Friday, August 18, 2017
Occasionally a fictional character I am bringing into being will pass on valuable information to me or show me how to do something I never thought of trying. Forerunners? Avatars? My most recent avatar was 95-year-old Coral Upchurch in my novel Grief Cottage.
“When you reach my age,” she tells eleven year old Marcus, “you want to perform archaeology on yourself, get beyond family names and given names and polite forms of address.”
In a later chapter, Marcus asks her how the archaeology project is coming along. She reports she has hit one or two dead ends. After she had thought herself beyond being a particular daughter, wife, mother, neighbor, friend, she asked, “What would be left of the essential me?” And came to her first dead end. “Maybe nothing will be left […]; I am my roles. Even when I am dead I’ll be in the role of ‘Mrs. Upchurch’s remains’ to my undertaker.”
But she persists in her project. “I just couldn’t accept that there was nothing more to me than who I am in relation to others. What about this consciousness that inhabits my body and nobody else’s?” And she keeps going until she gets to the bottom.
I begin my own archaeology
This has begun only recently and I am far, far from the bottom, but so far it has been, well, surprising. The first thing I did was to draw myself as I existed alone, unobserved and unattached to anyone.
Lord, was that me? Well, but I had made a beginning.
The Supra-personal, or historical, consciousness.
But I was just starting down the road to what Carl Jung called the supra-personal consciousness.
(“When something happens to a man and he supposes it to be personal only to himself, whereas in reality it is a quite universal experience, then his attitude is,obviously, too personal, and it tends to exclude him from human society. We need to have not only a personal, contemporary consciousness, but also a supra-personal consciousness with a sense of historical continuity.”)
This is from chapter four in the Bollingen edition of The Practice of Psychotherapy.
Well, what was beyond an eighty year old person reading in bed alone? What was beyond or below that? I couldn’t imagine where to search next. I had an urge to copy a photograph of my mother at 20, at the peak of her powers, four years before I was born, or even imagined, posing with the family dog, Fritzi.
As I spent time drawing this picture, I began to notice things I had not considered before. And before I had completed the picture, I knew that my next drawings were going to be a series called, “The dog series.” It wasn’t about the person in the picture at all..
The series will be in my next post. Now I had better stop while I am ahead. This is my first post done without Willy, my patient and wise tutor, who has gone to New York to seek a job that suits him. Thank you, Willy. I’m almost through my first blog without you. Godspeed!