Seeing Your Life Through a Mythic Imagination
What makes us so interested in reading stories? Is it simply to escape into pleasant diversions from our routine lives? Some argue they help us make sense of the human condition. Then there are those who suggest that our fascination has to do with stories being able to speak to that part of us which yearns to live a heroic or significant life.The psychologist Carl Jung argued that stories provide a system for archetypal impulses to be made known.
Perhaps the purpose of stories and the archetypes they reveal is to help us feel rooted in history and eternity, transcending the rootless and emptier elements of contemporary life. They help us avoid what Jung called the participation mystique, where our individuality is dissolved by our need for group approval and belonging. Mythologist Joseph Campbell reflected on the enduring power of story to stir the human spirit, labelling it as the song of the universe. Laurence Boldt suggested that the key to tapping into the power of story is being able to identify with the characters we read about:
What a great motto for a new initiative here in the Blue Mountains, known as MTNS MADE. An outlier is defined as Something that lies outside the main body or group that it is a part of, such as a distant island belonging to a cluster of islands. The term was popularised recently when Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book on the subject of what leads to success. In researching successful people he found that “the biggest misconception about success is that we do it solely on our smarts, ambition, hustle and hard work.”
Gladwell argued that all successful people experienced various strokes of luck. Carl Jung and others would prefer replacing the word luck with synchronicity, the idea that when you go after something in life; the universe tends to meet you half way. Gladwell also spoke of timing. Bill Gates was a young man when the first do-it-yourself computer kit arose. Were he a little older, it is likely he would have been too settled in his life to take a leap of faith and launch Microsoft. Shakespeare argued that each of us encounters a particular threshold moment in life, where we must choose to boldly take a risk or remain safe. He maintained that the decision shapes the course of our life:
Surviving or Flourishing?
“Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?” - Mary Oliver
Full immersion. It’s the recurring theme of Mary Oliver’s work. As a poet, she constantly invites and even provokes readers to question how fully they are engaged with their One Wild and Precious Life. If you applied her challenge to your work life, what answer would it evoke?
21 days ago I had a sabbatical from my usual routines and took part in a rewilding retreat with the tagline A chance to slow down for 20 whole days, live in a magical location and breath deeply. The respite from email, Facebook, mobile phone and computer, was a welcome break from all the surface noise. Having neglected to do a great deal of reading over the last few years, I savoured a couple of books, including Studs Terkel’s classic, Working - people talk about what they do all day and how they feel about what they do.
In an interview he held with a movie critic, she spoke of traversing a sea of unfulfilling jobs until finally landing something she loves. Reflecting on the pilgrimage she said, “I never felt they [office jobs] were demeaning, but they exhausted my energy and spirit. I think most people work at jobs that mechanize them and depersonalize them.”
Leadership: Selfless or Self-serving
“Each of us is a unique thread, woven into the beautiful fabric, of our collective consciousness.” Jaeda DeWalt.
It has been long maintained that the wisdom of the collective unconscious speaks to us by way of stories. In channelling what needs to be heard, artists act as modern day shamans who are best able to express the zeitgeist of an era.
In his book, Vital Signs, Gregg Levoy explains our culture’s fixation with vampires & zombies, “Part of the reason so many people are fascinated nowadays with vampires and zombies is our collective fear of being sucked of our life force, drained of our vitalities, and left in a bloodless and catatonic state...Most of us know, or have known, the experience of feeling like the living dead. Being at a job that, like a vampire, sucks the life out of you. School years spent staring zombielike into space and dreaming about the pleasures of the flesh or perhaps about freedom. Evenings spent clocking your statutory 4.8 hours of daily television. Being in a relationship in which you feel like a mere ghost of your full vital self."
While zombies might have top billing in escapist-oriented culture, it is sociopaths that are featuring most in more realism-based ones. Think Don Draper in the corporate world, Frank Underwood in the political realm or everyman Walter White in small town nowheresville.