"Not I personify, but the anima personifies me, or soul makes herself through me, giving my life her sense-- her intense daydream is my 'me-ness', and 'I', a psychic vessel whose existence is a psychic metaphor, ..." - James Hillman
"...I want my students to see ...that they are as capable of shaping the world as it is of shaping them. ... newfound appreciation for his [family] history allows Milkman to see himself as a link in the chain between the past and the future..." Marc Schuster from "'Gimme Hate, Lord!' Facets of Love in Song of Solomon" in The Fiction of Toni Morrison: Reading and Writing on Race, Culture, and Identity
I am in Boston this week, helping a friend (and former employer) prepare for an IRS audit of his non-profit organization which I once served. This work and I found each other last week. My earnings here will pay October rent.
Some people associated with this project see me as a savior. This is largely because my left brain almost always goes into overdrive when I'm around these folks [I just took a quiz online to measure where I am after two days' contact...] and of the hundreds of volunteers and staff associated with the group since Katrina, I am the sole survivor left on the Gulf Coast.
If the last four weeks are an indicator, I will not save the day. Anything short of disaster will be a complete reversal of September fortunes.
I'm not in savior mode. I don't know exactly what to call this mode but "savior" is definitely a misnomer.
Three cats and a dog live in the South Boston apartment where I'm staying. I am allergic to cats. Luckily the weather allows wide open windows and physical distress has been minimal. This morning I have itchy eyes and nasal congestion. These reactions are reassuring -- yeah, I'm still me.
The backyard of the house next door has no lawn. The man who lives in the house has spent every dry weather day of the last 8 years, raking the ground and removing all pebbles, grass, weeds and leaves. He bags what he harvests and the trash collectors haul it away twice a week.
I watched him on and off all day yesterday. It's fascinating. Medium-sized bits of brick or stone outline two narrow strips on the north end of the yard. A single line of similar stones runs the length of these strips. From the second floor balcony where I stand, it looks like a Kahloesque uni-brow above two Asian eyes.
Yesterday, after sundown, he spent almost an hour toting pitchers of soapy water from inside his house, dumping them onto the side porch and watching the water drip through the wooden slats.
On this second morning, he is meticulously snipping all branches, twigs and leaves extending over or through the fence between his yard and the one next door. The woman who lives with him appears to be slightly disabled, both physically and mentally. When she comes out of the house and touches anything, he screams at her.
I think this would be called obsessive compulsive behavior but he seems quite focused and sure of himself. I'm told he has lowered the grade of his yard by at least 4 inches since moving in over a decade ago.
It feels like something is being worked out through my life. Maybe this is, as Hillman suggests, Soul making herself through me. Is it possible to know Soul's objective? To participate and contribute to the mission? Can I do something more than just fumble blindly, be more than a vessel? I listened last night to my hosts' discussion of the man next door, how he is spending the days of his life. What do observers say about how I am spending the days of mine? What do They see?
I don't know much about the lives of my parents, grandparents, great-grandparents. Beyond a few immaculate anecdotes, I have little information about the story before I came onstage. Still, I have a sense of how I have been shaped by ancestors, how the past makes me what I am.
The link between my life and my son's is clearer to me but still hazy. I can see a little about how I contribute to who he is.
I can't see how I'm shaping the world.