Judging from anyone's social media feed these days, I think it's safe to say; the world feels pretty messed up right now. Honestly, it's tempting to just throw up your hands and dive under the blankets for an extended Netflix binge. "Wake me up when it's 2021, please."
But there's another way to look at all the overwhelming madness — one that's much more optimistic. When we look at our lives through a "mythic" lens, it can help us see past the fear and anxiety and recognize these times as a catalyst for positive change.
The mythic journey is a narrative pattern that appears in stories, fairy tales, fables, movies, psychological development, and religious rituals worldwide. It expresses the repeating, universal and eternal themes we all face across time, place, culture, age, gender, and economic status. In its map, we find solace, structure, and purpose in overcoming the trials, tests, and challenges we all need to grow. Placed on a map of the mythic journey, what's happening in the world right now could be seen as a collective "call" for creative change.
KISSING THE MUSE: CREATIVE ADVENTURE MAP
Sometimes we are only called to step out of our familiar comfort zone, and sometimes calls are more imploring—to rewrite our old, familiar stories. A death, an accident, a betrayal, (or pandemic!) are extreme, creative calls to change — we don't have a choice—unlike the itch to travel, start a business, or take a painting class (although those calls can also feel quite terrifying).
Regardless of the form they take, all calls can transform us, in little and big ways. When we take action, these leaps of faith and acts of surrender are the rites of passage that change us into more authentic versions of ourselves.
In the 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy is knocked unconscious by a window when she flees a tornado (representing change) and seeks shelter in her own, familiar room. The wind whips wildly, and the walls shake around her. The omnipotent cyclone rips her home from its very foundation in Kansas, and she awakes and emerges (in color) in the Land of Oz. She then embarks on a journey that ultimately leads her "home" again, but not before discovering that the power to return was inside her all along.
In Jungian psychology, returning "home" is a metaphor for becoming "whole," a state in which consciousness and the unconscious work together in harmony. It's achieved as a result of individuation, another Jungian term that describes the process of integrating and unifying disparate aspects of the psyche, or "Self." The Self mediates between the conscious and unconscious and is responsible for our sense of personal identity, beyond the ego. By successively overcoming and resolving increasingly challenging psychological conflicts, we become whole. The Self is the archetype of this wholeness. In this way, the psychological process of individuation mirrors the mythic journey.
Myth and story are our universal way of meaning-making, and, like all art, stories encompass more than our minds can "know." Through story, we create our life's mythic journey—that is, the story we tell ourselves, and each other, about who we are and what's important to us—our personal narrative's running thread. Our stories help us understand our place in the world, even when the world is falling apart. Through story, we engage with subtext and symbols, reach beyond rational intellect with our emotions and touch something more extensive, "beyond" the personal, personality, or ego—the transpersonal.
Like the story of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz and her quest to go home, or Harry Potter, battling the dark forces to become the wizard he is, the artist must face her own metaphorical darkness and slay or tame the dragons within to find her way back to her Self, as her inner muse.
When we are "kissing our muse," we are actively co-creating our story. When we say "yes" and embark on our own messy, magical, art-making adventures in life, we are both artist and hero, on a sacred quest for creative identity, self-acceptance, and purpose. We make and discover life's meaning through the transformation and manipulation of materials. We engage with paper, canvas, music, or dance, to find and express something core to who we are, and then contribute that beautiful gift of our being-ness back to our community.
And what if our shared story, as human beings, is the same—one epic and fantastic film projected out onto the silver screen of the universe? What are we discovering right now, through this collective mythic journey? As a community, we are infinitely creative and powerful. If we each wake up to our personal calls and faithfully follow the siren song of our muse, as authentically and consciously aware as possible, perhaps then the necessary and most needed contributions would be made to heal our shared planet. We are already writing this story together.
If you're interested in embarking on a 6-week Messy, Magical, Art-Making Adventure with Kissing the Muse, the next one starts on October 14, 2020.
© Kissing the Muse