Psyche and the Spirit of the Times
by Jerry Wennstrom for CG Jung Society, Seattle
When I was asked to speak at the final event in the series, “Psyche and the Spirit of the Times” I willingly agreed to do so. Being scheduled a day or two after the election; I felt the timing of the event would make for an interesting evening. I can only give my impressions of the event and they may or may not be what the others experienced or had in mind when they spoke. From what I understand, our particular trio was not the originally planned line-up of presenters. This wild card and the particular group of people who attended the event appeared to be the magic formula for an auspicious evening to unfold.
The general weight of the event revolved around the recent election. This was an informed group and most of the people in the room were unhappy about the results of the elections, and the way in which they were conducted. Clearly, many people were stunned and in a state of confusion and pain.
Randy Morris spoke first. He was more political in his approach than George Callan and I. Randy spoke from a place of intellectual clarity and helped define the boundaries of our choices, politically and metaphorically. Randy took a courageous stance as a “Democrat.” He also gracefully introduced the alchemical possibility that something existed beyond any two polarities.
George Callan spoke next. She fully embodied the feminine healing spirit with her contribution. She mothered herself with gentleness and beauty as a response to her disappointment with the election. She gave herself space for healing by doing what she loved to do creatively. In doing so, she mothered and gave space to those of us needing the same kind of healthy distance from our confusion. George brought us back to the present moment, giving us permission to take only the next, small step in our attempt to navigate the wild waters of a chaotic turn of events.
I spoke last. I guess I can speak most personally about my contribution to the evening since I stand best in my own two shoes. I am incapable of planning what I am going to say to an audience. With the conditions of unknowing once again in place at this event, speaking to the audience became a prayer. Feeling the weight of the audience’s suffering I compassionately asked for what was needed in the moment.
Having had George and Randy speak before me enabled me to go inward and listen more deeply to them, to the audience and into the silence. With this allotment of time to “think” I foolishly hoped to get a feel for the evening and call up what was needed in advance. I intended to respond sympathetically to what I was sensing in the room. However, my intent was just an idea and to my surprise my good intentions left completely, the moment I stood up to speak. Standing before the audience, I felt no sympathy at all. Instead, I felt ruthlessly determined to address the indulgence of suffering—my own and that of others. I could only speak of the fierce reality and renewal that is delivered by turning and walking into everything that looks like “death.” Our individual expressions of pain were coming up around the election, this was clear. What I perceived at that moment was that our political situation was a product of our excesses and general complacency as privileged Americans -- and we all, somehow, contributed to the creation of this collective entity. After following the energetic lead of the moment and saying all I could say, I ended with silence. It was all I could do.
Connie Eichenlaub appropriately shifted the session at this point by giving the floor to my wife, Marilyn Strong, who took us into Quaker-style silence. Marilyn sang a Jewish chant, invoking a return to the land of the soul. During the silence, which followed, I simply felt the need to hold the space for others to feel deeply what they were left with after all was said and done by the presenters. Holding this space, and allowing others to pour out their necessary responses required more of me than speaking did. There was an intensity of emotion in the room that was spontaneously expressed out of the larger silence. The expressions of hope and despair that came through our group were truly the healing resolve of the evening. There is a wonderful saying, “There is no other God but all of us together.”