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  • Writer's pictureKarey Pohn

The Personal Part

I have been called to play since my first quarter at Pacifica. Over the course of my studies at Pacifica I have been drawn to a few different things that have become the focus of my dissertation—movies, liminality, and bricolage. As I recount my experiences, I will seek to show how these themes emerged and intertwined. The way that I have lived my way to and through my dissertation reminds me of Rilke’s (1934/1993) advice, in one of his letters, to a young poet:

be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer. (p. 35)

Hillman (1996) in his best-selling book, The Soul’s Code, talks of the “acorn theory,” which is his theory of life lived backwards, and about the daimon or genius who guides you to be who you truly are. Hermes has been my daimon or guide, which is tricky any way you look at it. Of course, now I can see all of these connections looking back on my journey, and marvel at how it is all synchronistically interwoven. But at the time, I was relatively unaware of the direction in which I was going, and the only explanation that I can give to my choices, to paraphrase Flip Wilson, is “The daimon made me do it!

For my first project in our research methods course, I did what Jung did during the time of his confrontation with the unconscious. I decided to build something associated with my childhood, and used many of the items from childhood—felt, flour, water, newspaper, Elmer’s glue, construction paper and paint to make a six foot long paper maché dragon named Soror Mystica. I do not think that she would mind me sharing that underneath the scales and paint is a collage of different poems and other inspirations. I also wrote a twenty-minute rhyming song continuing the story of “Puff the Magic Dragon (Yarrow, 1962, online)—complete with a videotape showing movie clips of cinematic dragons and even Godzilla. In addition, I made a Dragon Tales scrapbook, which contained captivating images, poems and dragon-related ideas. These were my first acts of bricolage, although I did not realize it at the time. This was also my first use of movies and popular culture to express depth psychological themes. And true to my name I got “carried” away in this play, In the class, Dr. Romanyshyn (2000b, lecture) had talked about the wound as a call, and I was drawn to my project by Rilke’s advice to a young poet about sadness:

How should we be able to forget those ancient myths that are at the beginning of all peoples, the myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us. (Rilke, 1934/1993, p. 69)

I saw Rilke’s letter advising that “perhaps all of our dragons are princesses” as a poetic way of relating to symptoms. In this research course I did Internet research for the first time, and I can honestly say that Google changed my life, because as I typed in dragons and depression, I eventually found an article by Stanislav Grof (2000b, online) about his recently released book Psychology of the Future, on a website called Lila! So for me play, research and the Internet have been combined from the beginning. The Internet is the domain of Hermes, god of communication (Neville, 1992)!

Jung’s decision to “play childish games” (Jung, 1961/1989, p. 174) was a turning point in his fate and it has likewise been for me in many more ways than I can express here. I was drawn to play initially and have continued to heed its synchronistic call. Like Jung, I have “consciously submitted myself to the impulses of the unconscious” (p. 173). Because play likes to slip through the interstices, while recalling my play-related experiences at Pacifica, I will mention some of the relevant play literature prior to the formal section containing the overview of the literature.

In our first course on Jung, the book The Creation of Consciousness (Edinger, 1984), and the Bollingen stone, which adorns its cover, entered my consciousness. In this course, Slater (2000, lecture) used the film The Day the Earth Stood Still (Wise, 1951, motion picture) to explicate the “Job archetype.” As I sat in class, it dawned on me that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeers (Rankin & Bass, 1964, televison production) story was archetypally similar. I was taken with the image of the stone and used it in my paper, modifying it slightly—my second act of bricolage, substituting Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in the middle instead of the Telesphoros.

That quarter we also had a course on Introduction to Depth Psychology, where we were introduced to the concepts of rupture, liminality, and restoration, which I found fascinating. I was also very taken with the ideas of communitas and the threshold, as well as Anzaldua’s (1999, 2000) concept of nepantla, as I explored a single liminal scene in my favorite movie—Mary Poppins (Stevenson, 1964, motion picture). My favorite line in that movie comes from the song “A Spoonful of Sugar”: “In every job that must be done there is an element of fun, you find the fun, and snap the job’s a game.” This has come to be one of my mottos in life. So, the question is, where is the fun in a dissertation? For me, the Internet is the answer.

During my second quarter, I was reading Marion Woodman’s (1985) book, The Pregnant Virgin, and came across a paragraph from Victor Turner’s (1988) article “Body Brain and Culture,” written in 1983, which discusses play. Needless to say it made a big impression on me, and I later bought the book, The Anthropology of Performance, in which that article appeared and took it with me to India for my fieldwork project along with Stanislav Grof’s (2000a) Psychology of the Future. Not surprisingly, my first year community fieldwork centered around liminality, and my own experiences in India helped me realize the importance of play during liminal times. For my second year of community fieldwork, I did a project with second and third graders at Webster Elementary school in Malibu, California. I asked them to consider the question “how would you tell someone from outer space about what play is?” and to then create a drawing that would reflect this. Although I considered the project to be a total failure, as far as my expectations went, it was wonderfully illuminating and very humbling: I learned what should have been obvious from the start, that play does not like to be overly structured, and that assigning someone to play, takes all the fun and play out of the activity. The kids managed to play anyway, along the margins, and taught me a great deal.

Fast forwarding to our 2003 final project, I invented a game, inspired by a holotropic breathwork session, to show that Grof’s cartography and basic perinatal matrices (BPMs) were similar to concepts encountered in other courses that my classmates and I had taken along the way. [link to GTT] The game illustrated Grof’s and Tarnas’s findings regarding the parallels between the archetypal patterns present in the birth process and the archetypes of the four outer planets, and how these patterns iterated in our coursework. I called the game Monomythopoly ™ in honor of Joseph Campbell, who inspired my coming to Pacifica in the first place, and we will return to explore this “cosmic” game and its implications later in the first part of the dissertation.

Jung’s Bollingen stone has continued to capture my imagination. The Bollingen stone has found its way into papers that I wrote for different courses. For example, in a course on alchemy, I saw parallels between the stone and other symbols of “visionary windows” such as the Monolith from 2001:A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968, motion picture) and the famous woodcut “The Spiritual Pilgrim Discovering Another World” (Romanyshyn, 2002, p. 174). In a class entitled “Psyche and the Sacred,” I substituted Marilyn Monroe for the Telesphoros image at the center and I discussed various numinous experiences. Other stones appeared to me in reveries about my dissertation in our “pod” class. Thus, it is no surprise to find that the Bollingen Stone with Hermes as Telesphoros would seem to be eternally returning, coming up a fourth (and Jungian) time as the centerpiece of my dissertation, helping me to explore the archetypal aspects of play.


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