10 lessons from 2010Stephen Farah
Okay I admit have a fetish for numbers , and couldn’t resist the allure of this post.
As 2010 draws to a close I want to reflect on a few of the lessons I have learnt during the last year. And then not to be found betraying the teleological principal of my greatest teacher, C. G. Jung, I promise my next post will be 11 ideas for 2011.
Okay here goes…
Personally this has been a big year for me. A challenging year professionally, dealing with the continued economic crunch and the added vicissitudes of my particular industry (mobile VAS).
It is also my first year as a blogger which has been very rewarding and a huge learning curve, a new language really, the language of the web and of bloggers in particular. I don’t pretend to know it yet, not by a long shot, but I’m learning.
Blogging is a discipline, the essential perquisite of which is that you have both a passion for a topic and the desire to say something about it. Fortunately in my chosen filed, the pursuit of meaning, I have both. Then added to that love is the need for patience and perseverance, without which no venture will ever see the light of day, blogging included.
Possibly the biggest choice I made in 2010 was to come and study in England. I am currently at the University of Essex doing a masters degree in Jungian and post Jungian Studies. To do this meant leaving my family (my wife Anja and three children, Kiva 13, Ruarc 5 and Teague 3) for the best part of a year. To say this was difficult does not fully convey my truth. A friend I have made on the course, a Portuguese psychologist Pedro Medes, taught me a Portuguese word, saudade (concept) saudades (applied), which whilst not directly translatable, means a deep longing of the soul.
Saudades begins to describe how I have missed my family and my home.
And last but not least I gave up my Jungian class which was not easy. I had the best class I have ever taught, with a group of bright, funny, amazing people with the most essential quality for a meaningful life, passion.
Actaully it is partly this class which is responsible for my choice to do the MA. Although I studied under a brilliant Jungian, Chatillon Coque, and have made an extensive self study of Jung’s work, I though it circumspect to both formalise that learning and find out if there is anything I was missing, isolated from the global Jungian community.
Turns out it was a good choice, at least in terms of getting up to speed on the latest Jungian and post Jungian thought. Essex is unique in terms of the post graduate academic training it offers in Jungian studies. It is, as far as I know, one of a kind in the world, offering an academic post graduate degree in Jungian studies. Their teaching staff numbers amongst their members some of the leading Jungian intellectuals, certainly in Europe, and possibly the world, today.
My current supervisor is Professor Andrew Samuels , the pioneer of post Jungian development in Europe. His publications include: Jung and the Post Jungians, The Plural Psyche and Politics on the Couch: Citizenship and the Internal Life, among others. His writing has been translated into 19 languages.
Anyway forgive me I digress….to the 10 lessons.
10 lessons I learnt in 2010
About the world:
1. Free choice; talking about it and doing it are not the same thing. Of course I know that free choice is philosophically and even empirically problematic, nevertheless we cannot live without a belief in the central tenant: we have a choice. Failure to believe that and embrace that belief is anathema for meaning. A meaningful life can only emerge once we accept the privilege and burden of choice.
This I’ve know for a while, what I really got this year was the difference between knowing that intellectually and then actually making a ‘free choice’. Very different, the first one is the idea the second is the experience.
2. The world is worth saving. Pessimism whilst romantic and intellectually superior (as Schopenhauer correctly points out: optimism is the province of the stupid or naive or both), is not an indulgence we should allow ourselves. Not if we are going to be part of the solution and not the problem. Pessimism and passivity need to be opposed, we must act.
To quote Nathan Algren (in The Last Samuraia an American soldier who through a series of events throws his lot in with the last group of traditional samurai warriors, opposing a corrupt regime and facing certain death)
to the question from the samurai warlord, Katsumoto, incredulous at Algren’s attempting to defy the impossible odds in the final battle, who asks,Do you believe a man can escape his destiny?
Algren replies, I believe a man does everything he can until his destiny is revealed to him.
3. The world ended on the 11 September 2001. We can get over our apocalyptic premonitions, it has already happened. We have witnessed the end of the world as we knew it. Nothing was ever the same after that fateful day. A good metaphor for our current unconscious condition is the movie Jacobs’s Ladder. In the movie Jacob has already died, only he doesn’t know it. The story is the slow awakening of his consciousness to the fact that he is already dead.
That’s what’s happened to us. That is why those who are sensitive to such things have felt that something is dreadfully wrong and has been for a while. Yes of course something is wrong we are living in the apocalypse!
What we need is not for something to happen but for us to wake up and realise that we are living in a dream. The dream that the world is as it was before 9:11, it isn’t! The only chance we have for a future is to dream the myth on. We need to re-vision the world, otherwise it will die. This I truly believe.
About other people:
4. Making a connection with another person, a meaningful connection, letting someone else know that you get them, that you see them and that you acknowledge their humanity has infinite value. Is something worth doing, the reward of which far exceeds the effort.
5. Suffering is real, it’s a tough world out there and many, many people are suffering under the yolk of oppression. Political, economic, social, personal and spiritual.
6. Sometimes you need to leave home to realise just how special it is. Being in England has been an amazing experience and truly it is an incredible country with much culture. It is as Steiner describes it the home of the consciousness soul. Nevertheless I realise how much I love my country, my home and my family. And just how precious these gifts are.
7. Sex plays a more central role in our lives than I ever realised. This bit of knowledge courtesy of Freud. Not only erotic desire in adulthood but the role of infantile sexuality in the development of the personality. So significant is the sexual drive that much of our lives and our actions can be understood solely in terms of this instinct and our desire to fullfill its irrational impulse.
I am in awe of Freud’s genius and in particular his Totem and Taboo, the origins of religion as viewed through a psychoanalytic lens.
8. The unconscious is real and purposive; sometimes when you immerse yourself in depth psychology for long enough you start to believe the unconscious is conceptual rather than actual. It isn’t, it really exists. There is an unconscious background to all of life and its role is one we can scarcely guess.
Its touch comes in different forms.
Sometimes in dreams and sometimes in our waking life, sometimes it is terrifying, sometimes it fills us with religious awe, sometimes it lands softy like a butterfly and sometimes it is crushing.
And sometimes, just sometimes, when we least expect it, it is an act of grace, an act of grace that we may or may not notice, but one which we should be eternally grateful for.
9. The importance of symbolisation. Underlying every idea, thought, image, action is the real (in the Lacanian sense, the thing in itself, raw and un-symbolised ), the way we define ourselves, the way we create culture and meaning is through the symbolisation of the real. The real can sometimes not be symbolised, sometimes it defies our imaginative capacity. But it is essential to our continued happiness and cultural evolution that we constantly strive to symbolise the real.
About you and me:
10. We need to discover our superpowers and then use it to fight for justice, to uplift the poor and the downtrodden, to create a better world and to dream a better dream.
I know mine, what is yours?
I wish you and yours a blessed and peaceful festive season and a wondrous 2011. Be safe, and enjoy the time with your loved ones.
May God bless and keep you.