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  • Writer's pictureKarey Pohn

Meeting "Bert"

In the spring of 2003, I was assisting with an art project at my friend’s daughter’s elementary school in Malibu, California, the site of my previous summer’s fieldwork project.  The children were making a picture frame using beach glass and seashells applied to a plain wooden frame, and I was enlisted to work the glue gun.  During recess, the kids went to the playground, and my friend and I, along with one of the other helper parents went to Starbucks for coffee.  We walked in the door and the person in line before us was Dick Van Dyke.  It was like a dream come true for me, because ever since I was a child I sort of idolized him, from his role as Bert in Mary Poppins.  I was so dumbstruck that I did not realize the synchronicity of the whole incident at the time. It was only later when I was driving back to San Diego, that it hit me: I had fittingly met Dick Van Dyke during recess (a liminal time) while doing a bricolage project. Not only did Dick Van Dyke play a bricoleur in Mary Poppins, but he also played Caracatus Potts, an inventor and tinkerer in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which came out in 1968, and had a theme similar to Mary Poppins. In the fantasy portion of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Potts saves children from very nasty adults who will not let them play. In Mary Poppins, Dick Van Dyke also plays the elder Mr. Dawes and at the end, his name rearranges itself from Navckid Kyed back into Dick Van Dyke. 

I ran into Dick Van Dyke again in late January, 2005, when, after having just completed the chapter on the Cosmic Game, I stopped in Malibu for lunch with a classmate on my way to Palo Alto.  We actually chatted for a few minutes, and I explained that I was writing a chapter on Mary Poppins for my dissertation, and we discussed the similarity between his above-mentioned bricoleur roles. Dick Van Dyke then mentioned the current contemporaneous revival on the London stage of both Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and I mentioned that I was going to London the following month, where I then had the privilege of seeing the stage version of Mary Poppins.  Had I not bumped into him, I might not have seen the performance, because I had previously tried unsuccessfully to purchase a ticket on the Internet, but the show was sold out for months. After my second synchronous encounter with Dick Van Dyke, I renewed my effort while in London, and managed to procure a ticket. My seat was in the balcony, directly in front of where Mary ascends at the end of the show, adding to the wonder and magic of the performance.

This double doubling, of meeting Dick Van Dyke twice and of the London revivals of his bricoleur roles, reminded me once again of von Franz’s thoughts on doubling.  According to von Franz (1977), when something important is about to come into consciousness as a double:

In general, if a symbol appears in a double form it means that what it symbolizes is approaching the threshold of consciousness . . . . So doubleness means touching the threshold of consciousness, being still a little ambiguous, consciousness not yet knowing how to say what is what, partly still mixed up with the continuum of other unconscious contents. (pp. 26-27)

This second synchronicity, occurring as I had just finished the Cosmic Game chapter, highlighted for me the transformative power of tinkering and the benefits of bricolage, which we will see as we go along in this chapter, but first, it will be useful to get an archetypal overview of Mary Poppins.

As a footnote, after I finished writing this last chapter of my dissertation in December of 2005, I again met Dick Van Dyke, at a booksigning in Malibu, and gave him an unedited copy of this chapter. Mr. Van Dyke was signing the children's book The Giving Chest, (Farr & Van Dyke, 2005), which is about a toymaker named Mr. Finnegan, whose image is portrayed by Dick Van Dyke. The book is about the benefits of giving to the giver, and includes beautiful almost three-dimensional illustrations, as well as a CD of the story read by Dick Van Dyke. This third meeting reminded me of the humankindness of communitas that is a part of liminality and is a neotenous quality of play.


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