Archive for December 27th, 2010
This is the department head of the Foreign Languages Department at the university where I teach. I imagine that at one time in his life as an academic that he was ambitious and invested in life. Today, though he is head of the department, he has retreated into an alcoholic haze. He has stopped moving forward and simply covers his ass as best he can while clinging tightly to his position. The energy and enthusiasm that propelled him to his current position has disappeared. Now, he clings precariously to his role as if this is it, all that is left.
Now, I don’t want this post to focus on this man, but rather on how anyone backs away from being actively engaged with living a dream, moving forward to some unknown place that beckons, about the issues in holding back from the “hero’s task” that lies within each of us. For some reason, many people just never grow up, never face their inner darkness and acknowledge that darkness, own that darkness as a part of who they are. It’s as though they arrive at the gate to their personal hero journey, see the gloomy shadows on the other side of the gate and then retreat. Fear of the unknown convinces them to find something to do in order to deny that the portal even exists.
“To not undertake our personal mission, then, is not only a failure of our own journey, but a failure for our culture. We live so much of our lives backward, not only dominated by history, but through backing our way nervously into the future. Little do we know that the future is waiting expectantly for us to become what we are destined to become when we have the courage to align our conscious choices with our individuation agenda.” (Hollis, Mythologems, p. 68)
Am I just inventing this about my colleague and just trying to find a rationale for the way I am looking at the world, trying to understand it? Am I just being critical and cynical about people in general? I don’t think so. As a teacher, as an administrator, and as a psychotherapist I have heard many personal tales of depression, about people regretting so much, feeling guilty while not sure of what they felt guilty about, feeling more like victims than like capable and valued people.
It’s as though so many are looking for something to deaden the pain, something to allow them to “feel” alive while also serving as a pain killer. Alcohol is the drug of choice for most, I think. Pornography ranks right up there quickly followed by doctor-prescribed drugs and all manner of non-legal drugs. These are the ones that are easiest to identify as having denied their hero’s journey.
Hidden in plain sight are those who quietly live their lives in front of television sets, those who focus on food on on the lives of others, intruding and dominating. A few work hard at mastering their body, pushing and pushing until they are tired enough to still the questions that lie waiting for them. This group are the people who hold power, those who enable darkness to enter into the community and sanction that darkness.
“The spirit of evil is fear, negation, the adversary who opposes life in its struggles for eternal duration and thwarts every great deed, who infuses into the body the poison of weakness and age through the treacherous bite of the serpent; he is the spirit of regression, who threatens us with bondage to the mother and with dissolution and extinction in the unconscious. For the hero, fear is a challenge and a task, because only boldness can deliver from fear. And if the risk is not taken, the meaning of life is somehow violated, and the whole future is condemned to hopeless staleness, to a drab grey . . . ” (Jung, CW 5, par. 551)