (the psyche) and in the mystery of the One Mind beyond ordinary consciousness (the psychoid) because we feel their profound influence.

The two hemispheres of your brain know two languages: logic and imagination. They interact every moment of every day to help you understand and respond to all you see and experience. Separately, each language has limits, together, they aid your journey to intelligence, wisdom, competence, centeredness, and consciousness.  Wise people from every age have deliberately used both to make inroads into the mysteries of life. Albert Einstein was one such person. He said,

“Logic will take you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”

Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell were others. Jung explored his inner life and that of his clients with the help of archetypal myths and symbols from various wisdom traditions. Campbell developed some of Jung’s themes in his own extensive research. Together, their imaginative work has shed much-needed light into the darkness of the psychoid.

Following are some natural laws they midwifed into collective consciousness. As your logical mind attempts to make sense of the words, allow your imaginative mind to wander freely. Play with these ideas instead of automatically rejecting them.

1. The Law of Correspondence: The outer universe is a reflection of the inner universe.

This intuition gave rise to the ancient adages, “As above, so below,” and “As without, so within.” Humanity has expressed this relationship in symbol systems like mythology, religion, tarot, alchemy, astrology, magic, literature, and film. Imaginative languages like this have always awakened minds that are trapped in prisons of dry reason, tight logic, and literal belief.

This law means that if we believe in a spiritual reality “up there” or “out there,” it’s because our minds are furnished with an archetype Jung called the Self — our religious function. As long as we don’t understand that this is a very real force in us — an inner instinctual need for love, compassion, creativity and connectedness we share with every human being — we automatically (unconsciously) project it onto outer deities whom we then worship to earn favor and protection. We think our belief will “save” us. We don’t realize we have used our imaginations to create ideas about our gods that have been prompted by the inner archetype. We think some higher, more powerful reality apart from us made us and rules us. We think our very lives depend on propitiating it with literal belief.

We’re right in a way, but not in the way we think. The reality is not an inflated, grandiose, anthropomorphic image of the human ego in the sky. It is an unimaginably vast and diverse field of love and connectedness in which our puny, minimally conscious ego is immersed but to which it is not consciously connected. A universe that is both outside and within us. A universe that contains inner forces (archetypes) that influence and shape us just as the outer forces of gravity, magnetic fields, weather, our environments, our families, and our religions shape us from the outside.

Fortunately, your ego can develop a broader consciousness capable of seeing this reality. For this to occur you need to make room in your mind for new ideas about what is sacred. In the early stages of your psyche’s remodeling project you may suffer crippling doubt, dread, and loss of faith. It’s only a phase. Let it happen.

Because if you persist, you will discover that the only thing you lost faith in was the incomplete and inadequate idea you learned from your religion about a vast and mysterious field of reality. What you thought was the truth about God was a tiny piece of a giant puzzle at the core of everything that is.

Lifting your gaze to the bigger picture will take you to the state of peace, trust, wonder, and love sought by every individual and religion. You can’t get there without using your imagination.

Image Credits:  Google Images. Artist unknown.

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, IncWatch for her new book, The Soul’s Twins, to be launched later this year.

 

How Do You Find Your Center? January 7, 2020

“Each person is born with an unencumbered spot, free of expectation and regret, free of ambition and embarrassment, free of fear and worry, an umbilical spot of grace where we were each touched by God. It is this spot of grace that issues peace. Psychologists call this spot the Psyche, Theologists call it the Soul, Jung calls it The Seat of the Unconscious, Hindu masters call it the Atman, Buddhists call it the Dharma, Rilke called it Inwardness, Sufis call it Qualb, and Jesus calls it The center of Our Love.

To know this spot of inwardness is to know who we are, not by surface markers of identity, not by where we work or what we wear or how we like to be addressed but by feeling our place in relation to the Infinite and by inhabiting it. This is a hard lifelong task, for the nature of becoming is a constant filming over of where we begin while the nature of being is a constant erosion of what is not essential. We each  live in the midst of this ongoing tension, growing tarnished or covered over only to be worn back to that incorruptible spot of grace at our core.” Mark Nepo

Mark Nepo rightly notes that we each live in the midst of an ongoing tension. Part of it is caused by the natural stressors of living in a fast-paced, instant-gratification world, and part is our natural inner compulsion to grow and better ourselves. The reality is, we can’t grow without conflict or suffering. The different energies of the north and south poles need to interact to create our earth’s magnetic field. You have to contend with the different specialties of your brain’s two hemispheres as well as the realities of your inner and outer lives to resolve everyday problems.

Tension motivates change. If we can tolerate the tension of our conflicts long enough without acting rashly, our unconscious can find solutions that will further our growth. But if we ignore our tension too long without addressing it, it can create burnout and physical symptoms.

How do we address our tension? How do we find that magical, unencumbered spot of grace that issues peace? Whether we’re aware of it or not, this is a central question around which our lives revolve, but many of us are so distracted by our outer lives that we don’t stop long enough to hear the question, let alone try to answer it. To further complicate things, the answers vary from culture to culture and individual to individual. But four principles remain constant.

1. Create some personal alone time to find your center. This involves more than saying an occasional affirmation or prayer, listening to a weekly sermon, or hearing a few motivational speeches. You’ll need to be willing to delay some pursuits which your ego finds instantly gratifying in favor of ones that will bring future rewards which may be a long time coming.

2. Try different practices until you find what brings you to a place of love, joy, and peace. Pay close attention to your inner life, not only while you’re practicing, but throughout the rest of the day and coming weeks. Notice how your practice affects your emotions, moods, self-esteem, and relationships. Commit to the one or ones that make you come alive and bring you close to Spirit. Here are some I’ve tried:  writing, poetry, meditation, prayer, dreamwork, yoga, playing and listening to music, being with animals and nature, hiking, and reading. Of these, writing, dreamwork, and meditation have been the most helpful and enduring.

3. Persevere. Some practices take a longer trial period than others before you get into the groove and begin to notice beneficial effects that motivate you to continue. For example, I’ve always loved to write — letters, poetry, diaries, journals, stories, plays, etc. — but when I began to write my dissertation at the age of 39, it was far more difficult than fun. Since it was my dissertation, I forced myself to persevere. Because I had a part-time job and two children, I wrote for a few hours every night after they went to bed. Of course, this meant I had to let other responsibilities slide and my husband had to help more with the kids and household duties. At first, these changes were hard for all of us. But day by day my resistance lowered, my writing brought more pleasure, and my family grew accustomed to our new routines. By the time I finished several months later, I realized that this had been the happiest time of my adult life! Hard as it was, the moment I sat down at my typewriter, time disappeared and all my concerns dissolved until I got up again. It was pure magic.

4. Practice regularly. Daily is ideal. Set aside a time when you can be alone and concentrate for at least 20 or 30 minutes. But there’s no need to beat yourself up if you miss a few of these appointments with your soul. For example, when I first committed myself to dreamwork, I recorded and worked on dreams most mornings and totaled over 300 every year. Last weekend I finished summarizing my dreams from 2019 and my total was 119. Weeks passed when I didn’t remember and record a dream. But I’ve done this for so long that I know when I need to get serious about it again. And when I do, it always brings me back to peace and love.

What practices make your true Self come alive? If you haven’t found your center yet, may 2020 be your year of returning to that umbilical spot of grace where you were touched by God.

Image credits:  Serpentine Fire, Google Free Images, unknown. Heart Mandala, Google Free Images, Daniel B. Holeman.

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Watch for her new book, The Soul’s Twins, which will be launched later this year.

 

The Joy of Being a Woman in Her Seventies, by Mary Pipher January 2, 2020

Happy New Year to my dear reader friends. Thank you for following Matrignosis. May the new year bring you increasing health, prosperity, joy, and wisdom. Today a friend sent me this wonderful article by Mary Pipher. I share her sentiments and could not have said it better.  Enjoy.

We carry accumulation of years in our bodies, and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are innocent and shy as magnolias. –Maya Angelou

The Joy of Being a Woman in Her Seventies

–by Mary Pipher, Feb 27, 2019

This article originally appeared in the New York Times Sunday Review, on January 12th, 2019.

When I told my friends I was writing a book on older women like us, they immediately protested, “I am not old.” What they meant was that they didn’t act or feel like the cultural stereotypes of women their age. Old meant bossy, useless, unhappy and in the way. Our country’s ideas about old women are so toxic that almost no one, no matter her age, will admit she is old.

In America, ageism is a bigger problem for women than aging. Our bodies and our sexuality are devalued, we are denigrated by mother-in-law jokes, and we’re rendered invisible in the media. Yet, most of the women I know describe themselves as being in a vibrant and happy life stage. We are resilient and know how to thrive in the margins. Our happiness comes from self-knowledge, emotional intelligence and empathy for others.

Most of us don’t miss the male gaze. It came with catcalls, harassment and unwanted attention. Instead, we feel free from the tyranny of worrying about our looks. For the first time since we were 10, we can feel relaxed about our appearance. We can wear yoga tights instead of nylons and bluejeans instead of business suits.

Yet, in this developmental stage, we are confronted by great challenges. We are unlikely to escape great sorrow for long. We all suffer, but not all of us grow. Those of us who grow do so by developing our moral imaginations and expanding our carrying capacities for pain and bliss. In fact, this pendulum between joy and despair is what makes old age catalytic for spiritual and emotional growth.

By our 70s, we’ve had decades to develop resilience. Many of us have learned that happiness is a skill and a choice. We don’t need to look at our horoscopes to know how our day will go. We know how to create a good day.

We have learned to look every day for humor, love and beauty. We’ve acquired an aptitude for appreciating life. Gratitude is not a virtue but a survival skill, and our capacity for it grows with our suffering. That is why it is the least privileged, not the most, who excel in appreciating the smallest of offerings.

Many women flourish as we learn how to make everything workable. Yes, everything. As we walk out of a friend’s funeral, we can smell wood smoke in the air and taste snowflakes on our tongues.

Our happiness is built by attitude and intention. Attitude is not everything, but it’s almost everything. I visited the jazz great Jane Jarvis when she was old, crippled and living in a tiny apartment with a window facing a brick wall. I asked if she was happy and she replied, “I have everything I need to be happy right between my ears.”

We may not have control, but we have choices. With intention and focused attention, we can always find a forward path. We discover what we are looking for. If we look for evidence of love in the universe, we will find it. If we seek beauty, it will spill into our lives any moment we wish. If we search for events to appreciate, we discover them to be abundant.

There is an amazing calculus in old age. As much is taken away, we find more to love and appreciate. We experience bliss on a regular basis. As one friend said: “When I was young I needed sexual ecstasy or a hike to the top of a mountain to experience bliss. Now I can feel it when I look at a caterpillar on my garden path.”

Older women have learned the importance of reasonable expectations. We know that all our desires will not be fulfilled, that the world isn’t organized around pleasing us and that others, especially our children, are not waiting for our opinions and judgments. We know that the joys and sorrows of life are as mixed together as salt and water in the sea. We don’t expect perfection or even relief from suffering. A good book, a piece of homemade pie or a call from a friend can make us happy. As my aunt Grace, who lived in the Ozarks, put it, “I get what I want, but I know what to want.”

We can be kinder to ourselves as well as more honest and authentic. Our people-pleasing selves soften their voices and our true selves speak more loudly and more often. We don’t need to pretend to ourselves and others that we don’t have needs. We can say no to anything we don’t want to do. We can listen to our hearts and act in our own best interest. We are less angst-filled and more content, less driven and more able to live in the moment with all its lovely possibilities.

Many of us have a shelterbelt of good friends and long-term partners. There is a sweetness to 50-year-old friendships and marriages that can’t be described in language. We know each other’s vulnerabilities, flaws and gifts; we’ve had our battles royal and yet are grateful to be together. A word or a look can signal so much meaning. Lucky women are connected to a rich web of women friends. Those friends can be our emotional health insurance policies.

The only constant in our lives is change. But if we are growing in wisdom and empathy, we can take the long view. We’ve lived through seven decades of our country’s history, from Truman to Trump. I knew my great-grandmother, and if I live long enough, will meet my great-grandchildren. I will have known seven generations of family. I see where I belong in a long line of Scotch-Irish ancestors. I am alive today only because thousands of generations of resilient homo sapiens managed to procreate and raise their children. I come from, we all come from, resilient stock, or we wouldn’t be here.

By the time we are 70, we have all had more tragedy and more bliss in our lives than we could have foreseen. If we are wise, we realize that we are but one drop in the great river we call life and that it has been a miracle and a privilege to be alive.

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Her new book, The Soul’s Twins, will be launched next year.

 

The True Meaning of Christmas Stories December 10, 2019

“Stories … protect us from chaos, and maybe that’s what we, unblinkered at the end of the 20th century, find ourselves craving. Implicit in the extraordinary revival of storytelling is the possibility that we need stories — that they are a fundamental unit of knowledge, the foundation of memory, essential to the way we make sense of our lives: the beginning, middle and end of our personal and collective trajectories. It is possible that narrative is as important to writing as the human body is to representational painting. We have returned to narrative — in many fields of knowledge — because it is impossible to live without them.” ~Bill Buford, nonfiction writer and former fiction editor at The New Yorker

Here in the northern hemisphere of the Americas, ’tis the season for watching televised reruns of our favorite Christmas movies. Why do we love them so much? What is it that brings us back, again and again, to re-experience stories we’ve heard so many times? Perhaps we can get a clue from recaps of a few that stand out for me.

“There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.” ~J.K. Rowling, novelist, screenwriter and film producer

A Christmas Story: Ralphie, a precocious, imaginative nine-year-old, wants a BB gun for Christmas but is discouraged by his mother, his teacher, and a department store Santa Claus who all fear “you’ll shoot your eye out!” After a series of episodes that depict the yearnings, humor, pathos, and disillusionment of an ordinary child growing up in a mid-century American family, Ralphie’s usually distracted and frustrated, but fundamentally loving father surprises him on Christmas morning with a BB gun. Ralphie does almost shoot his eye out, but it’s still his favorite Christmas ever!

White Christmas: Two soldier/singers enlist a sister act to assist them in helping their aging and discouraged superior officer from their military years save his failing country inn in rural Vermont by producing a Christmas musical extravaganza. Their efforts result in a spectacular show, and just as it ends, snow begins to fall. This will insure a white Christmas and a lucrative ski season for the inn.

It’s a Wonderful Life:  George Bailey’s missed opportunities and financial problems have brought him to such despair that shortly before Christmas he contemplates ending his life by jumping off a bridge. As he prepares himself, his guardian angel dives in the water and George ends up saving him. After the angel takes George through an alternative reality where he sees what his town would have looked like if it hadn’t been for all his good deeds, George returns to his present reality which he now sees through the eyes of love, joy, and gratitude for the miracle of his wonderful life.

Elf: Orphaned as an infant, Buddy grows up at the North Pole with Santa and the elves believing he’s an elf, albeit a large, awkward, and very strange one. Painfully disillusioned when he learns he’s not, he takes off for the big city and discovers his birth father, a cynical and driven workaholic who rejects him. But Buddy’s innocent, helpful nature wins the love of the woman of his dreams and transforms his father into a caring husband and father who has learned from Buddy to appreciate the important things in life.

“The human species thinks in metaphors and learns through stories.” Mary Catherine Bateson, writer and cultural anthropologist

What do we learn through stories? We learn about who we are, what our souls look like and yearn for, the things that are more important to us than money or material possessions, more valuable than gold. We learn that we are lucky to be alive and loved. We learn that we want to stay present to precious moments of wonder and joy and be grateful for them.

Hope, yearning, suffering, kindness, humor, community, transformation, and love. These are archetypal themes about universal experiences and emotions. We’ve all been nine years old, hoping for that very special present. We’ve all suffered disillusionment, disappointment, regret, and despair over mistakes made and dreams unfulfilled. We’ve all been the recipients of acts of kindness and been changed by them. We’ve all experienced moments of joy, gratitude, and love for the blessings of a life we want to last forever.

And in the end, that’s what all our stories — not just Christmas stories, but also hero journey stories, myths, fairy tales, and autobiographical stories — come down to:  our basic human need for a miraculous transformational experience of being known and loved that will fulfill our soul’s yearning, bring hope, and end our suffering. Whatever our religion, the wish to improve and be conscious and mindful of the miracle of our life is the true meaning of the stories that last. Among those, the ones that remind us of this wish are the most beloved.

What are your favorite Christmas movies? What do you love most about them?

Stories are the way to capture the hopes, dreams, and visions of a culture. They are true as much as data are true. The truth of the powerful and irresistible story illustrates in a way data can’t begin to capture. It’s the stories that make you understand.” — Carl Sessions Stepp, professor, Philip Merrill College of Journalism

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” ~Joan Didion, writer and journalist

“God made man because He loves stories.” — Elie Wiesel, author and Nobel Peace Prize winner

Image credits:  Google images, unknown sources.

 

 
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