Robert Romanyshyn - Fantasies of a Life: Against Forgetting
"...thoughts [are] like animals in the forest, or people in the room, or birds in the air...If you should see people in a room, you would not think that you had made these people, or that you were responsible for them." Philemon to Carl Jung. (Memories, Dreams, Reflections, p.183)
For a long time I toyed with the idea of calling this section Philosophy, but the word never quite seemed to fit, nor did the material that wanted to be here comfortably fill that mold. On the contrary it overflowed its boundaries and seemed to resist any attempts on my part to shape it into the coherent whole that the term Philosophy implied, as if I could sum up in some direct and reasonable way the many pathways that have led me into my life long and ambivalent love affair with psychology. Indeed when I looked into the fantasy at work in this idea, I discovered that it was an idea that was not true to my experience.
Being a phenomenologist infidelity to experience for the sake of some idea or theory about it is a cardinal sin, and I had no wish to be unfaithful to my ambivalent love affair with psychology. So I did what I occasionally and more frequently should do. I went to the ancestors during my morning ritual and waited for their advice. And there they did give me a response. Looking at an old wedding photo of my father’s aunt and uncle and their relatives, which included my father’s mother and my father as a very young child sitting on her lap, I sunk into a place of reverie where I knew that I was in that moment the one they had dreamed so long ago on that happy occasion. I knew that before I was born I was already a part of their dreams, and that my life and my work, however much I might think that I have been the author, has been dreamed and imagined into being by them. I learned that the work I have been doing has been in service to their dreams.
To be sure I am the author of books and it is to me that the royalties, meager as they are, are paid. But in that moment of reverie, when we are done with thinking and reasoning for a moment, I realized again what I have always felt and known: I am the author in name only. It is not I who has made the thoughts; it is the thoughts, which have made me. But I am responsible for them and this is where the connection with Philemon’s analogy breaks down. How I am, and how we are, responsible for our thoughts and for the bodies of knowledge we help to create is and has been for me a on–going concern, which is expressed in many places throughout this website. Here I will say only that this responsibility is, it seems, always a matter of catching up with our selves and especially with the dark, and shadowy elements in our minds. The philosopher, as Merleau-Ponty noted in his essay, The Philosopher and His Shadow, is always in dark light. The light of our bright ideas is always shadowed by the fantasies of the soul and the dreams of the ancestors who leave for us some unfinished business. We are given our lives and our work as much as and even more than we choose them.
So in place of a philosophical statement that would attempt to organize under some few principles the thoughts about psychology that I have had and the work that I have done, I am attempting here something else. Part of this attempt is rooted in the phenomenology of remembering, which as a creative act never allows, or at least has never allowed me to re-construct my life and thought in straight lines. Neither life itself nor the life of thinking are lived this way and it is only the fiction of the ego that would have us believe that they are. We impose this fiction of a sequential order where none existed.
Another part of this attempt is rooted in the possibilities that the technology of this effort to create a web site offers. One of the unexpected pleasures of this effort has been the feeling of some deep change in my consciousness. Fantasies of a Life: Against Forgetting has been a playful exercise that feels so different from the pleasurable work of writing a book or an article. Fantasies of a Life: Against Forgetting follows a nonlinear dynamic. Via various links whose connections are not straight lines of progress or development, I find myself closer to the way mind works in the context of the speaking and not the written word. This technology of web creation feels like an exercise in post-literate orality where the links are moments that fold back into and out of each other, repetitions at different levels of complexity, which reflect a passion of some moment that lingers and matures through its connections with similar moments of creation. These linking moments are periods of punctuation, which offer a pause, like in breathing, in the on going life of the soul. Only in these pauses do I catch a glimpse of some pattern of which I am not the maker and which always eludes me. I am in this regard always starting over again, circling around some ancient themes that I have neither chosen nor mastered. And I never feel, nor have I ever felt, that I am making progress. It is like speech trying to find its way along the way of speaking.
But this 'lack' of progress is ok because it fits well for me with the joy of my ambivalent love affair with psychology. She is and has been a mistress of many disguises and these moments are occasions when I might dream again what the soul has already imagined. And in this dreaming my life and work is re-membered into those patterns that are larger than what I might remember. In this regard, I have come to appreciate that the real work of the soul in psychology is not about getting ahead and making progress. Rather it is about letting go and coming home. If in the depth of soul the way up is the way down, then in the time of the soul the way home is the way back. The real work of the soul is against forgetting, and if the technology of the web allows us to reflect upon the ideas of linearity , progress, development and sequential order, then it too can become a way of remembering and of coming home. Imagine that! Technology as homework! [Technology as Symptom and Dream]
So, welcome to these linking moments, these oases of the soul in the vast reaches of the mind, where one might pause for a breath. Come, sit awhile, rest and dream. There are no rules and there are no goals. There are only these moments. But for the moment that’s enough!
The Backward Glance
The World is the Vale of Soul Making
From the Mind of Reason to the Soul of the World: Toward an Ethical Epistemology
Poetic Realism and Acoustic Sensibility
The Orphan in Exile and the Journey of Homecoming