We lost Cider our beloved dog in the wee hours of the morning of December 23, 2019. Except for what we thought was a pulled muscle on her right hind leg that sent her into shaking spasms and rapid panting the Thursday evening before this horrible Monday, Cider was her effervescence and vivacious self. She greeted my daughter with enthusiastic kisses and cuddles when she returned Saturday evening from a short trip to New York City to see the wonderous Christmas decorations and festivities this time of year.
Cider and I had gone for a run, and she waited patiently as I stopped to get some dinner from a local Lebanese food store, greeting every person who entered or left with equal adoration and excitement, but always with an eye out for me who took a little longer due to spying some last minute Christmas gifts. She was limping again when we left the store. I attributed to the pulled muscle and cooling down. I was limping too from a heel problem, so we meandered slowly the 2 blocks home. We should have taken notice when our daughter pointed out red marks streaking up her belly. Instead, we attributed it to the ice we had applied Thursday night when she was limping so bad and shaking thinking we over iced. I gave her more anti-inflammatory medicine just as we had treated her two months back when she over did it and seemed extremely sore and tender for a little too long. I had taken her to the vet then and she got a checkup. She had a second check up on December 15 when we took Sasha in for her senior exam. Sasha was two years older than Cider and we took her in on the 17 to have her teeth cleaned. She came home with 7 teeth pulled and stitches all over her body from warts they removed while she was under, including two on her eyes. She looked like a hot mess.
Around about 3:30 a.m., I woke up to Cider sitting by my head looking miserable and panting. I had not slept well at all, and Cider has done this to me before in the middle of the night. A trip to the vet to have her anal glans expressed always seemed to fix these bouts. But this night, something felt different. I sat up and took her in my arms. She was panting rapidly, and I could feel her heart racing. I turned on the light and felt icy cold all over—like all the heat in my body had just been sucked out. I knew then in my bones she was going to die. But I didn’t want to know that yet in my mind or brain. I woke up my husband. He saw her breathing fast and felt her heart. He looked up all night vets. None were in Arlington. The closest was Vienna—45 minutes or so had passed by now as we weighted our options—make a run for ones of these all-night Animal Hospitals or wait until 7 for our vet to open. My husband sent the closer animal hospital an e-mail, but it was not clear if they got it. Then, he called. They said to bring her in. Now, more than an hour had passed. And, now whatever was holding me back and seeing if we could wait for our vet to open crumbled and I said: “Let’s go.” We started getting dressed. I laid down by Cider. We were nose to nose as my husband scrambled to get his wallet and things. She could barely lift her head, but she followed him with her eyes as he moved about us. I went to get my jacket. When I returned, she was breathing even faster as if she had just run 10 miles all out. I scooped her up into my arms and told my husband to hurry. I woke up our daughter and told her we were taking Cider to the vet. She asked what was wrong. I told her I did not know. Now, my stomach was dropping as I made sure not to trip on the steps going out to the car. I couldn’t understand what was taking my husband so long as I cried, “Hurry we’ve got to go now.”
We drove. Cider continued breathing fast, but she was breathing, and we were driving. There was no traffic on 66. It was dark, and we could go fast. We got off at Nutley. Then, we had to stop for lights. I felt scared. Cider’s breathing seemed different, but I could not tell for sure due to the sounds of the driving. We had to stop for red lights. Have you ever had to stop at a red light when you knew someone you loved dearly was dying? I have. They took forever.
We got to 123. Where do we go now? Neither of us had bothered to MapQuest the hospital. We had no idea which way to turn. But just on the other side of the road to the left was an Animal Hospital. So, what would you do?
We drove into the parking lot, but hospital was dark, it looked closed. We hoped desperately to glimpse a light on, and so my husband got out hoping to glimpse a light on somewhere. Cider’s breathing definitely had changed. My husband was looking for any sign of a human at the Animal Hospital—or anyone really. But, it wasn’t opened. Cider was looking at him, and I was pleading with him to get help now. Then, Cider stiffened in my arms. Her paw hit the half-way rolled down windshield. I cried desperately telling my husband we were losing her. He got back in the car. But, we were lost. I could feel Cider was not breathing any more. I knew her heart had stopped. I told my husband to drive. We had no idea which way to go. We went to a gas station to ask directions. But, it was closed. We circled back to a 7/11. My husband ran inside to ask some men where the all-night Animal Hospital was. It was the other way. We had to make a U-turn because it was a divided highway. The next light was red. I could feel Cider peeing on me. I cried telling her not to leave us. I wondered if I could figure out how to do dog CPR or if I should breath into her mouth. But, I just squeezed harder saying her name over and over. Finally, we found the all-night vet. I knew she was dead, but my husband took her from me and rushed to the front door. Her head flopped lifelessly as he ran. I felt cold again, deeply cold.
Inside, there was no one at the front desk. We pleaded and shouted for help. Someone came from a side office. Then a doctor appeared. They asked if we wanted to do dog CPR. Of course. But I knew she wasn’t coming back. They tried for 15 minutes breathing for her and doing compressions. They doctor came out once to tell us her white blood cell count was super low. She suspected internal bleeding. Then, she came out again and told us her red blood cell count was 15, it should be over 70. She asked us if we wanted them to continue CPR. She affirmed Cider had not begun breathing on her own since they started nor did her heartbeat restart. We said no.
So, there you go. That was our day before Christmas. It utterly devastated us.
I have not been able to bear posting or being on Facebook or anywhere in public ever since. I cringe at the thought of all the obligatory wishes of sadness and condolences… even though that is the right thing to do. I’ve done it too. I’ve used the crying face, or I’ve typed something that maybe sounded sympathetic or encouraging. But I just haven’t been able to bear the thought of posting my sad story and then measuring it against all my other posts—sad or otherwise—because that’s what you do in this online world of clicks and likes and “engagements”. What the hell is engagements?! That’s what Facebook calls it though, we type comments to each other—that’s ag engagement. And, oh how Facebooks algorithms love engagements. The more you type back and forth to each other (even if it’s just two people bantering back and forth), the more Facebook shows this post to “other” people who might be interested. And, if more people join in on making comments, then more people get shown the post, and so on and so forth. I have told very few people within my circle of friends what has happened. The people I have told since this happened; I can count on one hand. Mostly, it’s because I was asked how I am doing—the young man at the front desk of my gym, my dentist, the dental hygienist. I told Alena and my brothers and mother. Alena had offered me the amazing gift of a Winter Solstice reading. She was practicing the ways of her ancestors and relatives after traveling back to Slovenia recently. How could I say no. Little did she or I know she was giving messages I would need to survive the next week. And so naturally, I reached out to her for support in the hours and days after. I know I have many good, wonderful friends. So, please know I mean no disrespect in not reaching out to so many dear friends I know would not hesitate to help me. I simply have not been able to reach out, the waves of pain have been too great to bear. It’s simply easier not to speak or say anything. It’s been the only way to hold myself together.
But I have been thinking why should losing a pet cause such sadness, such overwhelming pain, such immobility? Everyone knows pets don’t live as long as humans. And I know, lord do I know that I should think of all the good memories. Heck, she was 11 years and 1 month. That is old for a dog who had a wonderful life!
And, I will remember all these wonderful times. And, I will cherish each one like the most precious gold. Cider absolutely made my and my family’s life richer, fuller, and brighter in every way. She added sparkle, light, and joy—weaving it effortlessly in her quirky habits, howls, and ways. She was the music in the house. She followed me everywhere. She was my best friend, confident, fluffy consoler. She infused our house and each member of our little family with love, undivided attention, and so much fun. She never ran out of her ability to give and she made sure every member of the family and every guest who ever walked through the door got a good dose of joy. She could get a bit obsessed with her balls. We have quite a collection of tennis balls now after a little over 11 years of her finding a new ball practically every walk and bringing it home—brand new really yellow balls, very dirty balls, chopped up balls, deflated balls, balls rotting under 3 feet of leaves… it didn’t matter to Cider. She would find it and bring it home. And every time you left the house, you knew that you had a welcoming committee of one excited Cider dog who would wait in the window until we returned from any errand or trip.
But, right now, I want to mark the heavy occasions because I think she meant something much more than a little fury fluff ball. She helped me navigate a challenging time in my life… and she helped each member of my family navigate these years because they have not been easy.
2009: Starting off in 2009, she was not even one year old. I woke in the middle of the night (almost the same time she woke me just last week). I had severe stomach pains. I could not stop throwing up. My husband looked up symptoms. And we did the same thing that we did for Cider, wondering if we should get up and go to the hospital in the wee hours of the morning? Did I simply have food poisoning or the flu? I don’t know what made us decide to go back then… maybe because I couldn’t stop throwing up. We threw on clothes and took our daughter with us at 3 or 4 in the morning. She was only 9 years old. They gave me an anti-nausea shot. I was worried because I had heard recently of someone losing their arm from one. I stopped throwing up. Lots of people started coming into see me. No one knew what was wrong, so they ordered an MRI, which meant drinking a huge (and I mean huge) pitcher of contrast. I couldn’t drink it all. I felt like I would explode. I got wheeled into the MRI. My husband and daughter had gone home… it had already been an hour, probably 2… still they couldn’t figure it out. I got wheeled back to my spot at the ER. I don’t know how long it was… but not too much longer after the MRI, the surgeon who had come into see me was back. He was shifting from foot to foot as he said: “We’re taking you into surgery now. You have a twisted intestine. They will put a tube down your throat to get the water out. You might still be awake, so I don’t want you to panic.” I was like… can I call my husband, what about my wedding ring. He said: “Oh, I’ll take your rings. I’ll put them here. Don’t let me forget them. Yes, call your husband. They’re going to be here for you in minutes. Get her a phone.”
The surgery I think was 4 hours long. I think my stomach was close to the point of bursting that’s why my surgeon had to move fast… and fast he did. He was magnificent. I know I owe him my life for had the intestine or stomach burst, I would have died. I had been born with a genetic defect. The right side of my large intestines had never been attached to my abdominal wall as it should have. They reattached it during that surgery after they untwisted it and made sure parts of my intestine had not died from lack of blood. I was really lucky. They didn’t have to take any of it out. I never knew before being put under that I might have woken up to no lower intestine. Had it died. They would have had to remove it. I am so thankful this was not the case. But, after the surgery, I had to stay in the hospital until my intestine woke up again. It took somewhere between 7 and 10 days. During this time, I could not eat or drink a thing and I had to get out of bed everyday beginning the day after surgery and start walking. Have you ever tried to sit up in bed and put your legs over the side to stand after all the muscle in your stomach have been cut, parted, and stitched back together again? I have. It is hell. I didn’t think I would make it, but I had one really good nurse who was kind but firm. I had my husband and my daughter who came every day. And, I had a few good friends came too. I had a lot of time to think, especially since “the interns” arrived in my room every morning between 5 and 6 a.m. I was quite an unusual case. They were studying me. But they were nice, so I didn’t mind. During this time, I came to understand there were two things I must do before death comes for me again. #1 – Raise my daughter to adulthood and make sure she is strong and independent and loved. #2 – Write the book I have always wanted to write my whole life, but just never got around to doing it… giving myself so many good reasons like: “I can’t write dialogue.” “I don’t know what to write.” But I made a commitment then that I would write it… whatever the hell it was.
When I returned home 10 days later, little Cider was so happy to see me. She squealed and cried… yes, she cried, as if I had returned to her from the dead. She licked my face for more than half an hour, thereafter she rarely left me side… really ever since. So, that was our first disaster she helped all of us navigate because my daughter really needed her those 10 days that I was gone, and so did my husband. We all needed her. Our other dog Sasha was lovely too, of course, but Cider did not hold back, and you could hold her forever and she would rarely try to wiggle away like Sasha does.
There were many ups and down between 2009 and our next big crisis in 2015, but those don’t really matter to this story. We all have ups and downs. I supposed our fate was gathering in those years, we just didn’t know it yet. And, I kept my two promises to raise my daughter and to write a story though it took until 2012 to finally figure and find my story!
I just remembered something else that happened that year. My daughter had turned 9 that year. All that year at school she had been experiencing bullying that had been escalating. One incident, the girl hit my daughter’s head with the door of her locker when they were changing out books. I talked with teachers, the principal, even the parents of the girls bullying her. Everyone said they were watching, but no one saw the bullying. It got worst. My daughter did not want to go to school anymore. We got Cider halfway through this horrible year. My daughter found her. She brought joy to us the very moments we brought her home, but the bullying continued and grew worst. It cumulated with the parents of the girls bullying her just before I arrived to pick her up after school. She ran out of the school in tears, and those parents had the gall to march into the principal’s office and complain about my daughter. I found this out because I called the principal as soon as we got home, but the front desk would not put me through because she was in a meeting with two parents. I asked if the two were this and that person. The front attendant confirmed that it was. I was so mad. I called my husband told him what was going on and told him to talk to our daughter until I returned. I left her talking to her father and our 2 dogs, Cider was still a little puppy. I went back to the school and barged into the “meeting”. The two mothers had went to work on her, and when she turned to me and suggested that my daughter was manipulating me and everyone around for attention. I let her have it and the other mothers too. I did not lose my temper, but I called them on every lie and falsehood they had concocted to make their daughters appear blameless. I knew my girl. I knew the pain she was bearing and could not escape. I knew her character, even at that tender age. I knew these mothers were exhibiting a special kind of cruelty and the principal was weak and falling for it. I wrote a long letter to the school superintendent after that, citing tons of research about bullying. She received a visit from the superintendent after that. I never saw those mothers again. I picked my daughter up from the back of the school with our two dogs (Cider the puppy still) and I resolved to take her out of the school system that was utterly failing her, and home school her. Luckily she got called to transfer to a magnet school, which was good for I was to be in no condition the coming school year to take on being a home schooler mom. I noticed something else too remembering this… the drama of this period and me standing up to bullies matches almost exactly the drama of 2018 when I stood up to bullies at my place of work, including what would come later in the first weekend of August when I almost died, and then when my beloved father did die.
2015: My husband was forced to retire from his job at the museum. It had been a brutal campaign waged against by people he had worked beside for 23 years. Pretty much it was all simply for money. They wanted the money supporting his small department for their pet projects. We all suffered through it for years after it. He was finally forced out sometime in November.
2016: I was suddenly and unexpectedly laid off from my job as a writer. I had been with the company for six years, but I guess I was a little too outspoken for my station and when the company hit an financial iceberg and workers had to be thrown overboard to save the corporate ship for the captain and his crew, I was chosen along with 6 others to be cast off the ship. It was pretty brutal too. I was told over the phone in not a very kind way 12 days before Christmas. I would be paid all my vacation, which would take me to New Years – and I could get a wonderful $2,000 (probably less after taxes) severance if I just signed this little agreement. I didn’t sign it. It was so convoluted and over the top. I basically was being prohibited from talking about my own life and story for less than $2,000 – who needed that.
I was completely free to attend the Women’s March. That was marvelous. I interviewed more 36 people—men and women who had come from all over the country to make their voices heard about the 2016 election… the one we are still suffering through now in 2019. I turned these interviews into a documentary. I was compelled to do this because of the story I had begun to write. In my story, there is a good man with a vision to save the good people of Earth from catastrophic climate change events that has utterly reshaped the geo-economic-political landscape of the world. Nation states have fallen. In their place, Corporate states now rule the world. The good man is a CEO of the biggest Multinational Company in the world, but he has vision for how to save humanity and the creatures that still cling to life on a devastated planet. It is nothing less than the transformation of human consciousness on a scale that has never before been achieved, but he has found a way. But just before he gets to the point of conducting the human trials…he is murdered, and the world is turned back over the climate cliff from which they have just climbed back from after going over the first time. The evil one is bent on erasing everything the good CEO was trying to do… and so you see, I had to go to the Women’s March. I needed to hear the stories of all the wonderful and good people of this country and what they were feeling, feared, and hoped.
2017: Tough year. My husband was taking care of his mother and her boyfriend. They had both had close calls with death. This made it necessary for him to spend what was to turn out to be more than 2 years in California helping there. He wasn’t able to look for work. I found a job after more than 6 months looking, but it was a very low paying job and it was going to turn toxic.
2018: My daughter graduated from high school… my pride and joy. I made a movie for my father, mother, and mother-in-law and her significant other to watch since none of them could come to her graduation. During this time, I was working like a mad-woman at this little place where I had found a job writing grants and proposals to help them do their charity work for immigrants and at-risk children and youth. It was I had been doing before being thrown off the corporate ship, before the 2009 great recession when all my consulting jobs as a grant writer dried up as it did for many of my consultants’ friends. We were all struggling then. I was working like a mad-woman because the woman who had hired me had left. The company hired a narcissistic pretender, completely incompetent, to replace her because she had told them I would not be interested in taking her position. She was trying to protect me, but she never told me why. Anyhow, her replacement was fired after two months and so all the work now fell to me and the little company wanted to apply for two huge government grants with only a month lead time. I got very little help. I worked more than 89 hours that I was not paid for. The agreement with the other woman was I would take that time as comp time later… but the CEO was being cagey. I was getting the feeling I would not be paid for this time. Then, my father suffered a cataphoric heart attack, but the first responders brought him back and he had been flown to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Of course, I flew out to be with him. I’ve written extensively of this elsewhere. I will burden you here with how traumatic this time was other than to let you know I was fired by this little organization while I was at my father’s bedside and I was with him when he died. In fact, I had to make the call to move him to comfort care… basically, I had to make the call to stop providing life-saving care and let him die. Oddly, the day and hour my father died is within 12 hours of the day I almost died in 2009.
Since his death, I have suffered tremendously… I guess one could say I had a catastrophic psychological collapse. I have not been able to work since I was fired. I was just starting to feel like I might be able to look again when Cider died. Cider my beloved little doggie who has been by my side through thick and thin. I realize this last year I gave her part of my soul to help carry since I could not any longer, and she gladly took and help to bear my trauma and collapse. And, she helped me cling to hope and to write every day. This was a thread of hope my writing, and Cider was right there at my feet many days gently supporting me…my little furry soul carrier, Cider. And, so this is why I’ve said I cannot bear to post my lost on Facebook for you see, she was so much more than just a dog. She was my bridge back to reality.
2019: Last Christmas was so sad without dad; I began to spiral down into a deep depression. Psychologically I could no longer cope with all the bad things that kept coming one right after another. Neither myself or my husband were anywhere near the station in life that one entering their middle and senior years should be at. Both of us had been cast off the ships of security people need to work on in order to live in our modern, complicated, civilized society… but you see, there is a brutality underneath it, and money is the weapon of choice used to torture and brutalize each other. And then I knew I don’t have it nearly as bad and poor people in Central America or Africa and other places in the world who are beginning to feel the growing effects of Climate Change, which is destroying their ability to grow their own food and so they have to move to migrate. And, what do they get for that? Fear, populism, brutality for trying to survive. It has swept around the world. It has infected pretty much every rich, developed, somewhat stable country who put up walls to keep them out as if they were bringing the plague of bad luck with them… when in fact it is us in the developed world who have inflicted the plague upon the entire world. These poor folks are just feeling it first. They get to die first, then it will come for the rest of us. So, I was aware of this and aware of how much stronger and more resilient they are compared to me, and this made me feel worst. This made me feel weak and useless like a piece of trash that deserves to be thrown away. And, I started to think about myself like that more and more. My husband had to go back to take care of his mom, my daughter was away at college. I was alone with my thoughts as I approached my dad’s birthday. The first birthday I would have to endure without him. I pleaded for my husband to return. But he was not able to. I descended deeper and deeper into my hole of depression. But Cider was with me. Cider needed me. Cider followed me everywhere and kept me company and filled the house with the music of her little feet running and her barking and her howling whenever a firetruck passed near. Cider gave me an island of furry reality with undying love to hang on to as I slipped deeper and deeper down. At first, I could visualize myself walking down a deep gorge, but then I got lost… somehow, I went underwater. I got really bad… suicidal… nightmarish… bad. But I could hug Cider. She would always come to me no matter how bad I got. She didn’t care… she just loved me in her way.
Ever since dad died, I stopped writing my story. I dabbled in blogging and made art, but I could not touch my story. I could not bear to work on it. My dear friend in Colorado got wind of how bad I was doing and jumped in to help me edit the first 200 pages so I could package that much as a self-published book. So, she started, and this gently redirected my attention back to the story that I had committed myself to write back in 2009—the year I almost died. Progress was slow, but about the time I really started to descend, I realized I needed to bring my writing style up to speed with where I was in 2018 rather than where I was in 2012, when I started the story. I was afraid to tell my friend who had started editing, but fortunately she had not sunk too much time into it yet and was so gracious, telling me of course I should do what I needed. And, so as I went down psychologically, I returned to my story, and perhaps it was like an inner invisible thread that I could hang onto no matter how deep I descended… and I went deep, editing and revising fiercely with Cider at my feet. I did not resurface until my husband returned late in July, very near the first anniversary of dad’s death. This was a very difficult time, but I had been working on a video tribute to dad as well as writing daily. All this gave me inner strength… and determination. I marked both anniversaries of dad… his initial heart attack, and then his death, when I was with him. I was thinking why I didn’t feel the cold when dad died, but I realize the vision I had earlier that day of what I needed to do wrapped him and me in a blanket of love. I was pulling him across the glacier near his ancestral home in Norway wrapped inside a bearskin sledge. The sledge was my story. I read it to him that day. It was the only day I had read it to him. I told him he could get off at any point or wait until the end of the story. I told him that his mother and other loved ones who had passed would be waiting for him. I think that’s why I didn’t feel the coldness of death because I was helping dad cross over to the other side wrapped in a blanket of love. Dad was so proud of this story. He told me before his heart attack that my whole life had been preparing me to write this story. So, there was no fear that day, and I did not know he would die, but when he did… I just hugged him… just like I hugged Cider when she died.
Around dad’s first year anniversary, I had a dream of a woman of rainbow light surfacing far out at sea, turning around, and heading for shore pulling something with her. I am making a video tribute for Cider… you will see her in this video, but I know most of you will not have time to watch it all… it’s long like everything I do. I won’t apologize for that. Life is long and we are supposed to spend this time to go deep and crystalized things rising from inside. It’s painful to do this work, and so most of us skip it… dabbling in the shallow waters of shallow thinking, of hallow dreams, of endless fears… but we’ve been trapped there by our harsh and heartless economic systems, so it’s not our fault we feel so much pain, so much fear all the time. This was the new stuff that started rising around dad’s first year death anniversary. I was trying to edit that section down, but then a voice inside me said: “This needs to be said now.” Then, the back to back shootings occurred and one of my only friends left at my gym where I edit all my material came up to me and said: “You’re writing about it, right?” I was confused, and he said: “What just happened… the shootings… this sickness…. You need to write at least 2 chapters about it.” I said yes that is exactly what I am working on. And, so ever since August, I have been chasing after this new material in the darkness of my mind… chasing it down… taming it with words, then combing the snarls out. I stopped worrying about cutting it even though when I sent to my friend and she aptly pointed out that this new section will make the initial readers put the story down and never pick it up again, while the readers who like this part of the story will not like the rest. I discussed this with my husband and daughter and a friend. My husband brought up Moby Dick. Herman Melville did this. Right in the middle of the action, my husband says he launched into chapter after chapter about whales… detailed, scientific descriptions of them… whale after whale. And, so I continued to write… settled on this will be a book within a book. Again, Cider at my feet most times while I was working on the computer. And, all along… I was getting stronger… I was feeling more myself. I was even beginning to think I might be able to work again. Then, Cider died dramatically and unexpectantly. And, I have stopped writing again. And, I feel myself sinking again.
So, there you go. My super sad story, and it’s not even as bad as so many others have it right now… and so I am a weak and useless louse on top of it all. But I can’t bear to sit at the computer where I was editing a section with Cider at my feet. Cider who was going to dying in just a few short hours, and I was completely oblivious. I had started to reconstruct my persona and a reality… and I got it utterly wrong. I was just so stupid. I didn’t notice. I didn’t see. I didn’t pay attention, even though I had felt certain things were wrong. Maybe that’s what we are doing now en masse to planet Earth. We’re feeling things, but we are telling ourselves stories to make ourselves feel better… stories like we have more time… when we don’t have it at all.
I am spitting into the wind with this post because I know it goes against the grain of the platform and the algorithms—it’s too long, it’s too raw, it’s too honest, it’s not fake. But that is all I have. The best thing you can say to me right now, much better than a crying face or condolences for a lost pet, is to write these three words: “Write the story” or “Finish the story.” I have lost my most faithful, most furry, most loving cheerleader. Those are the most powerful words you can send now. And, I know most of you will not even read this story when/if I finish it, and that is fine too…. I have come to understand this story is most likely not for you. Maybe it’s just for me… maybe it’s just my thread back to reality. I don’t know. But that is all I have. I am empty now. If you have made it this far, my dear friend, thank you for listening and bearing with me to the bitter end of my sad tale of my sad life. I give you my love… that is all we have… that is the only thing we might take with us when we die and all of us will one day die… that is the most certain thing of life… death. I will be posting a tribute to Cider. I don’t want to bother anyone with my crazy art and super long video, but if you would like to know when I post it… most likely I will do so before midnight tomorrow, let me know and I will ping you. And, do not worry… I will be OK. Oh, and please give me time… I cannot bear to be here on Facebook now. It is too shallow for my grief, so please be patient with me if I do not see important message you may post or send me. Slowly I will crawl back. I’ll try to respond, and I will try to share your posts once again as I had started to do on my Sapience the Moment is Now page. But, not now… probably not for time. I don’t know how long.
And, so as 2019 ends: “Goodbye my beloved father for the second Christmas and second New Year, and Goodbye my beloved dog Cider.”
I wrote the following as a reflection from a series of conversations people from around the world had to discuss the climate crisis. As I looked through the wondrous materials considered and assembled by the Conference Weaving Now What? Deep Dives, I was dazzled by the jewels in the Now What?! Consciousness Deep Dive Conversation Harvest. Immediately, I thought of Indra’s Net. Before telling you why, it is important to understand what this net is. And, to find out more about Now What, visit the beautiful new site: Now What?!The art of being fully human in a time of crisis
Śūnyatā (emptiness) – This is a Buddhist concept that has multiple meanings depending on its doctrinal context. It is either an ontological feature of reality, a meditative state, or a phenomenological analysis of experience. [I believe for something new to emerge there must be space for it, thus this feature of reality both outer and inner is essential to all who seek to bring into the world a kinder, gentler, restorative reality.]
Pratītyasamutpāda (dependent origination) – This concept “is commonly translated as dependent origination, or dependent arising, is a key principle in Buddhist teachings,[note 1] which states that all dharmas (“phenomena”) arise in dependence upon other dharmas: “if this exists, that exists; if this ceases to exist, that also ceases to exist”. [I cannot think of a more essential concept to consider as we engage together in these sessions and others along with the weaving done afterwards. I always need to be reminded what dharma means. There is no single English translation for this word. Essentially it is the behaviors that make life in the universe possible. I think fits beautifully with us joining together in conversations that seek to understand and uplift behaviors that sustain life on our planet. If we don’t understand each other, we are indeed stuck.]
Interpenetration (coalescence) – This concept developed from the Huayan school. It holds all phenomena (dharmas) are deeply interconnected, mutually arising, and every phenomenon contains all other phenomena. Various metaphors and images are used to illustrate this idea. The first is known as Indra’s net. The net is set with jewels which have the extraordinary property that they reflect all of the other jewels, while the reflections also contain every other reflection, ad infinitum. The second image is that of the world text. This image portrays the world as consisting of an enormous text which is as large as the universe itself. The words of the text are composed of the phenomena that make up the world. However, every atom of the world contains the whole text within it. It is the work of a Buddha to let out the text so that beings can be liberated from suffering. [So, there you go. Perhaps this is why Indra’s Net popped into my mind as I read through the jewels, which is only a tiny piece of the harvest and this is even a tiny part of what is happening when we connect with each other and seek mutual understanding. We are indeed reflected in each other. We are the jewels in the Indra Net enveloping Earth.]
I imagine two wonderous Indra’s Net. One net holds our universe. It is woven by time and space that create the matrix holding everything we see in our universe. The second Indra’s Net is like the first, but this one wraps around our beautiful Earth. All life on Earth create the threads that are woven together to create this web. Humans have taken on an exaggerated importance in this web because of the level of consciousness we have attained. I am not going to delve into my thinking on this now…perhaps later… but suffice it to say we have changed the matrix from which we were born, and now we have a Herculean Task upon our shoulders to repair what has been damaged by us so life may continue to exist on this precious jewel in the larger Indra Net—Earth.
I think when we come together and listen to each other, we repair Earth’s net. Each of us has a special place and unique abilities that are needed to sustain Earth’s Indra’s Net. Each human being is informed by individual passions, interests, experiences, and failures. Some of us are really good at speaking, others are really good at organizing, still others are healers, and others bring visions. Each human being weaves part of this wondrous web enveloping Earth. To heal and repair our net, Earthneeds all our insights, energies, passions, and gifts.
So, this is the idea that struck me as I read the harvest material from the conferences, deep dives, and other conversations. It seems to me every human being is a jewel in Earth’s Indra’s Net. Through us the energy needed to repair, strengthen, and heal this netis made visible. We are essentially portalsof transformation, and it is going to take as many ofus pulling in the same direction as possible to change our collectivefate.
I have not had much time to read everything, nor did I have participate in the Deep Dives, but what I have seen is beautiful pieces of wisdom being pulled up from depths inside ourselves. Wisdom that has become submerged and lost due to current ways of thinking and living in our world. Let me stress the weaving being done through our collective action is utterly essential for the moment we are in now.
Given limits on my time at this moment, I am only able highlight a few of the jewels that caught my attention as I looked through the excellent excel chart being created to preserve some of the harvest from this collective work. There are also notes and videos of Deep Dives and from parts of the conferences taking place around the world. My selection of a few of the jewels in no way diminishes any of the other jewels.I am a simple and small portal of consciousness informed by my individual experiences, passions, dreams, and failures. All this naturally limits what I can see and how I see it. But, then thisis the beauty of Indra’s Net. Each jewel is unique and reflects every other jewel in the net. I suspect there are as many jewels in Earth’s Indra’s Net as there human beings alive on the planet, and the energy coursing through the webbing of this net is the wonderous life alive on Earth right now.
The first jewel I want to highlight is one that I saw reflected in several discussions. This is the jewel of sacred ceremony. We need to remember our thoughts are powerful. They are able to collapse the infinite sea of possibilities in which we all swim into a single thread of reality. We do this by thinking, choosing, and acting (or not acting). Moment by moment we contribute our strand of reality to all the other strands being created by every living being on the planet. As the strands interweave, this becomes our shared reality. Humans have become particularly powerful in sculpting our shared reality by using our minds gifted with consciousness (or cursed – as many world myths account this moment as man’s great fall). I write about this in other places, so I will not delve into my meaning here, but only say humans emerged from a more primordial state of consciousness into the state we understand it as today. This singular accomplishment allowed humans to not only perceive the world, but to apperceive it. I will talk more about this ability to apperceive our world later, but for now, I will simply provide you with a definition of it:
From Wiki: Meaning in psychology – In psychology, apperception is “the process by which new experience is assimilated to and transformed by the residuum of past experience of an individual to form a new whole.” In short, it is to perceive new experience in relation to past experience. The term is found in the early psychologies of Herbert Spencer, Hermann Lotze, and Wilhelm Wundt. It originally means passing the threshold into consciousness, i.e., to perceive. But the percept is changed when reaching consciousness due to the contextual presence of the other stuff already there, thus it is not perceived but apperceived.
Apperception is thus a general term for all mental processes in which a presentation is brought into connection with an already existent and systematized mental conception, and thereby is classified, explained or, in a word, understood; e.g. a new scientific phenomenon is explained in the light of phenomena already analyzedand classified. The whole intelligent life of man is, consciously or unconsciously, a process of apperception, in as much as every act of attention involves the appercipient process.
The next jewel is the significant of language in constructing our realities. Here again our ability of apperception is powerful for we have civilized and cultivated most of the world simply by seeing possibilities different from what nature originally provided for life to exist. And, so here we stand at the edge of every moment with this power to apperceive infinite possibilities, and language is the tool we use to share our visions of what is possible. So, yes, it is a commanding tool in constructing our shared realities because it allows us to cooperate in collective action.
It also comes with peril, as this group of jewels point out, for we can misunderstand each other if we do not take care in truly understanding how words are being used and what is truly being said. Our ability for language is an ability that we have perhaps grown too accustom to wielding. I really like the idea of reconnecting with other cultures and languages. This is a beautiful way to understand how utterly diverse our ability to communicate with each other is… and through communication, our ability to co-create. Human cultures and civilizations have unfolded in so many incredible and diverse ways across space and through time. So, getting stuck in our head with words that have become too small for our current reality is a trap, and it is good to learn how to get out of our self-created thought traps. Gaining perspective of different languages, different cultures, and even different ways of communication (e.g., dance, visual art, dreamtime, empathy), helps us re-appreciate our ability to communicate with each other in so many different ways. This I believe helps us to perceive nuances better for every word is really a universe. Here is one of my favorite shorts by Dr. Maya Angelou – Power Of Words.
The next jewel is learning to let go of the story. Here the question was asked: What are the actions I might take now that allow me to fully offer my gifts in service to what is needed in response to the possibility that everything is going to work our just fine or it is not going to work out? I think this is wonderful because it helps one to understand they can take an active role in telling the story unfolding right now about Earth and her fate (or a passive role). I think most of us began to believe (for me it was around the 6thgrade) that our voice does not matter, that our thinking will never be good enough, and that our internal knowledge is wrong and has no place in the world of educated men (I do use men here purposively).
To survive in our modern civilization, we learn how to bend ourselves and squeeze into the tiny boxes of perception and apperception that are allowed by the systems dictated to us by our modern, civilized world. Most of these systems come out of Western Civilization for this civilization has had a huge propensity to colonize the world with its particular brand of thinking and mindset. For humans living in modern Western systems, there are patterns for how to make money, where to live, how much free time to spend with friends, family, or anything else that is important, even how to think and use our minds. Since so many human beings are born into this system, we do not even realize how much control of our shared narrative we have given up by making ourselves fit into this story being told mostly by powerful ones inside of Western Civilization.
Most of us do not realize how shallow the conscious waters have become inside of this great narrative. But, we have been told we must swim only in these designated waters—conscious waters that are too shallow to sustain us much longer. I think other cultures and civilizations have not taught this out of their people. This is why we need our indigenous brothers and sisters, but we do not need to misuse their precious knowledge (as another Jewel cautions), rather this knowledge is inside every person trapped inside Western thinking, we need to marshal our courage and venture back into the deep end of our conscious capacities. This is where our indigenous brothers and sisters can be guides, but we must do the work. And, help each other to take a more active role in telling our personal story that becomes part of the collective story…this is so important. Active storytelling is a precious jewel—indeed, it is a super ability.
Another really critical element in this list of jewels is letting go of the ending of the story. When we let go of what we hope or want the ending to be, we put ourselves squarely in the present moment. This is where our power is. It is not in the past (we’ve already been there). It is not in the future (we are not there yetand thusour choicesare only future possibilities). It is NOW—this is where we choose our thread of shared reality. This is where our voice can help guide the flow of the collective story being told about Earth and its inhabitants. By letting go of our attachmentto what the ending needs to be or should be, suddenly all possibilities open up again.
In this moment of infinite possibilities, we can get about doing what we are so good at doing. In fact, we have evolved as human beings to not only perceive the beautiful world around us, but to appercept it. I am using apperception in the psychological meaning of this word, as defined earlier: “the process by which new experience is assimilated to and transformed by the residuum of past experience of an individual to form a new whole.” With this ability, we become transformers. It is what we do better than any other species on the planet, and that is to take our individualized toolbox (the mind) equipped with individualized knowledge, experience, and hopefully wisdom and create something new. Even when we don’t employ our wisdom, when we choose from the infinite number of possibilities swirling around us every momentof every dayand act on one, we collapse the infinite stream of possibilities into one possibility. This becomes our thread of reality.
So you see, we are more powerful than we think… and yet, just like the Buddhist concept of Pratītyasamutpāda, we are completely dependent on each other making the best choices possible to survive within our shared reality—the web we weave together. What a dilemma!
The world cannot be saved by one human being, not even by the most powerful and rich 1 percent of human beings. I don’t know how many it is going to take to save Earthfrom the looming climate crisiswe have woven into the story, but it is probably going to take asmany of us as possible who are awakening to our new role as narrators in this collective story. So, releasing the ending you want is essential because to be a powerful narrator, it is essential to see the present moment for what it is and tell this story as accurately as you can… how you avoided the rocks or boulders in the stream, how you saw and out smarted the poisonous snake laying wait in the rocks, how you navigate the stream of possibilities.
These are power stories. They have always been power stories from timeimmemorial. Now we must learn how to tell these powerful stories about ourselves again against the backdrop of our modern age with all its distractions, pain, and fear thatcreates chaos meant to keep us docile and frozen in non-action. Or at least trap us in polarized action. Such action simply gets cancelled out by its equal and opposite action by others trapped on the other side of a false divide. It is a trick of the powerful narrators of our time who currently control most of our collective narrative. Too many of ushave fallenintotheir trap, makingus desperately grasp at things beyond our reach. This especially happens whenwe lose the firm ground of our inner reality; then, we are especially at the mercy of nefarious forces trying to control the collective story through fearmongering and other dramatic techniques.
We must grow stronger consciously. This is how we strengthen Indra’s Net because each one of us is a jewel in this beautiful net. We can help each other by giving freely our time and attention to lift each other when we falter or fall. We don’t have to leave anyone behind. When we stand on the plain of our present moment and really see what is in front of us, we are powerful beings. This is a link to some of my early writing and visual storytelling about these ideas. This began to emerge inside of me more than two years ago: Consciousness Waves.
Another jewel is pain. Here another critical question is asked: How do we create a space for pain? So much of Western Civilization is focused on avoiding pain at all costs. I don’t know about you, but I grew up feeling it was not OK to admit to feeling pain. Physical pain was fine to admit. Everyone can clearly see if you have a scraped knee or broken arm. But, emotional or spiritual pain…this was scary. Often it is assumed you did not follow the prescribed rules you were taught, and thus you are the cause of your own pain and deserve to suffer. No one deserves to suffer. Hardly any of us has such control over all the things that impact us, it is ridiculous to blame a person in pain for their pain. But, so often this is what we do. I have been going through a year of pretty intense pain, I can tell you one thing: Pain focuses ones attention and time like no other stimuli. Pain tells us something is wrong, and it prods us to seek solutions. When we are in pain, trivial matters, mindless distractions, the things that use to fill our time fade away and the mind focuses on finding solutions. [I captured this idea in a fantastical little story about my trials in The Divine Dodo – Hanga Dyra Mingja.]
So, yes, make space for pain. Do not be afraid of the power pain offers. Perhaps this is what victim blamers are really afraid of… the person experiencing pain finding their power making them no longer so easy to control. Finding solutions to things causing pain is absolutely critical.
In this collection of jewels, there is also discussion about the power of music. I write about the power of music in another story I am writing, so I will not wax on about it here. I will simply say our ancestors understood the power of music and how it can inspire action in the minds of individuals and groups. We have forgotten the power that music and dance give us. We have let them become co-opted into the realm of entertainment and money-making. It is so much more than this. It is part of our internal guidance system. Find your song. Find your dance. This is how the universe moves and expresses itself through us. Our magical powers to transform reality rises from inside of us and through us… and it is through our collective action that what rises from inside our minds is made visible through our collective action in the world—this is our shared reality.
Another jewel closely connected to pain is grief. Indeed, grief as this group discusses, breaks open the heart. The group also shares a beautiful poem expressing grief exquisitely. Grief connects us to our empathy. Our empathic powers are needed now more than any other time in human history. To me empathy is not just understanding that someone else is in pain or is grieving, but it is the capacity to stand beside the person who is suffering, to bear witness to their pain knowing we cannot take their pain from them, but perhaps we can help them hold it for a time… maybe help the person endure it, however long it takes.
I think really powerful empaths can absorb into their own bodies other people’s pain, anger, grief, and the unbearable emotions. I think our ancestors and indigenous people understand how this works and know how to help transmute these powerful emotional states. But, this takes time and skill to understand and most of us in Western Civilization have lost this ability. However, Medicine men and women around the world still possess it, and known how not helping people navigate these difficult parts of the journey can impact the health not only of the individual suffering but of the entire group. In most modern cultures, we have lost the rituals of transformation that can transmute and balance these negative and destructive energies with their equal and opposite energies. It is here where we have our power as individuals and as groups in helping each other find and maintain balance so that wisdom can rise and shine brightly.
This is all I have time to reflect on right now. I wish I could do more, and I am sure my thinking and efforts to communicate are inadequate for the rich reservoir of ideas, thinking, collaborative efforts transpiring through this collective work (collective action of transformation) unfolding right here and right now. I can only encourage each person who has participated in the dialogues or who is just discovering these resources to use your own unique toolbox of thought, perception, experience, ideas to continue strengthening this net we are repairing together. We do this by providing our time and attention in whatever capacity we feel called to do and with whatever time we have available to do so. Time and attention are the most valuable resources in the universe. It really is all we need to be powerful narrators of our personal stories, which of course become a part of the collective story of Earth.
After writing this, I came upon readings and conversations about the importance of emptiness. I quite frankly did not understand how absolutely essential emptiness is when I wrote the above. I intend to write more about it when I have time, but for now I must devote most of my attention to finishing editing the story I began 7 years ago (almost to this day for I remember first finding the thread to the story I have been writing ever since late one September afternoon–this story is Sapience). And so I leave you only with a quote from Carl Jung whom I was reading and finally understood the power and importance of emptiness. He said:
“The archetype corresponding to the situation is activated, and as a result this explosive and dangerous forces hidden in the archetype come into action, frequently with unpredictable consequences. There is no lunacy people under the domination of an archetype will not fall a prey too. “
“If 30 years ago anyone had dared to predict that our psychological development was tending towards a revival of the medieval persecutions of the Jews, that Europe would again tremble before the Roman fasces and the tramp of legions, that people would once more give the Roman salute, as two thousand years ago, and that instead of the Christian Cross an archaic swastika would lure onward millions of warriors ready for death–why, that man would have been hooted at as a mystical fool. And today? Surprising as it may seem, all this absurdity is a horrible reality. Private life, private aetiologies, and private neuroses have become almost a fiction in the world of today. The man of the past who lived in a world of archaic ‘representations collectives’ had risen again into very visible and painfully real life, and this not only in a few unbalanced individuals but in many millions of people”
“There are as many archetypes as there are typical situations in life. Endless repetition has engraved these experiences into our psychic constitution, not in the form of images filled with content, but at first only as forms without content, representing merely the possibility of a certain type of perception and action. When a situation occurs which corresponds to a given archetype, that archetype becomes activated and a compulsiveness appears, which, like an instinctual drive, gains its way against all reason and will, or else produces a conflict of pathological dimensions, that is to say, a neurosis.”
— The Portable Jung, The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious, p. 66-67
I love to look at the journey of my paintings for it is an utter surprise, an alchemy of process. I am in a subconscious state when I paint, I do not sketch out ideas ahead of time I just let the brush be my guide. I suppose it is being a Visionary or a Soul Artist unsure of what the result will be but trusting in the process. I see all the symbolism in my art reflecting on the world and what seemed to call out to me most was the word: ECO GUARDIANS. I was not sure if this word existed but upon my searching I found the words being used in the Maori Tradition: Kaitiakitanga. This means one whom is a guardian, protector or conserver. This traditional role is important with the Maori Peoples. They help shelter the lives and species around them. They help foster and preserve these traditions generation to generation. This role means speaking to the land, the waters, the air, the sea and all forms of life as a living entity and one that connects us all. ALL of these entities have their own individual sovereignty. This ideology knows that we are not greater than the animals, planets, trees, we are part of the fabric and web that we share intrinsically together. We co-exist and must survive together in a language of sacred reciprocity and respectability.
My house is full of what seems like 200 paintings or more over the last two years. Images of shamanic birds, horses, Indigenous Peoples, plant life, bears, Ancestors, Spirit figures, fires, water ways, sacred landscapes and so much more come alive in their own narratives. I feel I just show up but know I am never alone. I just finished writing about INTERCONNECTEDNESS and have been contemplating on this relationship of being an ECO GUARDIAN for days now. Can a lake, river, sea life, plant species, a pack of wolves or whales be a part of our subtribe of humanness? We are all connected and one thing I see over and over in my paintings is we are not alone. When I picture the children being all alone on the Border I wondered whom would comfort them in the night? I dreamt of a large red makwa Ojibwa bear that held the children so they were never alone despite the fact that employees were not allowed to hold the children at the detainment shelters. This to me was heart breaking. I decided to create a narrative that no one would suffer not even animals if they were alone through my paintings. Being a guardian means one respects all of life and comforts them to the best of their ability. Even the art we create can have protective boundaries. I pictured those whom were abused in an exhibition I was in called THE LONG RED LINE: ONE BILLION RISING in Chicago focusing on the voices that had been silent. The atrocities were happening world wide yet I created a narrative where red bears, spirit birds, Zulu Warriors, birch bark trees comforted the night sleeper and held all their truths and sorrows. I felt if I could change the narrative of such pain maybe it would comfort someone on the planet. Surely the role of the ECO GUARDIAN cherishes all life and helps to alleviate suffering in even one life. If this is what it meant then surely one persons’ pain abated would not be in vain.
Spirit Horses went through the fires of California, the Amazon, Siberia, and places all over the planet in my paintings warning of the fires to come. They brought rain and allowed the water to dissipate the pain of all that was being burned. ECO GUARDIANS brought the best healing they could in the situation and a source of resurrection. Water Protectors were brought more springs of water flowing at their feet. Taos Deer Dancers performed the dances that would help the coldness of winter to bring forth the right ingredients of light and warmth for a new growing season. Meanwhile the New Ancients, the ones originally on the cave wall paintings brought forth hope in the dire of circumstances that in the waning hours of the sun and moon the planet Earth might be able to keep breathing and surviving.
How can artists be ECO GUARDIANS? First of all you can not be afraid to protect the innocent. Safety is an illusion in these times but we must step up. We must validate what is right through our voice, our paintings, our poetry, our songs, our spoken words, our actions. I am re-writing a new narrative, it is not naïve or sugar coated. I am well aware of what is happening keeping up with literature, news, writings reflective of the times. I also know we are hungry for solutions, for ways that beauty can dispel the pain and sorrow. Books, paintings, films and so many forms of art can explore how can we take care of all the planet and ourselves. The time of being guided by the ego is over. Deceased. We must care for one another or we will not make it. Our very breath and lives depend on it. Extinction of landscapes, plants, animals, water and so much more is real and we know that with acute awareness from the devastation of the burning of the Amazon now. I challenge all of you followers to take a good look at what is happening. Do not deny it. I want to see what creative solutions you come up with in your processes, dreams, day dreams, and flights of fancy. Sink your bare feet into the earth if it is warm and feel the breath of the Mother, in her winds, the trees, the whispers of signs given to your eyes and ears only. She is speaking to us all the time. Let us write this new narrative. Are you wanting more to this existence? I urge you to join me as an ECO GUARDIAN. Can I count on you? Let me know what you thinking, writing and creating.
We are in this together… In Lovingkindness, Donna Alena
I laid in bed meditating on the last few paintings I created (with assistance from my subconscious helpers) on the AMAZON and the FIRES. I asked for guidance what these paintings were about and what they were trying to communicate to myself and all of us. I heard the word very loudly in my minds eye, INTERCONNECTEDNESS. I thought of what the ravages of the fires meant in the Amazon with millions of acres burning, Siberia and all over the world currently. I knew since we exist on a living planet this effected us all because it is all energy and ripples to where ever we live on the planet. I felt so deeply that my heart was hurting, what is this doing to us psychologically? The death of so many species of life discovered and undiscovered, animals, bird life, Indigenous Peoples and the changing of their narratives, stories retold, insects, the dependency of interspecies. We are connected intrinsically. Do you feel the burning of the Mother in some way? How? Does it effect you? Do you feel hotter than usual? Is your anger or grief manifested in some level unexpressed? Do you notice the disconnectedness we feel around us to avoid talking about what really matters now, how we continue to live on a planet that is burning, flooding, getting hotter and hotter year after year? Do you feel the avoidance? Do you see it with more acting out and violence? And, meantime shallow discussions continue, and we don’t address the core of what really is happening as denial feels so safe or at least it offers an illusion of safety that these events are not taking place? I cannot and refuse to live in that place of complacency and denial.
First, I am an artist with every fiber of my being. I know the writers, artists, musicians, creators of gardens, novels, poetry, films, dance, storytelling can be a catalyst of change. I would like to think as we get our work in the public domains that we can change the narratives. We can write the truths, is it uncomfortable? Yes. Painful and even traumatic? Yes. But we no longer have the luxuries of denial. We depend on one another.
We are INTERCONNECTED. What happens to humanity through devastating events trickles into our fields of energy. We needed these plants, animals, people, villages, communities, stories to be a part of the Universal Narrative as they burn what does that mean to you and the place you live on the planet? Do not think the area you live in is not a possibility of future events? This home is a living organism and it will keep having it’s evolution. We absolutely cannot escape that. I think at this time on the planet we are dealing with what is true and what is not. Climate change at the most intense and dire levels are being recorded now. This is true. There is a chasm between honoring and offering sacred reciprocity to the planet and honoring ourselves and others in a good way. Do no harm. You ask how we can do that?
One small ripple of extending kindness is a start. A kind word. Reaching out to someone in need with no concern of how it will benefit you but how it will help your neighbor. Recycling, being conscious of your water intake, composting, zero waste, eating no meat, gardening your own organic foods with no pesticides we know of all these possibilities. Living in respect of one another and the planet is a act or prayer of gratitude. Having deep conversations with others about these issues helps. Reading literature and books that guide in changing the narrative helps. Creating a painting of contemplation helps. I know we are all so busy but what if we chose one thing to volunteer our time to weekly? One hour or two? Giving back to a cause or agency you strongly believe in? I love teaching art classes to high risk students or working on creating safe environments for others to gather and share conversations with. Painting is always my medicine. Listening to your dreams and intuition, it rarely steers you wrong.
AIRIA OF THE AMAZON, RAIN MEDICINE, ELLORA OF ECUADOR, and THE CHILDREN ON THE BORDER all came to me without premeditation. So many of my paintings do, I say this humbly as I do not know the magic that will enfold till I start the process. Our paper, our canvases, music sheets are bursting to translate messages. This will be the new planetary language. It is a new language we are learning through interconnectedness, one of co-existence. We have no other choice if we really want to make it. Our lives count on it. Our breath and all that lives and breathes on this planet counts on this. It’s beyond the stage of urgency which leads me to the next topic of being ECO GUARDIANS. I am still in the process of writing this entry.
Thank you for consideration of these words.
I must write them. I am asking you to please contribute your storytelling and narrative to this piece. I want to hear from you. I am counting on you. Till we meet again…
I have laid in bed thinking of all the paintings I have done since Blair died. My beloved. At first I thought the bulk of my work was about losing him so quickly and unexpectedly. I was devastated beyond all words and the only healing that worked for me was painting. I have been in my studio painting continuously since his passing 2 years ago. When I am not working, I paint; it is my healing medicine. What I realized was this was my ceremony for grief. Along with the grieving process, I grieved for the United States, the devastation of global climate changes at such a rapid rate and the pain of our leadership and where we were headed. I realized in the process I was painting about the Mother Earth and all the events that were happening at an exponential rate. I was grieving at such a deep level and my dreams became more and more prolific and vivid.
This is a painting that came to me in my dreams. I saw a Hopi woman going through the earth with a large yellow serpent as if she was a Guardian of what was to come. I asked where she came from and heard “Guatemala.” I had this dream before the insurgence of the refugees from Central America were heading this way at such a devastating rate. I saw her as a HOPI woman, and she was on a journey to Texas and New Mexico. This was before the detainment of what was to happen in Texas and on the border. I was told in the dream she was protecting the pathway of what was to become before us. Then, the detainment camps happened, and the pain of the suffering and deaths of all those trying to leave Central America escalated. It is not easy to be a visionary in these times but our roles are so important. I know the artists are needed with such urgency. I feel this deep in my art and dreams.
This Hopi woman speaks of the moment of catharsis. Please write your stories, poetry, paint and pay attention to your dreams. We are at the crossroads and the time is now with urgency on every level.
My next post will be on Eco Guardians and being a Warrior in these times.
Thank you so much for reading this and for your journey with me.
Several months back, I wrote a piece about Consciousness Warriors. As I tried to conclude this piece, Notre Dame burned. What follows is what I wrote then:
“As I struggled to tie the lose strands of the thoughts in this blog together, I watched Notre Dame burned. I thought of the ancient oak turning into smoke and blowing away as I listened to reports about the sacred, precious relics and art inside. Everyone was wondering if all was lost. It sure looked like it from the powerful flames. When the brave, courageous fire fighters could finally be seen spraying tiny streams of water onto the fire beast, it all seemed too little too late, leaving the only thing people could do was watch and witness, unable to look away.
Notre Dame means Our Lady… Our Mother. She was built as a place for people to gathered—for this is what church means—a place to gather and remember there is a touch of the divine inside of us. Chris Cuomo dedicated his hour that night to Notre Dame saying she was a place where people gathered to embraced by her divine beauty and remember this beauty is inside ourselves and in others too. There is tremendous strength in gathering together in community. We may have forgotten how gathering together in places and ways that elevate and celebrate our highest and best potentials that nourishes us and strength us, even at the worst of times. It was Notre Dame where people gathered after the devasting terrorist attacks in France. It has been a place for people to gather and remember we are more than just flesh and blood for centuries. She reminded us we are beings imbued with spirit, light, and beauty.
As I watched Norte Dame burn, a thought occurred to me: What if this is a foreshadowing of what is to come? What if we do nothing to mitigate Climate Change and the monster we created using our Westernized, over-civilized, profit-centered thinking continues to grow and consume and become so big our individual streams of consciousness are just too puny and almost useless to put it out? Even banning together in small groups, we are outmatched on every level by this beast that is the collective, which is us as well . This would leave us with only one thing left to do, and that is watch and witness the horror and terror of knowing we are losing our home, we are losing our mother, we are losing the place we have gathered for countless millenniums, a place so precious, so sacred we will only realize what we are losing as we watch it being destroyed.
After the fire was quelled, we learned about the brave fire fighters and the Chaplin at Norte Dame who ran inside the burning church as fire rained down on them from the inferno above them to save the precious relics and paintings. They saved them, and the organ survived the fire, and the cross still hung on front wall. Even the bees living on top of the roof survived. I don’t know if we dare hope that we can somehow do the same for Our Mother—Earth. That the people who show up and run into the center of the coming disaster can save enough of the precious beauty that has evolved on Earth so that Our Mother can survive and recover. I can only foolishly hope that we can like the fire fighters, the Chaplin, and the bees escape the jaws of the dragon at the last possible moment.“
Even in my grandest imaginations, I did not believe Earth would reach a crisis point this year. Yet, here we are, several months since Norte Dame burned, and 2019 is the hottest year yet on record, there have been massive fires in Russia’s arctic, glaciers in Greenland are melting faster than ever (the last time they melted this fast was in 2012), Antarctica’s biggest ice shelf may be more vulnerable to climate change than previously thought, and now the fires in the Amazon rain forest that have turned the skies of São Paulo black at mid-day.
Yes, we know many of the fires in the Amazon have been intentionally set to clear forest for farming. Yes, we know this has been a practice for decades. But, this year there are more fires than ever, and some burn out of control. There are theories that once enough rain forest has been destroyed, it will flip and all of the rain forest will die and become grasslands. While this will be wonderful for farmers who want to grow soy or corn or wheat, the lost of the lungs of Earth, the diversity of life in the rain forest, the lost of the people who have lived in harmony with nature for thousands of years is incalculable–it is a tragedy of mammoth portions that will feed the fire of climate collapse.
Here now is a call to all artists, seers, and people of conscious. What we are seeing here and now in 2019 is urgent. My friend and collaborator, Donna Alena Hrabcakova, shares her vision and message:
This piece was painted by happenstance, SPIRIT. This beautiful one just jumped through the canvas with a message for all ARTISTS to hear. I am just a humble channel for my paintings. I have been painting with social consciousness/subconscious for years. Most of my images come through my dreams. The plight of the INDIGENOUS ONES have always been a deep place in my heart. I had the lucky privilege to live on a Northern Indian Reservation for years and learn about their culture and language and it was one of the best things I did in my life, learning about the Ojibwa Peoples. My background is in the arts and art therapy. I am a woman whom is Slovakian and knows the plight of my family being run off their land due to leaders whom had no conscience and only took and sent many to their deaths. That trauma is in my DNA. I felt the Portuguese name of Airia came through and I looked it up it meant WOMAN OF PEACE. This is what I wrote very quickly this morning on my beloved mother’s birthday Audrey from the Other Side:
“The artists, YOU, writers, dancers, play and screenwriters, filmmakers, ceremonialists, dancers, choreographers, musicians, ALL OF YOU, please note we will appear with URGENCY to your pages and canvases. You will be our lungs and breath for it is so difficult to breath where we are now, full of smog, chemicals and fire. We are gasping…
This story is about death and resurrection, of corruption at its deepest darkest level. It is about the dictators that want to live by their rules only and are not concerned about the Mother the Earth for all she gives to us, the lungs she provides, the nutrients, the soil, the water, the food and substance. This does not concern them for all they want to do is consume like a hungry ghost, nothing will fully satisfy them. Their beings are run by the ego not the soul axis and nothing will quench their neurotic greed. It is their own personal cancer. The time is ending for them to rule in this way, they know it so they have become more and more obsessed with power and their wants and needs. Yet no desire will satisfy them. They have been raping and pillaging the land for so long now…NO MORE.
They are choking the Mother. The Mother is on life support now. We used to say she was in the ICU but she is on life support!!!! Do you hear this, do you know it??? Will she rally and make it? Who will be near her for her vigil? It can go either way and you and I know it could be the last hours or it could be resurrection. That is why we need the ARTISTS more than ever now to write a new narrative. Quickly. Your pens, your paper, your acting, dancing, documenting, pictures, paintings, historical recordings, of the narrative you are living now, and what we are experiencing. HELP US! It is not too late to rewrite this novel. Please. The life force plug has not been pulled. Our grief is inconsolable at this stage. We are wailing at the highest octave, and the whales can hear our cries deep in the oceans and they are carrying the messages from the beautiful birds, our family, that live in the canopy of trees and this Paradise on Earth. We are the epicenter, the life nucleus and we need you.
The story needs to be sung, cried, prayed, chanted to the sound waves and energy fields of where you live. It’s not too late, yet. We are speaking to you. Do you hear us??? Do you have the patience to translate, those whom will listen we will show up and we thank you for showing up. WILL YOU BE OUR TRANSLATORS? Carry your journal and notebooks close or memorize the words that come to you. Pay attention to your dreams even the day visions we send you. We do not know the hour we will visit but like mist and fog we will show up. Please document the stories, the birds, the vast array of insects, the undiscovered healing plants and the discovered, all the multi-universes of life forces. Please hear us! Do the ceremonies, the dances, rituals, prayers, poetry, performances, paintings, songs, narratives, stories, talking fires, storytelling…do not stop. You are Her lungs, our lungs, our breath.
Will you listen?
Will you translate?
The air is so thick it is palpable and I am sure your breathing is effected too.
I was with him when he died. I was reading him the story I have been working on for the past 7 years. The previous night, I made a very difficult decision. He had been making phenomenal recovery from what should have been a fatal event 10 days earlier. But on the 9th day, he was sitting up in his hospital bed. He had a bible under one hand, and a pen and paper in the other. He immediately greeted me warmly when I walked in with a huge smile on his face, and I greeted him equally warmly. I asked him what he was doing. He told me that he had a lot of thank you letters to write but didn’t know where to begin. The nurse came in after a little while and fed him his medicine crushed up in pudding so he could swallow it. That was the problem. The day before, he had been more in a state of delirium than lucid consciousness. That day he worked his feed tube out of his stomach 4 times due to coughing or by using the back of his tongue. His entire critical care team was flummoxed by how quickly he was working it out, requiring it to be reinserted (not a pleasant experience… in fact, quite traumatic). The night nurse that night decided to leave it out. Dad rested peacefully. And, then I found him so happy to see me and wanting to write thank you cards. Everyone was so excited. Nurses who had cared for him earlier popped in to make sure I saw him. There was so much hope he would pull through this devastating event–where his heart had been stopped for more than 15 minutes as first responders worked so hard giving him CPR to get a shockable pulse.
So, here was the problem. To get him back to full health, he needed the feed tubing reinserted to get all the medicines he needed, and the doctors were not certain yet if his swallowing reflect had been damaged. How could we know after reinserting the feeding tube this final time that it would send him into a delirium he would never return from. That’s what happened. If I could do this over, I would have followed my gut and not allowed it. He would have died… I know this… but he would have died possibly more peacefully.
After almost 48 hours of non-stop movement of mind and body, my father was lost in space and time and utterly exhausted. The medicines were not calming him any more. Just before I was about to leave at midnight on the 10th night of him being in the ICU, his night nurse said, “If he was on Comfort Care, I could give him more medicine to help him calm down and rest.” The doctors had talked to us earlier that day about our options. I knew Comfort Care meant he was dying. And, so before I left, I gave instructions to move him to Comfort Care.
The next morning, he was sleeping. He nurse told me he had cleaned him and was doing everything to make him comfortable. He looked peaceful. He never woke, but I talked to him. I had a vision that morning about what I needed to do for him. So, after the nurse left, I told dad what I was going to do. Earlier that summer I promised to send him the latest part of my story. I hadn’t sent it yet. It is set in the time of the Vikings. My father was pure Norwegian. The girl in my story was on a glacier between Odda and Rosendal, Norway. My father’s family is from Odda. This girl in the story had just been in a terrible accident that left her companion unconscious and with broken ribs. My father’s ribs were broken from the CPR.
I told dad I was going to read him the story. It was going to be a sleigh made of sound to help him get across to the other side. In my story, my girl had just made a sleigh out of a bear hide to pull her injured companion across the glacier. So, my voice and this story they were going to serve as a sort of sleigh to help him cross. I told dad that his mother, his brother, brother-in-law, and all the people he knew and loved who had already passed were waiting for him. I told him he could leave any time during the story or wait until the end. Then, I started reading. The hospital Chaplin came after a while, and I told him all about dad. He said a prayer incorporating all the things I had told him. And, he recited Psalm 23.
I continued reading the story.
I read to him until 2:40 p.m. I held his hand as I read. I had just finished reading the part of the story where the priest meets a woman who mysteriously washes up on the shores of Dublin, Ireland. He helps her recover, find work, and get a home. They fall in love. They have to keep it hidden. They have a baby, but she dies during childbirth and the priest cannot admit he is the father, so he gives his daughter to the nuns who live in a nearby nunnery to be raised. I had read to him about this girl’s early childhood and a very scary nun she encounters. I was about to read him the part about Resurrection Sunday when I heard his breathing change–dramatically. I saw his pulse rate dropping–dramatically. I knew what was happening and rushed to him, my heart pounding. I told him mom and my brothers were 15 minutes away, he needed to wait. His breathing quicken and pulse went up, but only briefly. Then, it plummeted again. I knew the nurses could give him a drug through his IV to bring his pulse back up, but I also knew I had moved him to Comfort Care last night. Instead of running to get the nurse, I threw myself over him and hugged him fiercely. His nurse and doctor came in. They held my hand and hugged me. No one said anything. After some time I looked up and asked the doctor if he had gone. With the kindest face and deepest empathy, he nodded. Neither he nor the nurse left. They stayed with me and never once did I feel like they had anything more important to do–though I knew they were responsible for many people in very serious conditions. My mother and brothers arrived 10 minutes later. They had indeed been 15 minutes away, though when I told dad I had no way of knowing this. My brother thinks at the time of dad’s passing they were at the last rest stop, and mom was picking daisies. I had just been reading to dad about daises.
So, one year later, this is my telling of the journey I have been on since his death. It is told through music and art. The starting image I drew on the plane on July 27, 2018 as I flew out to be with my father one day after this heart attack. As I drew, I listened to Asura’s Life2 album. I listened to one song in particular over and over as the image took shape. This song was Celestial Tendencies. Each song from Asura’s album held special meaning and energy for me during this time. The music was a way to hold onto some divine and sublime at a time of great crisis and ultimate tragedy. The visual journey is an expansion of my original drawing in my notebook. Please forgive my indulgence as I spent a lot of time drawing the different layers. Ultimately, I decided to use each of the songs that helped me to be strong for dad and my family during this terrible time. I realize it is a video that probably only I will ever watch in its entirety.
The visual story of this journey can not be viewed. I have tried, but I believe algorithms used by most of the major social media platforms flagged this image possibly as a man on a cross and this has been tied to White Supremacy. I understand this concern. It is validate given our time. I would just say that this is how the vision of my father appeared to me as I flew out to be with him, and that during my 10 days with him, he indeed held his arms out this way many times for he was suffering. I think outstretched arms like this are also a symbol for the suffering of the world, and my father felt this deeply, our collective human suffering. It powered him and transformed him as a force of compassion in the world. As this image progresses, it transforms from an image of human suffering into one of transcendence. I am sorry I cannot share this work at this time, but that is our current reality and I accept the collective wisdom of our time.
You may be able to view the video if you can get to my Art Page on Facebook; here it is pinned to the top of the page.
As COVID-19 has steadily made its way around the world and really hit the United States of America particularly hard, I have thought a lot about those 10 days in the hospital sitting by my father’s side, hoping for the best but knowing he was skating between two realities–one was life, the other death. No one wanted to talk about the death reality, but it was there. It was always there. I could see it in the doctors eyes. I could feel it in the nurses voices. I drew it as I flew out to be with my beloved father.
He fought for life, absolutely he did. But, he was up against incredible odds, unbelievable odds that cannot be conveyed to a living person in good health because until you are at this threshold, you do not know. But, healthcare professionals learn to recognize the signs of approaching death, especially when people are fighting to just breathe, which is what dad was doing at the end because his lungs were filling up with the fluid. The doctors were watching for it because they knew Pulmonary edema or pneumonia is often a result after CPR because to do it right to save a person’s life, the first responders has to push hard often breaking ribs and pushing debris into the lungs, which causes the pneumonia.
This episode that I just heard on This American Life captures so vividly what I saw dad suffer through. I tuned in just as the nurses were describing what has to be done to save a person’s like can feel like torture. And my dad absolutely felt this way that day when he woke up, and he was writing thank yous, and we had a precious, fleeting moment of normalcy, until the feed tube had to be reinserted. This haunts me so much because he was wide awake and to him it felt like torture and he was counting on me to stop it…and I failed because I wanted to save him.
And now so many beautiful people are suffering through the very same thing. To find out more about this episode, click here.
I would like to end with two stories about my father that were given at his memorial service. One is by one of my brothers and the other by me. My father was one of the kindest, most caring, and compassionate human beings anyone could ever hope to encounter. His deep and unconditional love for everyone was felt by all who got to know him, even when they messed up, he held them in patience and love. What a lesson for the times we live in now.
This is my brother’s eulogy:
Monrad Kicks the Hell’s Angels Out of Yellowstone
As we go through life, our impressions and feelings toward our parents change. I’m going to share with you some impressions from my childhood, Around the age of eight or nine when we lived in South Dakota. At this age boys want a tough dad with street creds and unfortunately, I was convinced my father was a wimp. The previous sunday he had preached Yet another sermon on love. By my count the 4th sermon on love that summer .
But it didn’t matter because we were about to commence on a treasured family tradition ; the summer vacation. We’d take a popup camper and head out West for one or two weeks . On this trip, I believe we went to either Grand Teton or YellowStone, let’s just say it was Yellowstone.
We had the camping routine down pat. We’d set up camp, spend a few days hiking or fishing then move on to the next location. In these popular parks you needed to get to the next campsite early, well before 5 pm, or the campsites could fill up. On this particular day we had had a long drive and almost all the sites were taken but we finally found one and a nice secluded spot at that. After we had set up camp and were settling in, some loud motorcycles pulled up to a clearing just across the road from our camper. They wore leather jackets and skull caps. We kids immediately knew who they were because they had been covered in last week’s TV news. This was none other than the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang. About this time Monrad notices what is going on and Yell’s across to the gang “that is not a campsite, you can’t camp there.” The reply came back to “Mind your own business” or something similar. Monrad responded even louder and more angry “That is not a campsite you can’t camp there “. We kids were terrified, we were sure our dad was going to get beat up … or worse. But to our surprise after a few more exchanges, maybe a few insulting gestures exchanged as well, the bikers revved up their engines and moved on.
That was the day I was proud of my father, he just kicked the Hell’s Angels out of Yellowstone.
This is my eulogy:
Born: April 16, 1935; Died: August 4, 2018; Age: 83
My father… Monrad Mandsager… He is why you are here today… Monty! And, do you know what he would have said?
He would have said, “Goodness sakes… you’ve come all this way… for me! You shouldn’t have… thank you… thank you so much… thank you for coming!”
SHOWING UP & PAYING ATTENTION = LOVE
His whole life dad never felt worthy. In his mind, he was a poor, simple farm boy from Iowa who could never quite do all the things exactly the way his dad wanted them done, and he grew up without his mother’s kind and loving warmth and support. These early beginnings always left him questioning his worth. But my dad would always show up and give any task (big or small) his best! For him, what was most important was making time, paying attention, and creating a space to understand the needs of others because dad knew this is one of the greatest gifts we can give each other… for it is the most basic way we show our love to each other. Dad’s capacity to create and hold a sacred space for others was one of his superpowers! He would listen with empathy, kindness, and unwavering attention to someone’s life story, latest frustration, or good news. And, he would remember what you told him and ask you about it the next time he saw you.
SUPERPOWERS OF ATTENTION + LISTENING + UNDERSTANDING
Dad’s ability to pay attention and listen combined with his humbleness allowed him to be there for people at their greatest time of need. I remember one tragedy where dad demonstrated his tremendous capacity to empathize and be there for a grieving family after their 16-year-old son was killed in a hunting accident. I don’t remember all the details, but I remember my parents explaining to me how this family had lost several children before this tragedy and this was their last son. I remember going with mom and dad many times to visit the family after dad broke the terrible news to them. I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of helplessness and sadness. But, I also remember knowing being there with my parents was important. I was no older than first grade, but I remember this experience vividly, and I’ll come back to this later for as I was reading through dad’s writings to figure out what I would say today, I found his reflections on this same tragedy for it had profoundly impacted him too. Grief it turns out is not bounded to one day or one week or one year… it is a deeply personal journey and dad understood this. He understood a time of grief is not a time to give people “pat answers” about why death or a tragedy occurred… neither is it a time to tell the person how and when to recover from it. He knew he didn’t know, but what he did know was he needed to be there for however long it took and at whatever capacity the family or individual needed, even if it meant just sitting in silence with them. I’m going to share with you several of dad’s amazing traits (I call them his superpowers), and now that he’s gone, I realize they were precious gifts given freely and in love to me and I suspect he gave them to many of you!
One of his wonderful superpowers was his adventuresome, wandering spirit. Little more than 6 weeks after being ordained at Luther Seminary and marrying mom, they took off to Brazil where dad was to serve as a missionary in Sao Paulo and the surrounding area. Mom and dad had to learn Portuguese and spent almost a year studying and learning it before dad began his mission work. He was one of the first missionaries to give all of his sermons in Portuguese, and of course, this is where I and my brother Craig were born. We learned Portuguese too and spoke it to everyone outside of our immediate family. I am told when we returned to the states, and I met my grandparents for the first time, I sat on their knees chattering happily away in Portuguese as they smiled and enjoyed meeting their granddaughter and grandson for the first time. I was pretty young in Brazil, but I have snap shot memories of life with my parents such as galloping on my father’s shoulders through the jungle with monkeys shrieking at us from high in the trees (that was magnificent)! Watching a steel drum band at a gathering and marveling at the beautiful music coming from the steel cans the musicians had turned into their drums dad had explained all this to me for he loved the steel drums! I also remember traveling with dad in our jeep over muddy, rutted, red roads and being surrounded by hundreds of sheep on their way home, leaving dad and I to revel in the wonder of the moment.
From Brazil, we flew back to the Midwest, this is where my brother Phillip was born. From there, dad helped his brother-in-law Bob start a new church in Southern CA – so, we moved to Sunnymead where my brother Peter was born – and, then our family was complete! I won’t go into all the places we moved or family vacations we took, but dad loved to travel, and he wanted us to experience and see the vast, beautiful, wondrous places of this land, and we saw many thanks to him!
THE DREAMER & LEARNER
My father was also a dreamer and lifelong learner! He loved geology, astronomy, anthropology, paleontology, and even astrophysics; he transferred his love of learning to me and my brothers! Dad would tell you that his love of learning and interests in science was sometimes disturbing to his faith, and he often navigated between the waters of faith and doubt. But, this made dad stronger, not weaker for he was able to transform his doubt into a deeper, vaster faith in God.
In his own words, he says, “Since I am often between faith and doubt, my stockpile of “pat answers” has diminished considerable. Life is discovery, growth, affirmation of faith in God in the midst of doubt. Life is affirmation of the creation of oneself, of others, of the goodness and love of God. Christ is our best light of this, pointing us to a loving Father God through the goodness and light His life has given for us in loving service through suffering even onto death.”
And, so here again you glimpse dad’s superpowers of kindness, compassion, and deep empathy for people and all living beings, and this guided him through his journey between the waters of faith and doubt; and it greatly informed his ministry for he saw himself as a humble servant who would stop to help anyone in need—and this is a gift he gave freely and frequently!
TRANSFORMATION OF FAITH
As I was reading dad’s writings, I found one piece he titled an Account of My Life to Age 43 where he describes honestly and elegantly his life journey, especially about the transformation of his faith. Here he accounts the same story I remembered about the 16-year-old boy. (I’ve changed the names for it seems even after all these years, the family is entitled to their privacy) Dad writes: “…the summer of ’72, we moved to Redway to serve Grace Lutheran Church. At that time, the KindFamily was a family of four: Joe, the father, a Roman Catholic and lumberjack; Corothy, the mother, a member of Grace; David (16) had been confirmed that Spring; and Lucy (13). Previous to our acquaintance, they had been a family of 7—two boys had been born with progressive muscular dystrophy and died in their young teens and a baby girl died of lung cancer at age 3. … About two months after our arrival Corothy talked about going to stay with her husband for a week in the woods – something she had never done before. She was apprehensive about leaving the kids. They ended up taking Lucy, while David was to stay with the next-door neighbors who were trusted friends. They left Sunday. Late Tuesday afternoon, council member, Karl came running up our steps, out of breath, a strained expression on this face. “Pastor, Pastor, something awful has happened, they found David dead beside his motorcycle and rifle along a trail. He’s been shot! This is awful. I can’t believe it… David’sthe only boy they had left! They were so proud of him. He was such a good kid. What are we going to do?”
Dad writes he was equally shocked as he attempted to reassure Karl that with God’s help they’d find a way to help the Kinds. Karl asked if dad would be there when the family arrived home to tell them what happened. Dad said yes, and he’d like Karl to be there too since he was a supporting friend of the family.” This event solidified for dad at a moment of great tragedy and grief, it is not a time to theologize or to tell a person not to protest to God as they grapple with the question why… why… why… Dad describes how he simply sat in the ditch with the father as he wept, and when he asked questions dad answered them simply with the information he knew. Then, they wept together, talked a little more, and wept again. Dad was there for days and weeks later walking with the family one small step at a time. He came to understand, as he tried to answer the agonizing question why, that we live in a world where accidents and disease happen, death is a mystery, and we don’t know all the answers. He came to believe it is not God who appoints the hour and manner of death, but more evil and death have come into our world through the backdoor (as it were). However, God is on the side of goodness and life; nevertheless, since evil, accidents, disease, and death have come among us, God Himself in Jesus, went through suffering, sorrow, and death… because he loves us and wants to show us he understands, cares, and shares our burdens and carries them with us during our greatest times of grief, pain, sorrow, and need. And, so the gift of faith was given to me—a gift dad demonstrated vividly throughout his life!
The Gift of Courage
The last gift I’ll mention today is courage. It was a heart attack that took him down the evening of July 25, and it was the heroic efforts of first responders and hospital staff in Albert Lea and the Mayo Clinic that brought him back along with our good neighbors who brought Mom to both hospitals that night to be with Dad. One nurse who had also been an EMT told me about 4% of patients flown in after such an event survive, so dad was a miracle—even if it was just one week. Each day on the ICU was a battle, but dad made amazing progress regaining consciousness and recognition surpassing the tempered hopes that the excellent doctors and nurses held for him and worked tirelessly to achieve. The best the team could work out is dad probably went without oxygen to his brain for 15 to 20 minutes—most agree after 9; severe brain damage can begin. Despite tremendous gains coming back consciously, his body continued to reel from catastrophic system failures. The doctors figured out one problem was a blockage in an artery in the heart, which they fixed this with a stint, but the other required a pace maker. This was a challenge because dad had several broken ribs since CPR is really only effective when ribs are broken. But, pneumonia set in creating a vicious cycle of needing to cough, which caused pain that sent him into cycles of delirium. It was a delicate balance the medical team at St. Mary’s walked, moment by moment to figure out what dad needed.
Two days before his death—I call it his Lazarus day. I arrived in the morning. He was sitting upright in bed with wonderful color to his face and a sparkle in his eyes. He was holding a pen, paper, and bible and exclaimed happily as I walked in: “Debbie!” I returned: “Dad!” I sat down beside him and asked him what he was doing. He told me he had a lot of thank yous to write but was having a hard time getting started.
The day before had been pretty rough for he had worked his feed tube out 3 times, earning him the title of the Hundi of Feeding Tubes. He still did not have it reinserted, and so his nurse fed him pudding with his pills crushed in it. It was slow, and dad was having a hard time swallowing. But, this day, everyone was so hopeful he could recover at least to this point; however, to do so, he would need the feed tube reinserted. This sent him into a delirium he would not come out of, and this is where the courage comes in… I had to have the courage to see the totality of his reality – I needed to reconcile the hope of his recovery with the despair of cascading system failures in his body. After 36 hours of continuous delirium, I made the tough decision to move him to comfort care, allowing the nurses and doctors to give him stronger medications to keep him comfortable and out of pain. The Mayo team was magnificent in providing me and our family with all the options ranging from further invasive interventions to comfort care, and it was his night nurse, Luis, who said something about being able to give dad stronger medicines that night, which finally made me understand the reality of dad’s situation. We had never made it out of the Sea of Delirium, and dad was suffering and needed me to make a courageous choice. So, I did.
When I returned the next morning, he was sleeping—the delirium was over. His day nurse told me he had cleaned him, and they were making him comfortable. He looked at peace. I could hear the gurgle of the pneumonia in his lungs, but he was not struggling for air. I sat down next to him and began to read part of the book I have written for I had promised to send him the manuscript but had not yet sent it. The Chaplin came in after a couple of hours. I told him all about dad and the past week. He recited the 23rdPsalm, and then he said a prayer incorporating everything I had told him. I resumed reading. His nurse came back to turn him. I continued reading holding his hand, comforted by his warmth. Less than 45 minutes later, his breathing suddenly changed. I looked at his monitor and saw his heart rate dropping just as it had been doing over the past week (this is why he needed a pace maker). I felt panic and pleaded with dad to wait for mom to arrive (for I felt she was 15 minutes away). Dad breathed, and his heart rate went up, but for less than a minute; then it plunged again. I wanted to run and get the nurse to give him a drug to increase his heart rate, but I didn’t… I knew he was going and I needed to let him go… this took tremendous courage… how could I let my father go? I couldn’t, so I threw myself on him, hugged him and cried. His nurse came in and put his arm around my shoulders as I held onto dad, and his doctor came in and held my hand. After a while, I looked up and asked, “Is he gone?” His doctor simply and compassionately confirmed dad had gone. My brothers and mom arrived 10 minutes later. His nurse and doctor stayed with us for a long time. I did not feel for one minute they had anything more important to do than to be a witness to dad’s passing and our grief—a tremendous gift.
The Gift of Love
So, thank you all for being here to remember dad and to celebrate his life and the many gifts he gave to so many of us.
I know dad never felt he deserved this sort of attention, but dad, if you are listening, you deserve it, every last bit of it for your gifts have healed so many people in our broken world, which desperately needs the compassion you shared and your capacity to listen and be with others during their greatest hour of need and to do so in kindness and with empathy, all of which came so natural to you.
The starting image of the video came from a dream where I had already fallen through layers of fear and what was left was a place of sadness. This is where I found the thing. It looks like a conglomeration of rocks. But my dream told me this thing is alive and feeds on fear and sadness.
Carl Jung talks about things that live inside our psyches. You cannot see, touch, or measure them in the ways we are accustomed to seeing, touching, and measuring things in the stream of Western Civilization, but that doesn’t mean these things are not there. Jung and many others defined things within our psyche that affect our thoughts and behavior at the deepest levels of our human beingness. They are not necessarily bad though they can impart nasty effects on us. Nevertheless, we need them to be human. In fact, they provide the energy our minds need to think and feel and dream. They give us motivation, focus, drive, essentially all the things that make us human. During his life, Carl Jung followed his intuition and insights informed by his clinic practice as a psychologist and psychiatrist to define what we know today as analytic psychology. He came to understand human beings are affected by energies that can emerge from the psyche spontaneously and affect us. Working with his patients, he came to understand all humans have access to shared images that encode psychic energies and experiences. He called them archetypes, and they are essential structures of our minds; just as skin and organs are essential structures for our human bodies. These psychic images extend back to primoradial times. They are a sort of short-hand, a memory of humanity’s shared experience of existence since emerging from an unconscious state of being to a conscious state of being; some probably span even further back. Archetypes live inside of us, they are us, and every human mind can access them. Indeed, a human mind cannot function without them.
There are other things living inside our minds as well. I believe my drawing is one of these other things.
While I worked on the drawing, I was also reading a collection of lectures C.G. Jung gave to his peers at the Institute of Medical Psychology in London between September 30 to October 4, 1935. The audience consisted of about 200 medical profession. A stenographic record was made of the lectures and discussions. Later, it was transcribed and edited by Mary Barker and Margaret Game along with being passed by Professor Jung before being printed and distributed by the Analytical Psychology Club of London in 1936. In Lecture 3, Jung clarifies aspects of a word association test he developed to help him understand what is going on inside the psyches of his patients. He explains that whenever a word in his test hits upon a complex residing in his patient, there is a measurable delay in the person’s response to the word.
"Complexes are partial or fragmentary personalities. When we speak of the ego-complex, we naturally assume it has a consciousness because the relationship of the various contents to the center in other words to the ego, is called consciousness. But, we also have a grouping of contents about a center, a sort of nucleus, in other complexes. So, we may ask the question: Do complexes have a consciousness of their own?"
— C.G. Jung, Analytical Psychology — Its Theory & Practice (1968), p. 82
In a previous lecture, he showed a diagram with different spheres of the mind. The center sphere is dark, representing the sphere of the unconsciousness. Jung explains the closer a person gets to the center, the more he or she will experience what Janet calls an abasement du nivea’s mental—or a state where one’s conscious autonomy begins to disappear. The closer to the center a person gets the more under the fascination of unconscious content they become. Jung says:
"Conscious autonomy loses its tension and its energy, and that energy reappears in the increased activity of unconscious contents. You can observe this process in an extreme form when you carefully study a case of insanity. The fascination of unconscious contents gradually grows stronger and conscious control vanishes in proportion until finally the patient sinks into the unconscious altogether and becomes completely victimized by it. He is the victim of a new autonomous activity that does not start from his ego but starts from the dark sphere."
— C.G. Jung, Analytical Psychology — Its Theory & Practice (1968), p. 82
Jung describes a complex as an agglomeration of associations (very much like the starting image of the thing I drew). A complex often originates from something of traumatic character, it is a thing of a highly toned character, and it can be painful to the person who has it. Jung says:
"Everything that is highly toned [in the psyche] is rather difficult to handle. If for instance, something is very important to me, I begin to hesitate when I attempt to do it, and you have probably observed that when you ask me difficult questions I cannot answer them immediately because the subject is important, and I have a long reaction time. I begin to stammer, and my memory does not supply the necessary material. Such disturbances are complex disturbances--even if what I say does not come from a personal complex of mine. It is simply an important affair, and whatever has an intense feeling-tone is difficult to handle because such contents are somehow associated with physiological reactions with processes of the heart, the tonus of the blood vessels, the condition of the intestines, the breathing, and the innervation of the skin. Whenever there is a high tonus it is just as if that particular complex had a body of its own, as if it were localized in my body to a certain extent, and that makes it unwieldy because something that irritates my body cannot be easily pushed away because it has its roots in my body and begins to pull at my nerves. Something that has little tonus and little emotional value can be easily brushed aside because it has no roots. It is not adherent or adhesive."
— C.G. Jung, Analytical Psychology — Its Theory & Practice (1968), p. 79-80
Jung further states: “A complex with its given tension or energy has the tendency to form a little personality of itself. It has a sort of body, a certain amount of its own physiology. It can upset the stomach. It upsets the breathing, it disturbs the heart—in short, it behaves like a personality. Complexes can interfere in unfortunate ways such as if you want to say or do something, but then you say or do something different from what you intended—that is because your best intentions get interrupted by the complex, exactly as if you had been interfered with by a human being or by circumstances from outside.” (p. 80)
Jung previously said in this lecture that: “Our ego is an agglomeration of highly toned contents too. The ego is supposed to be in full possession of the body; however, there is little difference between the ego-complex and any other complex. One can see this most clearly in a schizophrenic condition where complexes develop a certain will-power of their own [that] emancipate themselves from conscious control to such an extent they can become visible or audible to that person.” (p.80-81)
Jung said that he was not interested in the fact a person has a complex. We all have complexes. What interested him is what the unconsciousness is doing with the complex. Jung was famous for his ability to interpret dreams in ways very different from his contemporaries such as Freud. Indeed, Jung’s method began charting an interior territory of the psyche that revealed it to be much vaster, stranger, and bigger than Western thinking ever allowed it to be known to be. This is not true of Indigenous people or of Eastern thinking, which has maintained a connection to internal spaces and realities. Jung analyzed dreams because they provided a window into the unconscious mind and these internal spaces. He explained he did not like to analyze one dream because a single dream is arbitrary, rather he likes to compare a series of dreams (say 20 to 100) saying, “Then one can see interesting things and the continuity of the unconscious psyche.” (p. 87) Jung further states the unconscious is continually processing things and content night after night and even throughout the day. Quite extraordinarily he says:
“Presumably, we are dreaming all the time, although we are not aware of it by day because consciousness is much too clear. But at night, when there is that abasement du niveau mental, the dream can break through and become visible.”
C.G. Jung, Analytical Psychology — Its Theory & Practice (1968), p. 87
Wanting to understand the difference between complexes and archetypes better, I found an interesting article published by a Jungian analysts, Frith Luton in Melbourne, Australia. She quotes extensively from the Collected Works of CG Jungof which there are many volumes. A couple excerpts from her article are illuminating to my quest to understand the differences between an archetype and a complex:
"Complexes are in fact “splinter psyches.” The aetiology of their origin is frequently a so-called trauma, an emotional shock or some such thing, that splits off a bit of the psyche. Certainly one of the commonest causes is a moral conflict, which ultimately derives from the apparent impossibility of affirming the whole of one’s nature. [“A Review of the Complex Theory,” ibid., par. 204.]
Everyone knows nowadays that people “have complexes.” What is not so well known, though far more important theoretically, is that complexes can have us." [Ibid., par. 200.]
— “A Review of the Complex Theory,” ibid., par. 204
Luton points out complexes often form around an archetype like the mother or father. When they become “constellated”, they are invariably accompanied by affect, which is always relatively autonomous.” She says, “Jung stressed complexes in themselves are not negative; only their effects can be. In the same way that atoms and molecules are the invisible components of physical objects, complexes are the building blocks of the psycheand the source of all human emotions.” She quotes him writing:
"Complexes are focal or nodal points of psychic life which we would not wish to do without; indeed, they should not be missing, for otherwise psychic activity would come to a fatal standstill. [“A Psychological Theory of Types,” CW 6, par. 925.]
Complexes obviously represent a kind of inferiority in the broadest sense … [but] to have complexes does not necessarily indicate inferiority. It only means that something discordant, unassimilated, and antagonistic exists, perhaps as an obstacle, but also as an incentive to greater effort, and so, perhaps, to new possibilities of achievement. [Ibid., par. 925.] Some degree of one-sidedness is unavoidable, and, in the same measure, complexes are unavoidable too." [“Psychological Factors in Human Behaviour,” CW 8, par. 255.]
— Collected Works of CG Jung — Volumes 6 and 8
Luton further says having a complex is not the problem, believing one does not have one is a problem. She says, “As long as one is unconscious of the complexes, one is liable to be driven by them.” Quoting Jung, she writes:
“The possession of complexes does not in itself signify neurosis … and the fact that they are painful is no proof of pathological disturbance. Suffering is not an illness; it is the normal counterpole to happiness. A complex becomes pathological only when we think we have not got it.”
“Psychotherapy and a Philosophy of Life,” CW 16, par. 179.
In short, understanding is the best way to come to terms with a complex. I love how she ends her article quoting Jung who says:
“A complex can be really overcome only if it is lived out to the full. In other words, if we are to develop further we have to draw to us and drink down to the very dregs what, because of our complexes, we have held at a distance.”
“Psychological Aspects of the Mother Archetype,” CW 9i, par. 184.
I believe what I have drawn is a complex lodged deep inside my psyche. It has been there for a long time; in fact, it has been handed down to me from one generation to the next through my bloodline. It is not so much I need to destroy it or dissolve it or doing anything to it, but rather to be a witness to it through the loving light of the beautiful being inside of me. This simple act of witnessing can bring about transformations that unfold over time. This is the journey life affords us. This is the gift of being present with conscious awareness of the goodand the badthese complexes reveal to us over time. Perhaps through conscious awareness the dull conglomeration of rocks (aka living complexes) might be polished and turned into a precious jewel fit to serve at a center of a node in Indra’s Net.
What if the Gods and Goddess of our ancestors are really the stories about the archetypes living inside of us? And, what if complexes are what the gods and goddesses do to us over time? Every human being is connected to incredible inner worlds where endless stories are unfolding inside us all the time. Physics tells us the visible universe is less than 4% of the total universe. The rest is Dark Matter and Dark Energy. It is called dark because we cannot see or perceive it, thus it remains beyond our ability to divide, categorize, or measure. Though we virtually know nothing about it, we know our physical realm of existence (reality) would not be possible without Dark Matter and Dark Energy.
What if we humans are windows or portals into the unseen parts of our universe? It’s a strange idea…I know, but what is the soul, a spirit, the psyche rises from this realm of our universe? Throughout human history, we have celebrated explorers and voyagers who ventured to the furthest reaches of our planet and brought back stories of strange lands and people. We continue to celebrate voyaging into outer space using with robotic spaceships and cameras that send back spectacular images of our solar system with dreams of humans to follow. But, we have precious few stories and maps of voyages into inner space. Many people do undertake journeys into inner space; however, in Western Civilization, due to our inability to verify such journeys, the stories and maps brought back are disbelieved, doubted, deemed untrue, unreal. Our science for exploring this realm of existence is neonatal in Western culture. We are still stuck in our thinking functions that need to see and measure and divide the world into fragmentary pieces. Most of us who live in the Western modern world remain blind to what really powers us as human beings. Living within Western Civilization, we have become cut us off from our vital inner selves. We no longer can hear the beautiful being who lives inside us. In fact, we no longer believe there is anything inside of ourselves expect a complicated assortment of cells—nothing more than a magnificent machine. Using our thinking, we have built a jail that we now happily sit alone inside cut off from each other and from all of life. We live inside our self-created vacuums (fueled by narcissism and arrogance) and this has made us castaways from our true potential and destiny as a human being. Inside our soul prisons, we live cut off from what really powers us…cut off from what powers all life on our beautiful planet. Confined within our tiny jail cells, we can no longer access the wisdom that wells up inside of us and is needed to sustain us through this journey we call life.
Since archetypes can act like gravitational forces that constellate complexes, I wish to highlight a discussion with Jürgen, one of my dialogue partners, about the shadow. This archetype is frequently a troublemaker, and many of us end up with pretty big constellations of complexes that swirl around it. In a comment, he wrote from my pervious blog, he says:
"Quite fascinating what you are pulling to light from your inner world. It reminds me, btw, often times of observations that Paul Levy has made in regard to our challenged psyches and toxic relationships (He calls it 'malignant egophrenia' = ME, = the 'wetiko' of the Cree). In his book, 'Dispelling Wetiko. Breaking the Curse of Evil', he (Levy) writes:
"Modern civilization, though outwardly highly developed, is inwardly very primitive and preadolescent, an institutionalized form of barbarism in modern drag. It makes sense that Native peoples would know about malignant egophrenia, as they were oppressed by civilization yet weren’t, at least initially, under the “curse” of modern civilization. Being under the sway of modern civilization can feel as if something foreign to our nature is being imposed upon us, as if we are living in an occupied land. Modern civilization suffers from the overly one-sided dominance of the rational, intellectual mind, a one-sidedness that seemingly disconnects us from nature, from empathy, and from ourselves.
"It is important for us to become acquainted with the peculiar nature of the beast with which we are dealing. Strictly speaking, the wetiko virus doesn’t exist as a “thing” in the third dimension the way a biological virus does. In our Western, scientific, materialistic culture we have an absurd prejudice that something is real only if it exists in physical, quantifiable terms, while the indisputable fact is that the only form of existence we have immediate knowledge of is psychic. Wetiko can’t be objectified and said to be “this” or “that,” as it is a non-objectifiable phenomenon that is embedded in, operates via, and potentially alters the way we see. Wetiko acts as both a filter through which and a mirror in which we see ourselves. Wetiko is “ineffable,” in that it transcends both of the extremes of existence and nonexistence. From the absolute point of view, the wetiko virus doesn’t actually exist as a substantial entity. If we think wetiko is real, however, we have seemingly made it real, and fallen under its spell, simply by thinking so. And yet, if we decide wetiko doesn’t exist, and that we shouldn’t give it our attention, this stance is a form of ignorance which only ensures wetiko’s continued reign over our psyche. This shows us that wetiko, though ultimately having no substantial existence, is more than merely just an “appearance” conjured up by the way we are viewing it, while at the same time it is a “no-thing” that is precisely a display of how we are viewing it.
"So, ME is not simply evil; made conscious and treated with compassion it becomes a force of creation. Here, I think, we arrive at the point where his writings and yours complement each other in displaying the dreamlike nature of reality. Thank you once more for your writing and art."
— Jürgen Hornschuh quoting and synthesizing from Paul Levy
As I became fascinated, well, let’s be honest–obsessed in understanding the differences and relationships between archetypes and complexes…I did some research. Initially, I found a blog (Analytical Psychology on Complexes) that listed a wonderful list of complexes—some famous, others not so much. I was simply going to summarize this list when I got the idea to include some background of the complex from its originating myths or story for most of the complexes we refer to today have derived their names.
This is when things got really interesting, and I began to discover divergent themes in the storylines of the myths as well as divergent theories proposed by great thinkers in psychology, psychiatry, symbolism, and other specialities. Some of these ideas delved much deeper into the complexes. Upon closer and deeper scrutiny, it became clear to me that there is much more going on inside the psyche and with complexes than we think—indeed they are living and growing and evolving. For instance, I found a fascinating article about the Cain Complex written by Richard A. Hughes. This lead me to discover a series of letters between Professor Hughes and Dr. Leopold Szondi. Here I discovered a vast, uncharted territory both men were exploring on how complexes impact not only individuals, but also families over generations. This discovery validated what my dream had told me about the Thing That Feeds on Fear and Sadness—that it has existed for generations and was passed down to me through my bloodline.
The more I dug into each complex, the more mysterious each became. I began to ponder what if complexes not only impacted individuals and families over many generations, but also define the culture and civilization people live inside over time. What if a group of people all became impacted and affected by the same complex or group of complexes…say for example, the Cain Complex? What if this complex (or group of complexes) became constellated not only in the individual and the family, but also in the group (i.e., culture or civilization)? If this is so, then new psyches being born into (or brought into) the group would need to be broken in similar ways to activate the complex and ensure the new individuals fit properly into the accepted behavior and beliefs of the group. Thus, culture might also serve as a mechanism to impart the same psychic brokenness necessary to survive and thrive in the group. Individuals with the correct complex would understand the challenges the complex imparts, and they could share strategies on how to cope with the complex—some good, some bad—but shared. As a culture evolves, perhaps growing into a civilization, the shared complexes create a foundation for the future members of the group. They create a bedrock and the banks for the river of consciousness new members will flow down through their lives. All who are born into the civilization would need to be broken in specific ways to create the wounds required to activate the complex(es) needed to be a member of that civilization–an indoctrination to civilize the untamed mind of a newborn psyche so it flows properly within the confines of the civilization. For those who are not born into the civilization, this indoctrination can be brutal and cruel.
If complexes can be harnessed by a civilization to make its citizens fit into the collective cultural flow (i.e., the reality the civilization operates and embraces), then the stories about them are a trail of bread crumbs of how we have come to be as a group of people. I think Western Civilization has taken a very specific course that can be traced through common complexes. The story of Western Civilization seems to begin with the myths and stories and later complexes surrounding the Death of the Mother (i.e., the decline and ultimate end of matriarchal societies). Replaced by the rise of patriarchal societies (Patriarchy literally means “the rule of the father”) that are powered by Cain-Abel and Oedipus cycles. These persisted for thousands of years, interspersed with cycles of the Death of the Father mythical stories, which suggests the overthrow of the political structures represented by the father and replaced with the new political structures of the son. Such cycles have defined Western Civilization for centuries, but there have been terrifying aberrations such as Hitler. Professor Hughes and Dr. Leopold Szondi theorized Hitler broke both the Cain-Abel and Oedipus cycle because of a significant paroxysmal drive (i.e., a drive that causes fits of rage akin to an epileptic attack but that manifest as emotional outbursts) combined with paranoia and sadism.
This is all completely speculative, but it is clear to me that we humans (especially those of us submerged in Western Civilization) are barely scratching the surface in understanding our own psyches and how complexes affect us (i.e., their origins, their influence on individuals, on families, and on civilizations). All I can do is leave a mind trail of my questions and quest. I doubt most will find what follows very interesting, but for those who do… this is packing a backpack for a long journey into soul.
An example of a complex would be as follows: if one had a leg amputated when one was a child, this would influence one's life in profound ways, even if he or she overcame the physical handicap. A person may have many thoughts, emotions, memories, feelings of inferiority, triumphs, bitterness, and determinations centering on that one aspect of his or her life. If these thoughts were troubling and pervasive, Jung might say he or she had a complex about the leg.
"Complex existence is widely agreed upon in the area of depth psychology, a branch of psychology that asserts the most significant parts of one's personality are derived from one's unconscious. It is a way of mapping the psyche, and are crucial theoretical items in therapy. Complexes are believed by Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud to influence an individual's attitude and behavior."
A good place to start is the ego. Immediately here I ran into trouble in the definition of exactly what it is. Some say it stems from an idea of the “I” being the self believes itself to be the center of the Universe and requires instant gratification. I think this is rather the Id, which is where we all begin and then as we go through life we have experiences and are taught things that leave their emotional mark on our psyche, and this constellates and becomes our ego. The Wikipedia article says, “Jung included the ego in a broadly comprehensive theory of complexes, often referring to it as the ego-complex as illustrated when he said “by ego I understand a complex of ideas which constitutes the center of my field of consciousness and appears to possess a high degree of continuity and identity. Hence I also speak of an ego-complex.”
I think it is a fair assessment that we would not want to do without our ego complex for without it we would surely be silly putty in the world, incapable of doing much of anything without this constellation of feeling, emotion, and intelligence. Now, as discussed in the main part of this blog, Jung (and many others) observed there are times when our ego complex gets usurped by other entities in our psyche, and these are the complexes. We all have them. This is not the problem. It is remaining unconscious of them that can produce unexpected and unintended consequences in our lives—good and bad. So here are some of the most interesting complexes that seem to have significant long histories in our psyches, especially as Western Civilization rose and expanded over time. It is important to understand other civilizations took different routes that did not necessitate the Death of the Mother or the Father, and thus they have charted very different realms of inner space that we in the West remain mostly ignorant of.
Nature, motherhood, fertility, earth (e.g., Hathor, Isis, Gaia, Rhea); Mary, Mother of Jesus (e.g., motherhood, protective); creative force (e.g., birth/rebirth, growth/regrowth, regeneration); moon (e.g., Selene—Titan goddess; other moon goddesses around the world and time: Gleti, Mawu, Ilargi, Losna, Kuu, Selardi, Silewe Nazarate, Myeongwol, Lona, Hina, Mahina, Coyolxauhqui, Metztli, Arasy, Mama Killa, Ka-Ata-Killa,Hanwi, Awilix–Xbalanque, Huitaca, Chía, Jaci); snakes, triangles, and squiggles (e.g., triangles symbolize the female private area with entrances to old churches built with the symbol of the female private area to signify entering the womb); the Chalice/Cup; (e.g., womb of a woman, chalice is the symbol of the Holy Communion); Crow Mother or Angwusnasomtaka (e.g., nurturing, loving mother); Tapuat (e.g., labyrinth is the Hopi symbol for mother and child, it is the cradle, also the symbolize of from where we all come and shall eventually return); there are many more symbols for mother)
This complex is a group of feelings and toned ideas associated with the experience and image of mother. Clearly it is a symbol of source of life and nurturing and it foundational for humanity to even exist at all on Earth. From the Analytical Psychology Blog:
"Mother complex’ stems from the same roots as the ‘Father complex’, however in mother`s case it might take more serious and bigger dimensions as a mother is the one, who constantly remains with a child. ‘Mother complex’ differs from ‘Father complex’ also for the cause of her pregnancy and a necessity to carry a child throughout 9 months, which can be also saturated with a fear of losing a child or giving birth to an unhealthy person. The mother is the one, who is the most connected to the child and all her life revolves around the urgent necessity to care about him/her. The complex’s manifestations are practically the same as in the father`s case, however, it might take the feminine forms in particular situations, which is individual for each case ‘Mother`s Complex’ is not grave as long as it does not grow into obsession and does cause complications for mother`s life and that of a child."
Then, discovering Daryl Sharp’s Jung Lexicon from Frith Luton material, the depth of mother symbolism and impact on the psyche indeed goes deeper.
"The mother complex is a potentially active component of everyone's psyche, informed first of all by experience of the personal mother, then by significant contact with other women and by collective assumptions. The constellation of a mother complex has differing effects according to whether it appears in a son or a daughter.
A man's mother complex is influenced by the contrasexual complex, the anima. To the extent that a man establishes a good relationship with his inner woman (instead of being possessed by her), even a negative mother complex may have positive effects.
[He] may have a finely differentiated Eros instead of, or in addition to, homosexuality. . . . This gives him a great capacity for friendship, which often creates ties of astonishing tenderness between men and may even rescue friendship between the sexes from the limbo of the impossible. . . .In the same way, what in its negative aspect is Don Juanism can appear positively as bold and resolute manliness; ambitious striving after the highest goals; opposition to all stupidity, narrow-mindedness, injustice, and laziness; willingness to make sacrifices for what is regarded as right, sometimes bordering on heroism; perseverance, inflexibility and toughness of will; a curiosity that does not shrink even from the riddles of the universe; and finally, a revolutionary spirit which strives to put a new face upon the world.[Ibid., pars 164f.]
In the daughter, the effect of the mother complex ranges from stimulation of the feminine instinct to its inhibition. In the first case, the preponderance of instinct makes the woman unconscious of her own personality.
The exaggeration of the feminine side means an intensification of all female instincts, above all the maternal instinct. The negative aspect is seen in the woman whose only goal is childbirth. To her the husband is . . . first and foremost the instrument of procreation, and she regards him merely as an object to be looked after, along with children, poor relations, cats, dogs, and household furniture. [Ibid., par. 167.]
In the second case, the feminine instinct is inhibited or wiped out altogether. As a substitute, an overdeveloped Eros results, and this almost invariably leads to an unconscious incestuous relationship with the father. The intensified Eros places an abnormal emphasis on the personality of others. Jealousy of the mother and the desire to outdo her become the leitmotifs of subsequent undertakings.[Ibid., par. 168.]
Alternatively, the inhibition of the feminine instinct may lead a woman to identify with her mother. She is then unconscious of both her own maternal instinct and her Eros, which are then projected onto the mother.
As a sort of superwoman (admired involuntarily by the daughter), the mother lives out for her beforehand all that the girl might have lived for herself. She is content to cling to her mother in selfless devotion, while at the same time unconsciously striving, almost against her will, to tyrannize over her, naturally under the mask of complete loyalty and devotion. The daughter leads a shadow-existence, often visibly sucked dry by her mother, and she prolongs her mother's life by a sort of continuous blood transfusion.[ Ibid., par. 169.]
Because of their apparent "emptiness," these women are good hooks for men's projections. As devoted and self-sacrificing wives, they often project their own unconscious gifts onto their husbands.
And then we have the spectacle of a totally insignificant man who seemed to have no chance whatsoever suddenly soaring as if on a magic carpet to the highest summits of achievement. [ Ibid., par. 182.] In Jung's view, these three extreme types are linked together by many intermediate stages, the most important being where there is an overwhelming resistance to the mother and all she stands for. It is the supreme example of the negative mother-complex. The motto of this type is: Anything, so long as it is not like Mother! . . . All instinctive processes meet with unexpected difficulties; either sexuality does not function properly, or the children are unwanted, or maternal duties seem unbearable, or the demands of marital life are responded to with impatience and irritation.[Ibid., par. 170.]
Such a woman often excels in Logos activities, where her mother has no place. If she can overcome her merely reactive attitude toward reality, she may later in life come to a deeper appreciation of her femininity.
Thanks to her lucidity, objectivity, and masculinity, a woman of this type is frequently found in important positions in which her tardily discovered maternal quality, guided by a cool intelligence, exerts a most beneficial influence. This rare combination of womanliness and masculine understanding proves valuable in the realm of intimate relationships as well as in practical matters. [Ibid., par. 186.]
At the core of any mother complex is the mother archetype, which means that behind emotional associations with the personal mother, both in men and in women, there is a collective image of nourishment and security on the one hand (the positive mother), and devouring possessiveness on the other (the negative mother).
Connected to the Mother Complex is the Dead Mother Complex.
The dead mother complexis a clinical condition described by Andre Green involving an early and destructive identification with the figure of a 'dead' – or rather depressed and emotionally unavailable – mother. Green introduced the concept in an essay written in 1980, published in 1983, and translated into English in 1986. He saw the dead mother complex as involving a mother who was initially emotionally engaged with her child, but who then "switched off" from emotional resonance to emotional detachment, perhaps under the influence of loss and mourning in her own family of origin. The impact on the child, when it finds itself unable to restore a feeling contact, is the internalization of a hard unresponsive emotional core, which fosters a destructive form of narcissism, contributes to attachment disorders,and reveals itself as a major resistance to progress in the transference. Later, writers have argued for differentiating a range of responses within the dead mother complex, reserving the name dead mother syndrome for the most acute form.
Sky, Stars, Time (e.g., Zeus, Chronos, Rangi); Sun (e.g., Apollo, Ra, Grandfather Sun); Oak Tree; Raven (e.g., the messenger of Apollo, Raven Father, also Falcon and Eagle); Stag (e.g., antlers symbolize dominance, tools, weapons, and status)
The father complex is pervasive and even the most learned of men in psychology and psychiatry have succumb to its powers and been blinded by its effects. For instance, Freud and Jung seem to have fell under its influence and yet denied they had. According to Wikipedia, Freud argued the father complex consisted of fear, defiance, and disbelief of the father. He felt this is why some of his male patients resisted his treatment. Freud writes about this complex, which isthe conceptual core of his book Totem and Taboo (1912-3). Wikipedia says:
"Freud and Jung both used the father complex as a tool to illuminate their own personal relations. For example, as their early intimacy deepened, Jung had written to Freud asking him to "let me enjoy your friendship not as that of equals but as that of father and son".
However, in his own efforts “to struggle free from his psychoanalytic father figure (Freud), Jung would reject the term "father complex" as Viennese name calling—despite his own use of it in the past to illuminate precisely such situations.”Continuing from Wikipedia: “After the Freud/Jung split, Jung had equally continued to use the father complex to illuminate father/son relations, such as in the case of the father-dependent patient who Jung termed "a fils a papa" (regarding him, Jung wrote "[h]is father is still too much the guarantor of his existence"), or when Jung noted how a positive father complex could produce an over-readiness to believe in authority. Jung and his followers were equally prepared to use the concept to explain female psychology, such as when a negatively charged father complex made a woman feel that all men were likely to be uncooperative, judgmental, and harsh in the same image.Eating disorders expert Margo D. Maine used the concept of "father hunger" in her book Fathers, Daughters and Food (Nov 1991), with particular emphasis on the relationship with the daughter.Jungians have emphasized the power of parent hunger, forcing one repeatedly to seek out unactualized parts of the father archetype in the outside world. One answer men have been offered is to move into generativity; to find the lost father within themselves, the internal father, and hand him on to their successors, thereby shifting from demanding parental guidance to providing it.”
“This complex is described as deriving from a natural habit of constant preoccupation and care about child that can grow into a complex. Possessors of it usually publicly call their fathers ‘good fathers’ or “ideal fathers” (i.e., a father who gives their offspring the best without asking any remuneration or gratitude in return). This can set up mental dilemma where the child becomes a kind of parent obsessed. Even when all needs of a child are satisfied and they are grown up, a parent remains ready to run to the ‘child`s rescue’ as he is used to. If he does not do so, he becomes anxious. And even when he does so, he is anxious that is why this complex resembles a sort of vicious circle.
All caring male parents who are sensitive possess a ‘Father complex. It is practically difficult to avoid it as this type of father tends to spend his free time with a child, helping him/her learn the world and providing a happy and adequate life for a child. The father is teacher, guide, protector, advice giver, even if the child does not seek advice, the father gives it. When a child becomes an adult, he/she always remains a child for his/her parent—that is why the ‘parent-child relation’ does not change significantly even as children become adults. This can lead to an even closer relationship or it can cause a ruptureand alienation.”
“Father complex is group of feeling-toned ideas associated with the experience and image of father. (See also Logos.) In men, a positive father-complex very often produces a certain credulity with regard to authority and a distinct willingness to bow down before all spiritual dogmas and values; while in women, it induces the liveliest spiritual aspirations and interests. In dreams, it is always the father-figure from whom the decisive convictions, prohibitions, and wise counsels emanate. [“The Phenomenology of the Spirit in Fairytales,” CW 9i, par. 396.]
I will not reproduce all this valuable material for I do not know Daryl Sharp, but this entry ends with this vital insight—something I have never heard about this complex in relation to how it can impact a woman. He writes:
“What has been spoiled by the father” [A reference to Hexagram 18 in the I Ching (Richard Wilhelm edition, p. 80): “Work ok on What Has Been Spoiled.”] can only be made good by a father. [“The Personification of the Opposites,” CW 14, par. 232.]
Powerful indeed. I think culturally, we all remain very much under the influence of the Father Complex—both men and women. And, the father has most definitely become infused with the idea of God. As one looks across religions and time, one can see this transformation. Here are just some of the names of God as Father. Names of the Father:
Judaism – Elohim, I AM, YHWH, "Adonai" ("Lord")—Almost all Orthodox Jews avoid using either Yahweh or Jehovah altogether and use the term HaShem (השם) as an indirect reference to God or Lord; Christianity – “Early Christian writers, such as Clement of Alexandria in the 2nd century, had used a form like Yahweh, and claim that this pronunciation of the tetragrammaton was never really lost. Other Greek transcriptions also indicated that YHWH should be pronounced Yahweh.” “God is quoted as saying‘I am the Alpha and the Omega.’ Some Quakers refer to God as The Light. Another term used is King of Kings or Lord of Lords and Lord of Hosts. Bog is the word for God in most Slavic languages.The term is derived from Proto-Slavic*bogъ, which originally meant "earthly wealth/well-being; fortune", with a semantic shift to "dispenser of wealth/fortune" and finally "god". The term may have originally been a borrowing from the Iranian languages.” Mormonism– the name of God the Father is Elohim, the name of Jesus in his pre-incarnate state was Jehovah. Together, with the Holy Ghost they form the Godhead; God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.Mormons typically refer to God as "Heavenly Father" or "Father in Heaven". Islam – Allah—meaning "He Who is Worshipped by Right" in Arabic—is the name of God in Islam.God has many names in Islam, the Qur'an says (translation) to Him Belong the Best Names (Lahu Al-Asmao Al-Husna), examples like Ar-Rahman (The Entirely Merciful), Ar-Rahim (The Especially Merciful). Sufism – In Tasawwuf, the inner, mystical dimension of Islam, Hu, Huwa (depends on placement in sentence), or Parvardigar in Persian are used as names of God. Bahá'í– their scriptures often refer to God by various titles and attributes, such as Almighty, All-Possessing, All-Powerful, All-Wise, Incomparable, Gracious, Helper, All-Glorious, and Omniscient. Bahá'ís believe the Greatest Name of God is "All-Glorious" or Bahá in Arabic.Hinduism – The Sanatana Dharma focuses only on formless God. There are multiple names for God's Various Forms worshiped as Demigod Deities (Devata and Devi)— कृष्णKrsna, Bhagavan, भगवान , Brahman,ब्रह्मन् ,Isvara ईश्वर , Brahma, ब्रह्मा ,Maha Visnu/Adi Narayan विष्णु , Siva शिव, Shakti शक्ति. Arya Samaj – Maharishi Dayanand in his book Satyarth Prakash has listed 100 names of God each representing some property or attribute thereof mentioning “Om or Aum” as God's personal and natural name. Jainism – rejects the idea of a creator deity responsible for the manifestation, creation, or maintenance of this universe. According to Jain doctrine, the universe and its constituents (soul, matter, space, time, and principles of motion) have always existed.Jains define godliness as the inherent quality of any soul characterizing infinite bliss, infinite power, Perfect knowledge and Perfect peace. However, these qualities of a soul are subdued due to karmas of the soul. One who achieves this state of soul through right belief, right knowledge and right conduct can be termed as god. Sikhism – some of the popular names for God in Sikhism are: Akal Purakh, meaning timeless being; Ik Onkar, One Creator, found at the beginning of the Sikh Mul Mantar; Nirankar, meaning formless; Satnam meaning True Name, some are of the opinion that this is a name for God in itself, others believe that this is an adjective used to describe the "Gurmantar", Waheguru; Waheguru, meaning Wonderful Teacher bringing light to remove darkness, this name is considered the greatest among Sikhs, and it is known as Gurmantar, the Guru's Word. Waheguru is the only way to meet God in Sikhism; Dātā or Dātār, meaning the Giver; Kartā or Kartār, meaning the Doer; Diāl, meaning compassionate; Kirpāl, meaning benevolent. Zoroastrianism – there are 101 names of God (PazandSad-o-yak nam-i-khoda) is a list of names of God (Ahura Mazda). The list is preserved in Persian, Pazand and Gujarati. Parsi tradition expanded this to a list of "101 names of God.
I explored this a little bit in my Divine Dodo blog
The Divine Dodo — Names of the Allfather:
Dodo hangs in the silence of the black void… stunned. https://sapience207.wordpress.com/2019/04/16/the-divine-dodo-names-of-the-allfather%EF%BB%BF/
Death of the Mother
One of the first things that seems to have occurred in the psychology and rise of Western Civilization is the death of the mother or the ending of the rule of the matriarchy. In the selection below, it is of particular interest to note Robert Graves (mythographer) who translated and interpreted many of the legends and myth fragments about Clytemnestra, Agamemnon, and Orestes. He believes some of these suggest a ritual killing of a “king” (Agamemnon) in very early religious ceremonies, which were suppressed when patriarchy replaced the matriarchies of very ancient Greece.
Orestes Complex – This complex’s hallmark is a suppressed desire of a son to get rid of his mother by all possible means. The Analytical Psychology blog says initial stages may manifest as a son totally isolating himself from his mother until a total cut-off of between mother and son occurs. Final stages can include a son`s manifested aggressive behavior towards the mother, but this can take different forms depending on the mother`s response.
What Happened: "In the Homeric telling of the story, Orestes is a member of the doomed house of Atreus, descended from Tantalus and Niobe. Orestes is absent from Mycenae when his father, Agamemnon, returns from the Trojan War. He brings with him the Trojan princess Cassandra as his concubine. Orestes is not present when Agamemnon, Cassandra, and their two children are murder by his wife (Orestes’ mother) Clytemnestra's lover Aegisthus. Seven years later, Orestes returns from Athens and avenges his father's death (with the help of his sister Electra)by slaying both Aegisthus and his own mother—Clytemnestra. [It should be notedthat Clytemnestra held a grudge against her husband for agreeing to sacrifice their eldest daughter, Iphigenia, to Artemis so he could send his ships to fight in the Trojan war.]
The Consequences: "In Aeschylus's Eumenides, Orestes goes mad after the deed and is pursued by the Erinyes, whose duty it is to punish any violation of the ties of family piety. He takes refuge in the temple at Delphi; but, even though Apollo had ordered him to do the deed, he is powerless to protect Orestes from the consequences. At last Athena receives him on the acropolis of Athens and arranges a formal trial of the case before twelve judges, including herself. The Erinyes demand their victim; he pleads the orders of Apollo. Athena votes last announcing that she is for acquittal; then the votes are counted, and the result is a tie, resulting in an acquittal according to the rules previously stipulated by Athena. The Erinyes are propitiated by a new ritual, in which they are worshipped as "Semnai Theai", "Venerable Goddesses", and Orestes dedicates an altar to Athena Areia.
Deeper Meaning: End of the matriarchies in the Western World: "In The Greek Myths the mythographer and poet Robert Graves translates and interprets the legends and myth fragments about Clytemnestra, Agamemnon, and Orestes, as suggesting a ritual killing of a "king" (Agamemnon) in very early religious ceremonies that were suppressed when patriarchy replaced the matriarchies of very ancient Greece. Graves interprets the sacrilege for which the Erinyes pursued Orestes, namely the killing of his mother, as representing symbolically the destruction of the ancient matriarchy and its replacement by patriarchy. He suggests that worship of the female deity Athena was retained as a cult because, despite the overthrow of matriarchy and woman-rule generally, it was too strong to be suppressed; Graves thinks she was recast as a child of Zeus (born without a mother, directly from Zeus' head) in the new patriarchal myths. As a character in Aeschylus' trilogy, Athena was given the previously incomprehensible role of justifying the overthrow, rationalizing as a "new way of justice" what would have been a horrific crime against the old, matriarchal religious customs. Graves, and many other mythographers including most notably those of the Cambridge Ritualist school, were influenced by The Golden Bough of James Frazer, who postulated that myths often reveal clues to ancient religious practices and rituals.
As Dodo falls back towards the beast, he hears birds chirping, water running, and wind blowing through trees—such sweet, nourishing sounds that remind him of Earth—his lost paradise, which makes Dodo sad for he remains stuck in the endless vacuous void—Hell! The bounce DJ and the drummers gave him was not strong enough to help him escape the gravity of the beast. And so, the only thing he can do is spiral down again towards the beast comforted only by his sadness.
With the mother suppressed, the rule of the father and reign of the patriarchy begins. With it a new psychic struggle for power and control begins as depicted in myths and stories about this struggle. One of the key stories is that of Cain and Abel.
Cain Complex – This complex is primarily viewed as a rivalry between brothers or/and sisters for all-inclusive parental love (in childhood) and highest social status (in adulthood). The Analytical Psychology blog says, “Competition may take violent forms and accepts victory (supremacy) only of one of the siblings.” Another traditional interpretation of it comes from Alchemipedia:
Cain Complex Facts:
1) The Cain complex is characterized by rivalry, competition, & extreme jealousy (or envy) of a brother, leading to hatred;
2) In Psychiatry, this complex is recognized as a destructive form of sibling rivalry which may lead to fratricide;
3) There is usually perceived favoritism from a parental figure.
Cain Complex Biblical Origins:
1) Cain was the first son of Adam & Eve. (Bible - Gen. 4.);
2) Cain murdered his brother Abel (see painting) out of jealousy & was condemned to be a fugitive by God;
3) The 2 brothers, on one Sabbath(?) presented their offerings to the Lord;
4) Abel's offering was of the "firstlings of his flock and of the fat," while Cain's was "of the fruit of the ground."
5) Abel's sacrifice was considered "more excellent" (Heb. 11:4) than Cain's, & was accepted by God.
6) From this event Cain was "very wroth," & cherished feelings of murderous hatred against his brother; leading to the murder of Abel (1 John 3:12).
7) For this crime Cain was expelled from Eden, & henceforth led the life of an exile.
As with the other complexes, I think there is more going on with this complex. A journal article by Richard Hughes in the American Imago (Fall, 1979) entitled Szondi’s Theory of the Cain Complex suggests indeed there is a lot more to this complex. He writes:
“It is customary within modern religious thought to interpret the nature of evil on the basis of ancient myth. This is because modern scholarship has revealed that the forms of religion are dependent on archaic sources. Frequently, the interpretations of human action are developed with concepts borrowed from psychiatry, particularly psychoanalysis. Based upon the Oedipus Complex, the psychoanalytic view narrates the rebellion of the sons against a primal father. They conspire against him, murder him, and replace him with their own political organization.The political community is organized around a totem and the incest taboo.The spirit of rebellion continues to inform political activity, since it consists of aggressive young men who, with sexual desire, plunder their enemies and possess their women. In this vision, evil comes from an original crime, the components of which are aggression and sexuality. The paradigm of evil is the murder of the patriarchal authority.
The psychoanalytic interpretation of evil has influenced considerably recent theological discussions. For the mythical vision of the primal murder translates into a ‘Death of God’ theology. This conversation implies that the reality of God is incompatible with radical evil. Thus, the massive release of evil in the twentieth century—the wars, terrorism, the Holocaust—are analogous with the slaying of God. The provide the occasion for widespread unbelief.
The aim of this essay is to explore an alternative myth structure. While not rejecting the Oedipus Complex as such, the essay discusses the Cain Complex and seeks its religious implications. The Cain concept appears throughout the writings of L. Szondi, a Hungarian psychiatrist who, for several decades, has been practicing in Zurich, Switzerland. Though not well known in this country he has…”
— Richard Hughes, American Imago (Fall, 1979), Szondi’s Theory of the Cain Complex
That is all I can read from this excerpt, but what Hughes is suggesting is profound, even if it is not entirely accurate for how could one theory encompass what has become a global civilization that being Western Civilization with a hallmark of expansion, plundering, and possession of women, but also precious resources in the lands where Westerners have expanded. Perhaps every person who depends on Western systems to survive (e.g., economy, politics, culture) has at least one foot in this complex, if not being completely submerged in it. And so, the son kills the father, which symbolize the replacement of the father’s rule with the son’s version of patriarchal rule, and with each version Hughes and Szondi suggest there was a murdering the previous polytheism beliefs until arriving at to monotheism, and then the final father is murder…the Death of God… arriving at atheism, but also as Hughes says above the massive release of evil in the 20thCentury… a toxic release we have still not let completely out. Hughes and Szondi suggest the Cain-Abel cycle is a necessary balance between the opposites. From a webpage dedicated to Szondi, I found this explanation:
Cain, Abel, Moses Szondi's show of reality is marked by the experience that in each complementary pair of opposites (polarity) the poles are dynamically and inseparably connected, thus forming an entirety. Therefore, it must not be one-sidedly aimed at the good and fought the evil, but rather good and evil must be understood as two sides of a unity which to keep in a dynamic balance. To understand human affective dynamics, Szondi attached much importance to the polarity of Cain and Abel. The duty of man to recognize the complementary opposites in him and to live them, finds its symbolic interpretation in the integrating figure of Moses. In the person of Moses, the outstanding human achievement of conscience and ethics takes shape through the dialectically combined activity of Cain and Abel.
Several other readings that were stimulated from a discussion on the Cain Complex include:
Moulton Lava: The Mark of Cain and the Mark of Pain: An emphatic retelling of the Cain and Abel story and penetrating questions such as Can you recognize an anguished Mark of Pain on the soul of a fellow traveler?
Cognition, Affect, and Learning: The Role of Emotions In Learning: “Our species, Homo Sapiens, is the being who thinks. But we are also the beings who learn, and the beings who experience a rich spectrum of affective emotional states. This article presents research and theoretical models relating emotions to learning and cognition.” I love Figure 4: The Roller Coaster Learning Curve, which also looks like a snake and Jung says the progression between conscious content and unconscious content is always like the motion of a snake… just like this learning curve: “In the above slide, we can see the ups and downs of the rollicking learning curve. We call this ‘Non-Monotonic Learning’ to remind ourselves that sometimes we acquire erroneous beliefs and misconceptions which we eventually have to discard. In that slide, I’ve superimposed a ‘Frowny Face Scowl’ and a ‘Happy Face Smile’ to point out where the emotional states are variously negative valence (unhappy) and positive valence (happy).”
Contagion by Barry Kort – This is short (unlike my blogs) and very important. Here are key take away from the end, but it is worth reading the 5 stages: “The 5-stage pattern can be observed to repeat at all levels of power and for all rivalries and competitions. The most virulent conflicts are over respect, attention, money, power, sex, land, cultural values, or ideology. Ethnic conflicts, political conflicts, and culture wars typically follow this model. At every stage of the model, we need to be mindful of the dynamic we are caught up in, and consciously elect to run the model in reverse. Until now, the great theologians and peacemakers presented this as tenets of important religions or as tenets of ethics or morality. Girard has taken us to the next step of reckoning this model as a sociological or systems theoretical model capable of guiding public policy, especially policy regarding the way we think about law and order or crime and punishment.”
Death of the Father
In the age of the Death of the Father, the archetypes, complexes, and stories diverge in all sorts of ways that continue to fracture and diverge to this day. There is no straight line in the psyche. For instance, there continue to be pockets on Earth where matriarchalsocieties survive, also where the rule of the first patriarchal societies survive, but also where the overthrow of the father by the son has occurred, many times. Hughes and Szondi (cited above) suggest the Death of the Father corresponds with the death of God, which has unleashed untold abuses of power and authority in the 20thcentury. Regardless of which patriarchal rule women have had to survive under, Western patriarchal have tended to be brutal to woman and put them in terrible situations where they have loss of control of even their own bodies and self-determination. Thus, the stories and complexes that follow the Death of the Father seem to be what happens to men and women over time after the Death of Mother.
The most famous story about the death of the father is the Oedipus and Elektra story, but there are others found throughout other times and civilizations. Freud thought these two complexes were the only complexes that affected the human psyche. He built his whole analysis around them. While they are deeply significant, the rift between Freud and Jung started with their differences on complexes. Jung saw there were many more, leading him into his groundbreaking work about them, the archetypes, and collective unconscious.
Complex of Oedipus\Elektra – These complexes are famous and complicated as their myths reveal, thus beware of over-simplified definitions of them. The best-known version of the Oedipus myth is:
Oedipus was born to King Laius and Queen Jocasta. Laius wished to thwart a prophecy given to him that his son would kill him and marry his wife, so he sent a shepherd-servant to leave Oedipus (his newborn son) to die on a mountainside. However, the shepherd took pity on the baby and passed him to another shepherd who gave Oedipus to King Polybus and Queen Merope to raise as their own. Oedipus learned from the oracle at Delphi of the prophecy that he would end up killing his father and marrying his mother but, unaware of his true parentage, believed he was fated to murder Polybus and marry Merope, so left for Thebes. On his way he met an older man and killed him in a quarrel. Continuing on to Thebes, he found that the king of the city (Laius) had been recently killed, and that the city was at the mercy of the Sphinx. Oedipus answered the monster's riddlecorrectly, defeating it and winning the throne of the dead king – and the hand in marriage of the king's widow, who was also (unbeknownst to him) his mother Jocasta. Years later, to end a plague on Thebes, Oedipus searched to find who had killed Laius, and discovered that he himself was responsible. Jocasta, upon realizing that she had married her own son, hanged herself. Oedipus then seized two pins from her dress and blinded himself with them. – From Wikipedia
In women, this complex is known as the Elektra Complex. In Greek mythology, Elektra was the daughter of King Agamemnon and Queen Clytemnestra, and thus princess of Argos. She and her brother Orestes plotted revenge against their mother Clytemnestra and stepfather Aegisthus for the murder of their father. This is because when Electra’s father, King Agamemnon, returned from the Trojan War, he brought with him his war prize from the Trojan War Princess Cassandrawho had already borne him twin sons. Upon their arrival, Agamemnon and Cassandra were murdered by either Clytemnestra herself or her lover Aegisthusor both. Clytemnestra had held a grudge against her husband for agreeing to sacrifice their eldest daughter, Iphigenia, to Artemis so he could send his ships to fight in the Trojan war, thus she killed him upon his return. Eight years later, Electra plotted and helped her brother, Orestes, murder their mother and step-father. – Partially from Wikipedia
Jocasta complex – This complex also originates from the Oedipus myth and it typified by a mother’s obsessive fixation of her son leading to an adoration cult of son. From Wikipedia: In psychoanalytic theory, the Jocasta complex is the incestuoussexual desire of a mother towards her son. Raymond de Saussure introduced the term in 1920 by way of analogy to its logical converse in psychoanalysis, the Oedipus complex, and it may be used to cover different degrees of attachment, including domineering but asexual mother love – something perhaps particularly prevalent with an absent father. The Jocasta complex is named for Jocasta, a Greek queen who unwittingly married her son, Oedipus. The Jocasta complex is similar to the Oedipus complex, in which a child has sexual desire towards their parent(s). The term is a bit of an extrapolation, since in the original story Oedipus and Jocasta were unaware that they were mother and son when they married. The usage in modern contexts involves a son with full knowledge of who his mother is. Theodor Reik saw the “Jocasta mother”, with an unfulfilled adult relationship of her own and an over-concern for her child instead, as a prime source of neurosis. George Devereux went further, arguing that the child’s Oedipal complex was itself triggered by a pre-existing parental complex (Jocasta/Laius). Eric Berne also explored the other (parental) side of the Oedipus complex, pointing to related family dramas such as “mother sleeping with daughter’s boyfriend … when mother has no son to play Jocasta with.”
Medea Complex – This complexrefers to a disturbed mother-child relationship with obvious destructive aspects. An article in the Jung Journal says: “It evokes a central theme that Jung articulated in his writing about the Terrible Mother. The best-known story of Medea is based on the mythical figure portrayed in Euripides’s fifth-century BCE play. The complex, as well as this story, includes elements of betrayal, abandonment, stealing, and vengeance directed at helpless children.”In Euripides’ play, Medea is a woman scorned and rejected by her husband Jason, and thus seeks her revenge.
"In the play, the Nurse gives descriptions of Medea in the prologue, highlighting comparisons to great forces of nature and different animals. There are also many nautical references throughout the play either used by other characters when describing Medea or by Medea herself. By including these references, Boedeker argues that these comparisons were used to create connections to the type of woman Medea was. She holds great power (referred to by the comparisons to forces of nature), she relies on her basic animal-like instincts and emotions (connections to different animals like bulls and lions), and it draws the audience back her original myth of Jason's quest for the Golden Fleece and the sea voyage taken by Jason, Medea, and the Argonauts.
Emma Griffiths adds to the analysis of Medea's character in Euripides's play by discussing the male/female dichotomy created by Euripides. Medea does not fit into the mold of a “normal woman” according to Athenian philosophy. She is depicted as having great intelligence and skill, something typically viewed as a masculine trait by Euripides' original audience. On the other hand, she uses that cunning in order to manipulate the men around her, and manipulation of other people would have been a negative female trait to the Athenian audience. There is also the paradox of how she chooses to murder her victims in the play. She poisons the princess, which would have been seen as a feminine way of murder, yet kills her children in cold blood, which is seen as more masculine. She also has dialogue about her children and shows a strong maternal love and connection to them, something that was essential to “normal women” in Athenian society. Yet at the end of the play she is able to kill her children as part of her revenge. It is through these opposites that Euripides creates a complicated character for his protagonist.
Griselda Complex – This complex is misunderstood. Some say it embodies a father’s obsessive desire of a father to keep his daughter by his side, impeding her getting married. But the roots of this story are much deeper than this. It is a story of a monstrous husband and in-laws and the gentleness and unquestioning obedience of the wife, Griselda. In the book Women, Family and Ritual in Renaissance Italy by Christiane Klapisch-Zuber, I think she hits upon the heart of this complex as she traces this story to the emergence of the Western system of a bride price that transformed into the custom of giving a dowry when a woman married. This particularly become embedded as a ritual custom with the emergence of money and the acceptance of the rights of male heirs only to inherit their father’s estate to the exclusion of female members. She points out that the men of the woman’s clan do this partly to endow the wife as worthy since she is essentially an alien member to the husband’s family lineage. This is really important. We think we are so evolved as modern humans, but deep roots clearly descend down to our most primitive instincts around resource guarding and lineage purity. The story of Griselda is one of husband cruelty and her acceptance of it.
From Wikipedia: In the most famous version of the Griselda tale, written by Giovanni Boccaccio c. 1350, Griselda marries Gualtieri, the Marquis of Saluzzo, who tests her by declaring that their two children—a son and a daughter—must both be put to death. Griselda gives both of them up without protest, but Gualtieri doesn't actually kill the children, instead sending them away to Bologna to be raised. In a final test, Gualtieri publicly renounces Griselda, claiming he had been granted papal dispensation to divorce her and marry a better woman; Griselda goes to live with her father. Some years later, Gualtieri announces he is to remarry and recalls Griselda as a servant to prepare the wedding celebrations. He introduces her to a twelve-year-old girl he claims is to be his bride but who is really their daughter; Griselda wishes them well. At this, Gualtieri reveals their grown children to her and Griselda is restored to her place as wife and mother.Returning back to Klapisch-Zuber’s book, she says (and I think this is getting at the heart of the matter of this story and this complex, which may really be a group complex): “In order to cross the frontier that separates the human world from the supernatural, Griselda has to take on, then rid herself of, the clothing appropriate to that passage [Note: this refers to jewels and wedding dress the husband might adorn his new bride]. Rites of clothing have a profound unity, whether they signal a passage from this world to the supernatural or, as here, are taken by Florentines almost as law. This unity emerges clearly in the formula Tibi res tuas habetothat Apuleius puts in the mouth of Cupid as he rejects Psyche (another version of the same tale), since this was the very formula that signified divorce in classical antiquity. Similarly, a Florentine widow would carry away her dowry goods, and Griselda only her chemise, leaving the rich garments and jewels offered by the husband under his heirs’ roof. Both wore their finery and their jewels only as long as their marriage lasted, be that for a long period of conjugal union, sometimes further prolonged by a chaste widowhood, or for the short span of the nuptial period.”
I leave the reader to parse out the truth of this complex if it be a complex, I believe it is possibly a cultural or collective complex we all fall victim to.
Adonis Complex – This complex occurs in men stemming from a perception he is singularly unique because of his beauty. This belief is enhanced by people around him who notice and are affected by his good looks. In Greek mythology, Adonis was the mortal lover of the goddess Aphrodite. Let’s just say it didn’t end well for Adonis. A man with this complex demonstrates a constant perception of his own physical attractiveness. He plays with the power of his beauty and charm. He can be extremely selfish. This complex can take a grave form and threaten the safety of the others, which can lead to forceful isolation of the ‘sufferer’ from the rest of the world.
God Complex – This complex consists of a widespread illusion of unlimited personal potential and/or power. In Greek mythology, Narcissus suffered from this complex. He was so proud to the point “he disdained those who loved him, causing some to commit suicide to prove their unrelenting devotion to his striking beauty. Narcissus is the origin of the term narcissism, a fixation with oneself and one’s physical appearance or public perception.” (Wikipedia) A person with this complex can become the source of serious troubles between him/herself and society. The idea of being omnipotence can lead to substances use and the constant need to stimulate the brain core (e.g., either regular occurrences of life-threatening accidents or engaging in life-threatening risky activities). Another hallmark is stubbornness and a categorical unwillingness to admit one`s own faults. A person with this complex regularly ignores the opinions of others, especially if they do not agree with their own ideas. This complex tends to grow into a maniac syndrome if treatment and consciousness is not brought to it.
Cassandra Complex – This complexrefers to a belief destiny can be known in advance. In the Greek myth, Cassandra was cursed to utter prophecies that were true but that no one believes her. Such an individual has a superordinate amount of empathy and a strong certainty they have an important mission to accomplish that is informed through insights, visions, and constant warnings about the consequence of incorrect behavior. This strong calling and visions can cause the person to experience physical and emotional suffering that is exacerbated when they try to share the source of their worry or concern because others do not believe them. Their inability, ignorance, or unwillingness to understand cause suffering worse than the visions.
Antigone Complex – This complex is extremely complicated. From what I have read, it is sorely misunderstood, especially by Freud. The best analysis I found is a blog by Mark Thorn in which his last paragraph summarizes a very complicated complex better than anything else I read. He says: “ ‘Antigone’ literally means ‘against birth,’ or ‘contrary birth,’ which most have interpreted to indicate Antigone’s status as the product of incest, a perverse or ‘contrary’ union. However, a literal interpretation of ‘against birth’ is perhaps more significant. Antigone unconsciously wished to return to the womb, to pre-birth; she truly wished to undo her birth throughout the action of Antigone. Antigone embodies the human predicament: the forced renunciation of primary and secondary love-objects, the subsequent substitute-gratifications, the perpetual conflict between social demands and instinctual aims, and the clash between the two irresolvable fundamental drives—one seeking life and pleasure, the other wishing to undo life altogether.”
"Before this Thorn describes the situation and motivations that lead Antigone to kill herself saying: “In Greek mythology—and Sophocles’ Oedipus trilogy is but a dramatization of the Oedipus myth—Earth was an animate being, Gaia. Hence when Ouranos stuffed his newborn children into the Earth, he was literally returning them to the womb of their mother, Gaia; he was essentially undoing their births. Antigone’s wish to bury Polyneices in the Earth may accordingly be considered a symbolic wish to envelop him in a womb, the sexual nature of which is made clear by the psychology of Otto Rank.
In The Trauma of Birth, Rank proposed that the shock of being born leaves indelible impressions upon the human psyche, “that man never gives up the lost happiness of pre-natal life and that he seeks to reestablish this former state, not only in all his cultural strivings, but also in the act of procreation.” Rank views the sexual act as an attempt to restore the primal intra-uterine pleasure—physically direct for the male, physically vicarious for the female. Accordingly, Antigone’s burial of Polyneices, her father-surrogate, may unconsciously signify his entry into her womb and the attainment of the sexual love which she had hoped to receive originally from Oedipus.”
"(…) “As the story progresses, it becomes increasingly apparent that Antigone does not fear but anxiously awaits death. But what compels her to seek death? A closer analysis of her suicide elucidates the unconscious forces at play.
Throughout mythology and dreams, the cave frequently symbolizes the womb. Therefore, hanging in a cave, as Antigone does, symbolizes inhabiting a womb, in which one hangs by the umbilical cord. So perhaps Antigone’s evident wish for death was in fact a wish for a pre-birth state, a desire encompassed in Thanatos, Freud’s death instinct.
Freud supposed that human life was motivated by two fundamental drives: Eros, the life instinct, and Thanatos, the death instinct. While Eros seeks proliferation and activity, Thanatos seeks homeostasis and inactivity; the Death instinct strives toward nonexistence, the state preceding birth. But why was Antigone so anxious to meet death, or rather return to pre-birth? Why was her life governed by Thanatos? Could returning to her mother’s womb satisfy either her primary love for her father or her secondary love for Polyneices, her father-substitute?”
After reading Thorn’s piece, I categorically reject the other interpretations of this complex. It is worth reading his piece in its entirety to draw your own conclusions.
Complex of Don Juan – Don Juan is a wealthy libertine who devotes his life to seducing women. He takes great pride in his ability to seduce women all ages and stations in life, and he often disguises himself and assumes other identities in order to seduce women. During the 1918 influenza epidemic in Spain, the figure of Don Juan served as a metaphor for the flu microbe. Anthony Powell in his novel Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant contrasts Don Juan, who “merely liked power” and “obviously did not know what sensuality was”, with Casanova, who “undoubtedly had his sensuous moments”.
The mother complex is a potentially active component of everyone's psyche, informed first of all by experience of the personal mother, then by significant contact with other women and by collective assumptions. The constellation of a mother complex has differing effects according to whether it appears in a son or a daughter.
Typical effects on the son are homosexuality and Don Juanism, and sometimes also impotence [though here the father complex also plays a part]. In homosexuality, the son's entire heterosexuality is tied to the mother in an unconscious form; in Don Juanism, he unconsciously seeks his mother in every woman he meets.[Psychological Aspects of the Mother Archetype," CW 9i, par. 162.]
A man's mother complex is influenced by the contrasexual complex, the anima. To the extent that a man establishes a good relationship with his inner woman (instead of being possessed by her), even a negative mother complex may have positive effects.
[He] may have a finely differentiated Eros instead of, or in addition to, homosexuality. . . . This gives him a great capacity for friendship, which often creates ties of astonishing tenderness between men and may even rescue friendship between the sexes from the limbo of the impossible. . . .In the same way, what in its negative aspect is Don Juanism can appear positively as bold and resolute manliness; ambitious striving after the highest goals; opposition to all stupidity, narrow-mindedness, injustice, and laziness; willingness to make sacrifices for what is regarded as right, sometimes bordering on heroism; perseverance, inflexibility and toughness of will; a curiosity that does not shrink even from the riddles of the universe; and finally, a revolutionary spirit which strives to put a new face upon the world.[Ibid., pars 164f.]
Complex derives from constant personal frustrations incurred in intimate relations with women. Sad love story with a broken-heart-end or sexual traumatic experience might also be in the roots of this masculine complex. Complex`s manifestations vary from case to case, whereas, common aspects are the following:
Psychological perception of a woman as a source of pleasure;
Ignorance about women;
Easy-going and superficial attitude towards all women;
Tendency to change the intimate partners frequently, without concentration on someone in particular;
Dramatization of the relations with women, i.e. leaving without saying ‘good-bye’ etc.;
Habit to live at woman`s cost;
Incapacity to love a woman truly and to build a long-term stable relation.
Such people are not capable of raising a family. However, if this person aims at changing his life, psychoanalysis and personal-relations therapy shall be applied.
The number of complexes are probably as many as the number of people alive. The Analytical Psychology on Complexes blog lists many more ranging from Messianic/Redeemer Complex to Complex of an Excellent Student and Complex of Non-Love to Oneself or Complex of Loneliness. Indeed, we may create new complexes with every new generation of human born given the stresses of our modern life. Here are the ten most common psychological complexes:
Don Juan Complex
All we can do is pay attention and hope we can make our way back to the beautiful being who lives inside all of us and is a witness and force of transformation to whatever constellation of complexes and archetypes we have inherited or created in our journey through life.