Tag Archives: mythic

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the lovely idea of synchronicity

(This old post on synchronicity was from my old blog and it’s just been sitting around. I realized it’s kind of relevant to my work on a short story – I had a realization the other day that connected an old understanding of my writing process to a new set of information. In the same week, I forwarded some information to a friend who found it relevant to something she was working on – but hadn’t considered in this particular way – and it all congealed around writing she’s been doing and other creative and life endeavors. Very timely for both of us. Anyway, I thought I’d resurrect this, just for the heck of it)

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Like most people, I’ve experienced synchronicity in my life. It’s a mind-blown moment with meaningfulness  revealed out of previously-unconnected, now suddenly-relevant events, sights, experiences or occurrences.

Synchronicity requires attention – to details and connections. For what is synchronicity without being noticed? It is nothing without awareness, without a participant.

Sometimes I wish for synchronicity, for a sign to counteract the wishing. Of course the wishing is itself a sign that I long for connection with deep meaning that seems to be missing on a daily basis.

It could be suggested that I am simply blind to that which I seek, that it’s there, all along. All the synchronous events, the interlinking meaningfulnesses.

I like to hear about synchronicity at play in people’s lives, it reminds me that indeed, something must be there, this life really is strangely mysterious, and that something might, sometime, be revealed to me.

Some deny value in attributing meaning to synchronous events. Generally this opinion seems to stem from those who uphold a materialistic world view that suggests only material reality, what can be materially proven, has validity.

But I find closed-mindedness distasteful, no matter what costume it wears and would rather take a ‘wait-and-see’ attitude. After all, as we’re only a fraction of the universe connected to but not comprehending the whole, I don’t think any human, or even the sum of all human knowledge, knows it all.

I would suggest this: there is no sensory or perceptive organ or ability that is unnecessary.

Nature doesn’t create superfluous perceiving capacities. Organisms have the ability to detect ultrasound because there is ultrasound. Humans hear at 12 to 20,000  hertz, but other animals rely on information transferred at lower and higher frequencies. Some organisms can see (utilizing visible light) because information is transmitted in that way. Plant roots can sense soil nutrients outside their immediate vicinity and then grow toward them whereas we stick our fingers in soil and know nothing more than moisture level and basic physical composition (rocky, sandy, clay, etc). Just because we don’t have certain perceptive capabilities doesn’t mean that things outside our perception don’t exist.

Likewise, I think that humans, being so good at finding meaning, at detecting pattern in the seemingly chaotic, have this capacity simply because meaning can be found, and patterns do exist. I doubt there would be meaning-finders in a world without meaning.

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My attempt to organize my thoughts on synchronicity  was inspired by Matt Cardin’s post on Liminality, Synchronicity, and the Walls of Everyday Reality. Also, this is tied to a Ribbonfarm post on legibility and the catastrophe of enforcing an oversimplification of patterns on the world. I think a lot of problems might be attributed to not understanding complex patterns.

I wonder how one’s experience of synchronicity might be different if one were more aware of complex, dynamic patterns at play. Also, how much of meaning making, then, is really just simplification?  Akin to the Ribbonfarm-cited example of chaos being anxiety provoking, see  this article about how unclear meaning compels us to search for more meaning.

Lately, I’m thinking about stories and how they relate to deep meaning (which I call Story) and would suggest that synchronicity can point to Story. I’m curious about synchronicities that have served to wake people up to a deeper meaning in their own lives, that pointed out a new direction or provided a chance to recommit and would love to hear about such experiences.

Recently a post over at Holly Lisle’s writing forums brought the topic up. ‘Is the Universe Rooting for You?‘ the original poster asked (free forum sign up required for access, sorry). And several proceeded to tell of ways that parts of stories clicked into place at a point where they seemed most stuck – due to ‘random’ events or information that came just at the right time.

I’m aware of the varieties of cognitive bias – and that I’ve engaged in some of those here. Synchronicity can’t be proven. There isn’t a thing to prove. Nonetheless, it can be perceived and it’s the perceptual experience that is most fascinating.

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image source: Creative Commons License Gianni Dominici via Compfight

 

 

"String Web" woven sculpture by Machiko Agano

tracking Story through imaginal lands

I will tell you something about stories
(he said)
They aren’t just entertainment.
Don’t be fooled.
They are all we have, you see,
All we have to fight off
illness and death.
You don’t have anything
if you don’t have the stories.
Their evil is mighty
but it can’t stand up to our stories.
So they try to destroy the stories
let the stories be confused or forgotten.
They would like that
They would be happy
Because we would be defenseless then.
He rubbed his belly.
I keep them here
(he said)
Here, put your hand on it
See. It is moving.
There is life here
for the people.
And in the belly of this story
the rituals and the ceremony
are still growing.

– Leslie Marmon Silko (Ceremony)

* * * * * * * * * *
"String Web" woven sculpture by Machiko AganoIt’s an odd time we live in, relative to the time humanity’s been humanity. We’re different in the stories we tell, in our demand to be entertained.  We don’t recognize stories as Story, we call them Truth or fiction (lies), we pick them up and drop them again.  Our stories come and go so fast that we don’t learn them, we call them news. We learn to ignore them. It’s hard to see if ritual and ceremony are still “growing in the belly.”

Who passes down stories in families any more?  I don’t mean family stories, per se, but stories of ourselves nonetheless.  Maybe it’s a result of being a literate society, we find our stories in books. Or on TV. Maybe that’s not a bad thing, but I think it causes us to think that deep stories are separate from ourselves – they have to be in print, on paper or pixels, in order to be meaningful. How much is memorable, though, in the end? Is there life “here, for the people”?

Meanwhile, among the small talk, we learn to tell small stories to ourselves about ourselves.  My self-story, for some reason planted early into my psyche, was that my life had no story. That I was just a product of 1970s American suburban upbringing. Nothing to see here, move along.

“We are…less damaged by the traumas of childhood than by the traumatic way we remember childhood as a time of unnecessary and externally caused calamities that wrongly shaped us,” says James Hillman in The Soul’s Code.

But what about those of us whose childhoods seemed boring, fruitless, not full of trauma (real or imagined) except in how being given only the surface of things is traumatic?  I think Hillman is right to say this, “Our lives may be determined less by our childhood than by the way we have learned to imagine our childhoods.” The 1970s and 80s, suburban sprawl, school days, highways – all imagined, all imaginal and as such, full of Story. I have long denied them their right, have denied meaningfulness out of distaste.

I think I write merelCarry Me in Your Dreamsy to find Story. Every story I tell, whether in fiction,  non-fiction, poetry or drawing, is a search for a line, a thread of meaning, for something coherent. I believe that somewhere there must be signal in the noise.

As of today there are 6.8 million google hits for “I am a writer.” It’s the most commonplace thing in the world, it seems (almost one hit per ten existing human beings). Some writers become authors, some make a living at it. Some are entertainers, others keep their writings private (by choice or by inability to overcome the celebrity-to-crowd ratio).  Part of me sees the rightfulness in there being many story tellers, many makers of Story, and in the proof that we’re all creative. Part of me quivers at what it perceives as my lack of imagination (to create) and gumption (to share, or to promote)), at the sense that this has to be a competition for market value. Oh dread.

Meanwhile, the thread holds and I keep writing, here, in journals, notebooks, computer files.  Aren’t there enough words out in the world already? Maybe, but Story needs to be told.

***

I finished re-reading Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony yesterday and am encouraged to keep finding my own ways of telling stories – telling the story in the way it needs to be told, even if it’s not the way it would have been told in the “old days” IS the ritual and the ceremony that can heal and make whole.

I needed to be reminded.

***
What do you know about stories and Story?
Can you hear what it is we’re whispering to ourselves? Does our entertainment tell us something deeper about ourselves?
What stories about your life have you had to let go?
Do stories help?

***
image sources : Creative Commons License Dominic Alves via Compfight
and Phoebe M-H via Compfight

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Florence and the Mythic


Let’s talk about magic,

starts off the “About” page of Florence + the Machine’s website.

Because music, at its best, is a kind of magic that lifts you up and takes you somewhere else. two modes of consciousness

Muse
Three Graces/Three Muses? Click on the pic to see the connection.

Coming to her website after repeatedly playing her most recent album, Ceremonials, this was spot on with what makes Florence Welch’s music work for me. I like to be transported, I like a whiff of old magic mixed with my modern sensibilities, find I resonate with the presence of the mythic in my own and other people’s creative work.

Creativity is a little like conjuring. We call up something from the deep and give it life. It’s strange, fickle, difficult work. And sometimes it doesn’t work and the artist, the creator, is led instead to silence or stoppage, dark days, dreamless nights. The recent Moveable Feast of posts (on Terri Windling’s blog) on the topic of Madness and Inspiration has links to thoughts on just this.

out of a myth
Medea? Priestess of Hecate?
click the pic…

Altered states of consciousness, changing perspectives and perceptions, shamanic practices and mystery traditions (and their association with psyche-altering consumables), are so tied up in humanity’s ability to create that sometimes we cross beyond the borderlands, past “right mind,” in ways that are uncontrollable, ways that threaten to lose us in the process.

Eventually her website comes to this,

Florence writes her best songs when she’s drunk or has a hangover, because that’s when the freedom, the feral music comes, creating itself wildly from the fragments gathered in her notebooks and in her head.

Apparently she’s on an unfortunately stereotypical (and honestly unhealthy) path of creation associated (for some) with “output” but one which can also lead ultimately to destruction. Cruel irony.

Here’s an example of her beautiful, “feral music.”*

Her website continues with Welch saying more about her songwriting process and its reliance on alcohol:

You’re lucid,” she explains, “but you’re not really there. You’re floating through your own thoughts, and you can pick out what you need. I like those weird connections in the universe. I feel that life’s like a consistent acid trip, those times when things keep coming back.”

 “I feel things quite intensely, which is why the music has to be so intense. I’m either really sad or really happy, I’m tired or completely manic. That’s when I’m at my most creative, but it’s also dangerous for me. I feel I could write some good songs, or break some hearts. Or tables. Or glasses.”

Obviously everybody who wants to be creative has to figure out what works for their Muse, and alcohol seems to be a common method, though I wonder if it’s worth it in the end. Last week I wrote of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, saying “he relates to the previous post on writers/artists and altered states of consciousness (the opium doesn’t invalidate his work, in my opinion),” and now I wonder if hold/held that opinion because he’s dead. Or maybe it’s a biased romanticizing of the Romantic poet. How else do I explain my contradictory notion that when seeing Florence Welch so alive and full of power and productivity I have a simultaneous feeling of pity and disdain for her methods?

Why, since I haven’t personally taken those paths to creativity, do I have a strong reaction against alcohol-as-fuel but am fine with art-from-other-psychotropes?  Maybe they both work.  In spite of not being productive or prolific, I don’t have any intention to try either approach and so I’m left looking for other means – a subject for another post.

But I still have this question: Is the result (an artistic perceptiveness and consciousness) justified by the means of attaining it (drugs, drink, prayer, ritual)? Are the means equal? If not, isn’t that evidence that it’s important to find right methods – the ones that work in a pinch and pinch-hit for each other on off days, the ones that dip you in the pool of images but don’t drown you in madness or your own vomit?

Speaking of the pool of images, here’s Florence and the Machine’s latest video release, Spectrum.

She’s obviously steeped in symbolism, attracted to the mythic too. Her first album, Lungs, is described thus:

The songs are full of Gothic imagery, of fairytale flights of fantasy…

and tucked into the end of the same biography is this telling statement,

Florence goes at it like a woman possessed.

Here, from the song “All This and Heaven Too”

And the heart is hard to translate
It has a language of its own
It talks in tongues and quiet sighs,
And prayers and proclamations
In the grand days of great men and the smallest of gestures
And short shallow gasps

But with all my education I can’t seem to command it
And the words are all escaping, and coming back all damaged
And I would put them back in poetry if I only knew how
I can’t seem to understand it

And it talks to me in tiptoes

And it sings to me inside
It cries out in the darkest night and breaks in the morning light

And I would give all this and heaven too

I would give it all if only for a moment
That I could just understand the meaning of the word you see
‘Cause I’ve been scrawling it forever but it never makes sense to me at all

No, words are a language

It doesn’t deserve such treatment
And all of my stumbling phrases never amounted to anything worth this feeling

All this heaven never could describe such a feeling as I’m hearing

Words were never so useful
So I was screaming out a language that I never knew existed before.

—–
On a side note, I initially enjoyed the music of Ceremonials for its own sake but seeing the rich imagery of her videos, I’m equally enjoying how full and lush with the symbolic they are.  The Art Deco/Art Nouveau flavor of her website and costumes is beautiful as well.

I’m certainly not the first to comment on her artistic influences, ranging from pre-Raphaelite to Arts and Crafts in addition to the two movements noted above. This blogger, and especially, this one already have and there have been write ups in fashion magazine (with accompanying photos) on the topic.

 

 

 

*I’m sorry to those of you in countries where you don’t have access to videos (as here, in Germany, where they’re super uptight about media rights). You might try a VPN to circumvent that.