Make Life a Mythic Journey
a mighty hand guides us without fail to our destiny —-C. G. Jung
I’ve just returned from a visit to see my eight-month old grandson—my first, and, at this point only, grandchild. His mother sits him up and he plays contently with his toys. And I have a flashback to a photo from my own childhood of my late older brother, Alan, also sitting and playing with a ball when he was just a baby. Alan died 10 years ago and our grandson, Noah, has Alan as his middle name. The generational cycle continues in a mandala-like circle with one life beginning where another has ended. But, as Joseph Campbell states in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, “Only birth can conquer death—the birth, not of the old thing again, but something new.”
I watch the circle of family surrounding Noah. He stretches out his hand in greeting to receive their supportive love and assistance. We trade smiles, hand him toys, engage in his play. We all lend a hand in loving and caring for him. It is then that I fully take in Jung’s life-lesson that “a mighty hand guides us.”
Of course, Jung was referring to that inner, mostly unconscious, archetype that he called the Self. But to get there, one must, in the beginning, have other mighty hands—hands full of Eros, the love/life principle–to guide us on our first steps into this strange, often frightening, but also exciting, new world. Our parents, older siblings, grandparents provide those hands as we start our walk through life—both physically and also emotionally. They are the first of many “guides” along the long path we will walk.
We are fond of saying, “Nothing was ever handed to me.” Typically, that precedes a reluctance or outright rejection of the plight and needs of others—immigrants, women, gays, minorities, and the poor. The truth is: We’ve all been lifted up by many hands. Some of us have been fortunate to have stronger, more capable, more caring, more financially able, mightier hands than others.
We are made of cells—in our bodies and in our society. The family is the social cell that is our common bond. When cells in our body attack one another, we call it cancer. When our family cells attack one another in our society, we call this cancer callousness. If we are to thrive, we have to learn anew in each generation that our hands are not to pull people apart, but to pull them up.
To forget the loving hands that pulled us up is to reject life and embrace death. The signs are everywhere: global warming, pollution, corporate greed, and income inequality. These are the symptoms of fear—fear of the life force, the fear of embracing the other with compassion. As Campbell concluded, “if we are not regenerated, that the work of Nemesis is wrought: doom breaks from the shell of every virtue.”
Paul Marshall Wortman
May 24, 2012