Saturday, October 17, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are

It was interesting to watch the movie Where the Wild Things Are ... just as news were flashing about a boy whom, they thought, had been taken away in a balloon by accident. The whole story was so outlandish! But it was the timing that I thought was interesting.

Joseph Campbell, the mentor of George Lucas and a lifelong mythology enthusiast, used to see linkages between random events and how they affected the collective psyche of humanity. He was heavily influenced by Carl Jung and his school of analytical psychology.

Joseph Campbell, being a mythographer, was naturally a great storyteller and it was very easy for him to weave meaning into things. One of the main Joseph Campbell stories that I remember was his story about the Earthrise pictures, that is, the pictures that were taken from the moon by the Apollo missions as they saw the Earth rising in the lunar sky.

He explained that this was an epiphany because throughout all of history humans have imagined their Gods as celestial objects. Astrology and mythology were linked intricately in the human psyche. The planets have the names of deities. Now the Earth, we confirmed, was a Goddess also. She was a majestuous heavenly object.

At around the same time as this picture started circulating, the Catholic Church announced that the dogma of the Assumption of Mary into heaven had been declared official doctrine of the Catholic Church and that Catholics had to adhere to this belief. Classical Greeks used similar imagery for their deified mortals. Campbell saw a connection between these two new feminine faces of Divinity and their new status, just as the feminist movement of the sixties and seventies was blossoming and changing human civilization forever. All of our assumptions about womanhood were about to be turned upside down.

According to the Jungian school, there is a collective psyche, and according to Joseph Campbell all of these symptoms in the culture indicated that something was stirring in the collective mind of humanity, something that was feminine, sublime, numinous and powerful, that it was awakening and that there would be no turning back.

I watched the movie Where the Wild Things Are with a friend the day it came out. To me, the movie dealt with child psychology and how children sometimes cope with stress by escaping into their imaginal realm.

But if I was to draw a link with the balloon incident (which took place, curiously, on the eve of the debut of the film) like Joseph Campbell did with the Earthrise and Assumption of Mary incidents, it seems to me like there is a new myth that is being born, an archetypal image that is being constellated in the collective psyche, of a child who was almost spirited away but returned, having gained wisdom or insight from the experience. It is a hero's journey dealing with the evolution of the puer aeternus, the eternal youth, in our culture.

The tendency of the puer aeternus is to be an idealist, to run away from responsibility and reality. I think of Peter Pan, of Michael Jackson, of men who never grew up. Now, I see that he experienced the running away but retains his groundedness. We do not have to fear losing him to the imaginal realm. He can discern the difference between imaginary and objective reality.

The writer of the book on which the movie Where the Wild Things Are is based mentions that the movie is made in such a way that it respects children. Looking at all the crazy things that are being done to children everywhere, from marriage of little girls to grown-ass men in the Muslim world, to the frequent gang-rape of girls in Sudan and South-Africa, child abuse by church and laity everywhere, and even slavery of children in sweatshops in China, India and elsewhere, I'd say that any advance in human rights for minors would be welcome.

It is the misery of the children that produces the need to escape reality, to go 'where the wild things are', and the incentive to never come back ... which ultimately produces dysfunction. If we alleviate said misery, we will find that children are better able to live happily and be wholesome and productive.

Hopefully these are all good omens.

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