Shine Your Light

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say "I used everything you gave me", by Erma Brombek

My daily quote calender item yesterday

When this was unveiled on my daily calender yesterday I thought how relevant it was to my own journey into creative writing and the struggle to allow myself to be freely expressive. Growing up in a culture where self expression is not always appreciated, in fact often winced at, is one of the dynamics at play when we are unable to allow ourselves that which we truly want and should authentically be.

In maturity, we also often realise that when we honour our values and expressions, it does not hinder others but helps them. We all have our gurus. I know of a number of guiding lights who have supported me through many a dark moment, to name but a few I would choose Carl Jung, Deepak Chopra, Eric Maisel, M. Scott Peck…there are many more, including many of my fellow bloggers here at wordpress and other sites.

What happens when we don’t honour our talents?

Ernest Hemingway’s short story The Snows of Kilimanjaro is about regret. Everything is sour, from the putrid, gangrenous leg to the mindset of the dying writer who is the main character and who mourns all the stuff he put off from writing because the time wasn’t quite right and he would ‘do it sometime’. The lesson is about procrastination and making excuses, allowing distractions to creep in and negative self-pestering to win out. To be sure, as Rollo May observed half a century ago, there may be resistance at first from those around you. But stay aware that people are acting from their own fear and suppressed creativity – push on while you gently cajole and inspire them to be the best they can be too. You will find transformation for yourself and others and a new vigour and joy for life. Self-suffocation is the most painful form of spiritual suicide. Don’t go there. Take inspiration from people who have turned their lives around, grasped their authentic selves, made meaning and found life. Here are some clips from Good Will Hunting, a lovely tale of redemption and love.

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Delving Deep: Meanings and Metaphors from Hemingway’s ‘The Old Man and the Sea’

artist's impression of a big marlin leaping from the sea with the old man in the skiff in the distance

The Old Man and the Sea – Santiago hooks a giant marlin

Ernest Hemingway wrote The Old Man and the Sea in 1951 to tremendous acclaim. Read as a symbolic novel with overtones of religion, identity, life and death, I feel it has a much richer set of meaning layers and can usefully be read through the lens of depth psychology as an individuation narrative, a Hero Myth.

The Jungian concept of individuation entails a process of gradual and lifelong connecting with the unconscious at ever deeper layers, ultimately with the collective unconscious which is hard to define but in some ways can be understood as nature itself. This process of connecting with and owning all our archetypal aspects, energies or identities leads to greater wholeness and a lesser tendency for unconscious acting out of destructive complexes. In essence it is a maturation journey, full of struggles and epiphanies. It is also an existential task, to come to terms with death as inevitable and therefore to adopt a meaning-based attitude towards life.

Symbolic Meaning in The Old Man and the Sea

Several layers of symbolic meaning are to be noted and Hemingway builds these gradually by setting out the relationship between the old man Santiago and the boy Manolin. Much mutual trust and affection is evident and this may be read as the dependent and intertwined nature of the archetypes of the ‘puer’ full of energy and freshness, and of the ‘wise old man’ full of wisdom and intuition. The boy will become the old man one day and has much to learn from him; at the same time the old man sees himself in the boy and remembers the happiness of his youth – the cyclical regeneration of human life and the transmission of culture. Santiago dreams of lion cubs on the beach, a sight he marvelled at in his youth when working on fishing boats going to Africa. While he knows he has much intelligence and experience, he is also mindful of his poverty and ageing body. This insight is worn with the idea that humility ‘carries no loss of true pride’ however; he is as valid a part of life as anyone else and indeed so is the noble marlin.

The Sea of Unconsciousness

But the greatest symbolism is in the sea itself which I see as the unconscious, and the search for the ‘big fish’ is a delving into the unconscious for its gifts of wisdom and a connection with the wild creativity (and destruction) of life and nature – for the Self. It is a metaphor for the searching life, as Santiago says to himself  ‘My big fish must be somewhere’. He identifies with the fish and the turtles, seeing in them both the dignity and the vulnerability of his own self. During the fight, he feels sorry for the fish, as well as for his own suffering holding the lines with bleeding hands and an aching back. In the end he tows it towards the shore, exhausted and fighting off sharks, and says, ‘I have killed this fish which is my brother and now I must do the slave work’, as he harnesses the trade winds to set sail for home. He has learned all his life how to suffer and to make meaning from it, then to enjoy the rewards when they arrive. Living so close to nature and struggling for every piece of sustenance, there are lessons to be learned and truths to be remembered from the old man Santiago and his apprentice Manolin. I was carried away by it and truelly uplifted.

The Old Man and the Sea

citation for introductory image: creative commons for use with citation: http://www.bluemarlin3.com/tbf/hemmingway.php

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