Recently I have been telling stories on the the theme of…. well it’s hard to say……but it seems to be something about an indefinable something which is perhaps nothing, i.e., an empty space, or maybe everything!
Two events at which I’ve been telling stories: An exhibition and conference at the Arnolfini gallery in Bristol called. ‘Back to where we have not quite been’
and a yoga retreat titled ‘The indefinable something which is everything.’ were trying to investigate a certain ‘indefinable something.’
How on earth I wondered could I find stories which address an ‘indefinable something?’
Fortunately a year or so back I became interested in stories which seem to have a ‘nothing’ a paradox, or a mystery at their heart.
Stories with titles such as
‘To go I know not whither and find I know not what’,
or ‘East of the Sun, West of the Moon’
And the intriguing African story of the sky maiden, who asks her husband to promise he will not look in her mysterious basket. When he does he finds it is empty.
These stories interest me. What on earth are they about?
I was reminded of this quote from the Jungian Analyst and writer on Fairytales, Marie Louise von Franz
‘I have come to the conclusion that all fairy tales endeavour to describe one and the same psychic fact, but a fact so complex and far-reaching and so difficult for us to realise in all its different aspects, that hundreds of tales and thousands of repetitions with a musician’s variations are needed until this unknown fact is delivered into consciousness’.
The unknown fact she refers to is The Self. In Jungian psychology, The Self represents the highest manifestation of being. The perspective from which one may gain a glimpse of one’s whole life and destiny, and both the conscious and unconscious aspects of one’s being.
Whereas the Ego is the dot at centre of the circle of an individual personality the Self is represented as the outer perimeter.
So according to Von Franz it is not so much a ‘nothing’ at the heart of fairy stories…more an ‘everything’. A potential space in which everything may be glimpsed. Perhaps like the spindle described in Kabalah, (jewish mysticism). The still central axis at the heart of the tree of life from in which all levels and worlds can be accessed.
At a recent performance by the very wonderful physical theatre company Ockhams’ Razor, (A company who create something which combines philosphy, dance and acrobatics, of heart breaking beauty! ). There was a swinging pole circling around the stage spilling a stream of salt from one end. To begin with the performers used it to create a perfect circle on the floor which marked the space in which the performance took place. At the end of the piece the pole was set in motion in an elipse and then left to follow it’s own momentum. The stream of salt created out of the repetitions a beautiful pattern on the stage, tracing a shape, at times like a vast rib cage, then like the striations on a shell, or the shape of an eye, and finally an almost perfect circle. The constant repetitions around an empty space, or potent space or sacred space?, created beautiful designs reminiscent of shells, spirals and the shapes of growth in the natural world.
We are storymaking creatures, we constantly create narrative, from morning to night and even in our dreams our brains are storymaking. Stories and their constant repetitions, are what create the patterns that make a life and make a culture; But suppose they are as much following the invisible laws of nature as a swinging pole is following the laws of gravity? and suppose these patterns, the ones we make with our endless repetitions of stories are creating the shape of being human?