- free your true Self to guide you
in the USA"
St. Martin's Press, New York (1985)
By Michael Ventura
A poetic description
in a stepfamily
The Web address of this
article is http://sfhelp.org/gwc/IF/ventura.htm
April 11, 2015
This is one of a series
of articles on Lesson 1 of 7 in
this Web site - (a) free your
to guide you in calm and conflictual times, and (b)
All other Lessons are founded on this one.
Ventura, a new stepfather, gives us a rich description of his
and those of his wife Jan, and stepson Brendan.
Dancing is out of print, but you can probably find used
Peter Gerlach, MSW; Founder, Break the Cycle! project
+ + +
"Marriage is the most dangerous form of love. Count the casualties and you
know. It turns many people to stone. We all have seen that. Our society is
cracking under the weight of many stone- lives. We all know that. But will
we, or will we not, discover all that a man and woman can be? Marriage is
not the answer, but it is the most demanding way to live the question.
Donít ask questions. Live them.
That is the unrelenting demand of an active inner life. If we shirk that
demand we begin to turn to stone.
So here are the speculations on a flux, a life, a dare that I sometimes
refer to as "my marriage." They are the notes of a man who, only a
bit more than two years ago, joined in "wed-lock" (the phrase is
not without its sinister echo) with a woman and her young son. The notes of
a man who, at the time, only dimly realized that in marrying with these two
others he was marrying no less than -- everything.
"Everything," in Greek, is the word pan, and pan is what they
called the wildest, most elemental of the gods, the god least subject to
placation - the god that was never housebroken. No wonder they sang and
danced at that wedding!
Our life leads separate lives.
I am "married," as they say in this world, to Jan, who is
"married" to me - "two old fuckers," as she puts it.
She, forty. Me, thirty-nine. And Brendan, eleven now (her child but, as I
find myself putting it in conversation, "our boy"). It is now, as
Iíve said, two years since I married these two people and they married me - three separate acts. Three very different inner ceremonies
Brendanís, and mine - taking place within the one ceremony that joined
us. Or that symbolized our joining. For in marriage symbols often come
first: first the instinct to join, then the symbolic joining, then the
relentless reality of trying to join.
So far the above would be described by most systems of thought - psychological,
sociological, whatever - with the phrase: "The two of them (or the
three of them) are married."
A pathetically useless phrase for the description of any reality I know. Weíd
best leave it behind right now. For one thing, it implies that there are
only three people living in our apartment.
But living in this small apartment, there are, to begin with, three entirely
different sets of twos: Michael and Jan, Jan and Brendan, Brendan and
Michael. Each set, by itself, is very different from the other, and each is
different from Jan-Brendan-Michael together. But go further:
Brendan-Jan-Michael having just gotten up Ďfor breakfast is a very
different body politic, with different varying tensions, depending on
whether itís a school day or not, from Brendan-Jan-Michael driving home
from seeing, say, El Norte, which is different still from driving home from
Ghostbusters, and all of them are different from Brendan-Jan-Michael going
to examine a possible school for Brendan. The Brendan who gets up at
midnight needing to talk to Michael is quite different from the Brendan who,
on another night, needs suddenly to talk to Jan, and both are vastly
different from the Brendan who often keeps his own counsel. The Michael
writing at three in the afternoon or three in the morning, isolated in a
room with three desks and two typewriters, is very different from the
Michael, exasperated, figuring the bills with Jan, choosing whom not to pay;
and he in turn is very different from the half-crazed, shy drunk wondering
just who is this "raw-boned Okie girl" moving to Sam Taylorís
fast blues one sweltering night in the Venice of L.A. at the old Taurus
Tavern. The Jan making the decision to face her own need to write, so
determined and so tentative at once, is very different from the
strength-in-tenderness of the Jan who is sensual, or the sure-footed abandon
of Jan dancing, or the screeching of the Jan whoís had it up to here.
I can only be reasonably sure of several of these people Ė the several
isolate Michaels, eight or fifteen of them, whom "I" pass from,
day to day, night to night, dawn to almost dawn, and who at any moment in
this much-too-small apartment might encounter a Jan or a Brendan whom Iíve
never seen before, or whom Iíve conjectured about and can sometimes
describe but am hard-pressed to know.
So in this apartment where some might see three people living a
comparatively quiet life, I see a huge encampment on a firelit hillside, a
tribal encampment of selves who must always be unknowable, a mystery to any
brief Michael, Jan, or Brendan who happens to be trying to figure it out at
any particular moment.
And who, on this hillside, subject to its many winds and weathers, who among
these loyal but often nomadic manifestations of Jan, Michael, and Brendan,
who among these people is "married"?
Some are. Some are gladly and enthusiastically married, with, as the
wonderful old phrase goes, "abiding faith." Some are married but
frightened, nervously married, hesitant as to their capacities, their
endurance. Some are hostile to the marriage. Some are too crazy to be
married. Some just go about their business; it doesnít affect them, The
hostile and the crazy and the unconcerned may be in the minority (though
there are days when it doesnít feel that way), yet they exist, they speak
with our mouths sometimes, they break a dish now and then, they make a bad
joke - they even have bad dreams, just as the parts that are gladly
married have their good and bad dreams.
I think of a Henry Miller line in Tropic of Capricorn: "The labyrinth
is my happy hunting ground." I am beginning to see what he means. In
this labyrinth, I have found that on days when I feel far-off from Jan and
she feels rejected, it is not Jan whom Iím rejecting at all. I am
rejecting the parts of me that feel closest to her. That is a very different
bowl of gumbo. It indicates a very different sense of, and object of,
And I can only guess, yet, at how many Jans there are whom I havenít yet
seen naked. They are the "other women" Iíve been interested in
since I met her. As there are Michaels I havenít encountered yet, and who
come to life, surprising me, only in "her" presence, in the
presence of some Jan or other.
I feel a leader to all my selves whom I call "I". It was his idea,
this marriage! Most of the others cheered him on, a few tried to shout him
down. But always this whole motley crew is in my consciousness, in all its
motliness, when "I" say, "I am married."
There have been times during our marriage when have heard all our inner
people laugh at once. That is marvelous. And nights when they have all
rested within the same sleep. (That is more rare by far.) An days when this
entire hillside of selves seems to follow "the three of us" down
the street as though a great festival were taking place, and only we know of
it, yet its psychic exuberance "adds its light to the sum of
light." (in the words of one Billy Kwan). This luminous, virtually
religious sense of oneís inner life radiating into and nourishing the
outer, wider world - I have felt it before, but never so strongly as in
the context of this thing we rather lamely name "marriage." And
the converse: the sense of dread when I feel us failing, not only the dread
of the private failure, but the sense that we are failing more than
ourselves, that we are failing world that needs us not to fail. Failing not
the crumbling world that is, but a world that some of us feel is struggling
I think of the Sioux medicine man Lame Deer when, as an old man, he cried on
a hilltop to his gods for a sign that he had not entirely failed them. That
sense is not dead in all of us, though we may be shy to speak of it in
ourselves and suspicious of others who do. It applies to marriage in the
sense that, marriage doesnít only join two people, it links their inner
quests - the quest of each to share in, and build on, the sense of
becoming in the world, the feeling that this era is struggling to transform
itself into another, more fulfilling era. If only one of a married, pair can
succeed in taking part in this transformation, both will feel a hollowness.
There are many who are not interested in contributing to the worldís
transformation, but there are also many for whom such concern is an
enormous, if often unadmitted, pressure, and we live in a society that
hardly names this feeling, much less honors it. But even if one person in a
marriage feels this dimension, the marriage takes on the burden of the
concern, whether named or not.
This is one of the many ways that a "relationship" can feel so
much more free. A relationship is defined as it goes along, with a lot of
subtle and not-so-subtle negotiations as to what is and what isnít the
otherís business. Inner quests may, or may not, he part of that
negotiation, whichever choice or compulsion dictates. The special thrill of
a "relationship" is to select one or two (rarely more) of oneís
many selves, and play them out with someone who is doing the same. Sometimes
the self being lived out in the relationship is shallow, or wonderful but
severely limited, and the relationship ends quickly; sometimes it goes
deeper, so that as time goes on more of oneís inner selves participate,
coming into the presence of both relating "I"s. A serious
relationship usually ends when there are more secret selves participating
than your mutual intentions can bear to accommodate.
A marriage puts you in a very different existential position. A man and a
woman, in a marriage, are not offering each other only their favorite, or
most convenient, or most needy selves. You marry everything, like it or not.
If youíre living together and not married, it is still not quite the same;
though there is a great deal invested, the door is still metaphorically
open. Whereas marriage puts a lot more pressure on the psyche, because
whether or not people say "till death do us part," thousands of
years of heritage have made the vow implicit. This is what marriage means in
our collective consciousness, if not in our modern ceremonies, even now. So
if we get married yet are still trying to follow the ways of a relationship,
we feel undermined by the massive cultural vow we have ingested without
wanting to. We fed closed in. Sooner or later, we feel dread.
Jan and I let the vow stand, said it out loud with our joined voices, as
though to let our inner tribes of selves know what they were in for:
"till death do us part." We instinctively felt what we began both
instantly and painfully to share: that, willingly or unwillingly, we had
each married all of the other, including parts yet unguessed at.
Marriage is this inclusive act, like it or not. You will not make it
something else by saying that you want it to be something else. You will not
make it something else by believing it should be something else. Life is not
so simple. The psyche, collectively whole yet enormously varied within you,
is not so easily contained. The very fact of being married will act as the
catalyst to make your psyches both the subject and the object of the
marriage. You can face this, and feel as though youíre leading a
dangerous, even adventurous life; or you can avoid it, and gradually feel
more and more unanswered by the presence of your mate.
When two people "get involved," each usually has a clear (if
usually nonverbal) idea of what he or she needs for the next stage of his or
her growth. Virtually every serious relationship or marriage is a partially
conscious means by which this Ďnext stage" Is achieved, is grown.
Crisis time comes when one or both of them have pretty much exhausted this
more-or-less intended stage of growth in the other and are trying to figure
out if they can accompany each other I through yet another significant
stage. We are living in a society in which there are few things more rare
than two people accompanying each other through more than one significant
run of growth.
The idea of marriage flies in the face of this. It is, depending on your
viewpoint, a gallantly or foolishly unrealistic challenge to oneís own
future. Looked at this way, itís a damned silly way to treat yourself.
Fortunately or unfortunately, there is a phenomenon weíve not yet alluded
to which short-circuits these considerations. It is referred to somewhat
vaguely as love.
We love before we know. Love comes first, and in order to answer its
questions we have to love further. The fling turns into an
affair turns into a relationship, the relationship turns into a marriage.
For many people today the process of relationship has been the first stage
of growth. Then a sad thing often happens: instead of really trying to stake
out a further unknown territory, many try to adapt how theyíve grown
already (the first stage) to what they feel are the conventions of marriage.
This is usually an unmitigated disaster.
As it happened, Jan and I went straight from fling into marriage. We decided
to marry within ten days of meeting each other. This saved us the
relationship stint of getting to not-know each other, which usually and
sadly consists of people trying out their various selves .on one another,
compulsively and/or intentionally, testing for commitment. Thatís
necessary for one stage of life, but like many people our age we had each
done that many times. We decided: this time, no tests. Dance to the music.
Were we marrying each other or marrying the impulse? Good question. A
question that can he answered only after itís too late. Fine. For love is
nothing, if itís not faith. Nothing.
When Brendan was born, almost nine years before Jan and I met, Jan had sent
out announcements with that old blues refrain:
Baby I learned to love
Honey Ďfore l called
Baby Ďfore I called your name
Love often occurs "in this wise," as the old phrase as though love
were for "calling the name." And certainly "to be loved is to
feel oneís name called with an inflection that one has never heard before.
So we found ourselves sending our wedding invitations that went:
Come on over
We ainít fakiní
Whole lot of shakiní goiní on
Odd, now, to think how small a sense of foreboding we had at that Jerry Lee
Lewis verse - though weíve only "come to blows" (revealing old
phrase, isnít it, with its odd sense of formality?) once, and she struck
first, broke my glasses, and I hit her then, one time, and she slumped
against the wall, both of us feeling so soiled and ugly and wrong. How many
bitter, gone grandmothers and grandfathers stood in the room just then,
cackling their satisfaction at our shame? Hers, Irish; mine, Sicilian. Both
of them traditions that did not teach us to forgive. To learn to forgive is
to break with an unforgiving past.
Pause at the word: "forgive." "For-to-give." Forgiveness
is such a gift that "give" lives in the word. Christianist*
tradition has tried to make it a meek and passive word; turn the other
cheek. But the word contains the active word "give," which reveals
its truth: it involves the act of taking something of yours and handing it
to another, so that from now on it is theirs. Nothing passive about it. It
is an exchange. An exchange of faith: the faith that what has been done can
be undone or can be transcended. When two people need to make this exchange
with each other, it can be one of the most intimate acts of their lives.
Forgiveness is, for one thing, a promise to work at the undoing, at the
transcending. Marriage soon enough gives all concerned the opportunity to
forgive. There have been enough broken chairs, broken plates, and one broken
typewriter - my beloved old Olympia portable manual, that Iíd had since
high school and smashed myself - to testify to how desperate the joined
desperations of all the Michaels, Jans, and Brendans can be. Whole lotta
shakiní goiní on, and on and on, and sometimes when you are trying to
break through the hardened crusts inside you and inside each other, some
dishes and typewriters arid furniture might go in the process.
The most odious aspect of goody-goody, Iím-OK-youíre-OK dialogues is
their failure to recognize that sometimes you have to scream, slam doors,
íbreak furniture, run red lights, and ride the wind even to begin to have
the words to describe what is eating you. Sometimes meditation and dialogue
just canít cut it. Sometimes "it" just plain needs
"cutting" - or at least a whole lotta shakiní. Anyone afraid
of breaking, within and without, is in the wrong marriage. Let it all go.
Let the winds blow. Letís see whatís left in the morning.
And that is "the solace of marriage" - a phrase Iíve heard in
several contexts, but am otherwise unable to comprehend. The discovery, of
what is unbreakable among all thatís been broken. The discovery that union
can he as irreducible as solitude. The discovery that people must share not
only what they donít know about each other, but what they donít know
Sharing what we know is a puny exercise by comparison.
+ + +
the lead of James Hillman Ďs work, I use ďChristianismĒ in place of
ďChristianityĒ and ďChristianistíí in place of
ĎĎChristianíí wherever possible, in an attempt to get around the
enormous bias for the religion built into our very language"
And did I say there were only myriads of Jans, Brendans, and Michaels
encamped in the firelit cavern that appears to be an inexpensive old
wood-frame duplex south of Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles? Life is
not so simple as even that. What about the raging mob we refer to, politely,
as "the past." Nothing abstract about "the past." What
has marked you is still marking you. There is a place in us where wounds
never heal, and where loves never end. Nobody knows much about this place
except that it exists, feeding our dreams and reinforcing and/or haunting
our days. In marriage, it can exist with a vengeance.
Bloody, half-flayed, partly dead, naked, tortured, my mother realty does
hang on a hook in my closet, because she hangs on a hook in me. Occasionally
I have to take her out and we do a rending dance, tearing each other bloody
as we go, and the stuff splashes happily all over - all over Jan, several
of the many Jans, and several of the many Brendans - and then run for the
hills, my dears, for I am in my horror.
One of my several, my insistent, horrors.
We are all, every one of us, full of horror. If you are getting married to
try to make yours go away, you will succeed only in marrying your horror to
someone elseís horror; your two horrors will have the marriage: you will
bleed and call that love.
My closet is full of hooks, full of horrors, and I also love them, my
horrors, and I know they love me, and they will always hang there for me,
because they are also good for me, they are also on my side, they gave so
much to be my horrors, they made me strong to survive. There is much in our
new "enlightened" lexicon to suggest that one may move into a
house that doesnít have such a closet. You move into such house and think
everything is fine until after a while you start to hear a distant
screaming, and start to smell something funny, and realize slowly that the
closet is there, all right, but itís been walled over, and just when you
need desperately to open it you find yourself faced with bricks instead of a
In our cavern on this hillside in this apartment, there is quite a closet,
where my hooks hang next to Janís, and to Brendanís - itís amazing
how many you can accumulate at the mere age of eleven - which are also
there for their good and harrowing reasons.
This is one reason itís so odd to "see the parents." Canít
comment on marriage and fail to mention the in-laws. Odd to see them,
because youíve seen them already hanging on hooks in your closet, and the
beings splayed on those hooks are so removed from these aging,
well-intentioned, confused souls who are the actual people. Actual, older
people who are powerless, really, because they cannot act in their own names
any longer. The past acts through them, no matter what they try. All they
can do is hope to change that past; that is, to transmute its effects. Which
is not impossible, but is so very rare.
So it Is, as I say, odd to see your mateís parents because you know them
already, intimately, as archetypes in your mateís sleeps. To assure this
archetype that, yes, you really do love her fried chicken, is to enter a
realm of comedy in which even the Marx Brothers might be frightened to
And so the horrors and the joys of what we foolishly call "our
pasts" - we would more accurately call them "our sleeps"
- blend, and we live the strengths and lacks of what we were, and that
also is marriage. "Your people will become my people," goes the
old vow, and it is inescapable in the sense that I am speaking of.
For a marriage to be a marriage, these encounters do not happen compulsively
or accidentally, they happen by intention. I donít mean that the
encounters with all the various selves and ghosts are planned (thatís not
possible, though they can sometimes he consciously evoked); I mean that this
level of activity is recognized as part of the quest, part of the
responsibility each person has for him/herself and for the other.
Which is the major difference between the expectations of a marriage and a
relationship. My experience of a relationship is two people more or less
compulsively playing musical chairs with each otherís selected inner
archetypes. My tough street kid is romancing your honky-tonk angel. I am
your homeless waif and you are my loving mother. I am your lost father and
you are my doting daughter. I am your worshiper and you are my goddess. I am
your god and you are my priestess. I am your client and you are my analyst.
I am your intensity and you are my ground. These are some of the more garish
of the patterns. Animus, anima, bopping on a see-saw.
These hold up well enough while the archetypal pairings behave. But what
happens when the little boy inside him is looking for the mommy inside her
and finds instead on this particular night a sharp-toothed analyst
dissecting his guts? When the little girl inside her is looking for the
daddy inside him, and finds instead a pagan worshiper who wants a goddess to
lay with, which induces her to become a little girl play-acting a goddess to
please the daddy whoís realty a lecherous worshiper and Ö little girls
canít come? Or when a woman is attracted to a macho-man who is secretlyí
looking to be mothered? When a manís sexual self is in the service of an
interior little boy, itís not surprising that he canít get it up or
comes too quick. Or theyíre really not there at all, theyíre
masturbating, really: men in their little-boy psyches for whom the real
woman is just a stand-in; while the woman who happens to be in the same bed,
an extension of their masturbation, is wondering why even though the moves
are pretty good she doesnít really feel slept with.
And why he turns away so quickly when itís done.
On the other hand, teachers fuck pupils with excitement, analysts fuck
clients with abandon, and people seeing each other, in bed, as gods and
goddesses light up the sky - but the psyche is a multiple and a shifting
entity, an none of these compassionate pairings hold stable for long. The
archetypal mismatches soon begin, and then itís a disaster of
confrontations that can take years not even to sort out (it would he worth
years to get it all sorted out) but simply to exhaust itself and fail. And
then the cycle starts all over again with someone else.
My experience of a marriage is that all these same modes are present, but
instinctively or consciously it becomes a case of two people running down
each otherís inner archetypes, tackling them, seducing them, cajoling
them, waiting them out, making them talk, Ďfessing up to them, running
from them, raping them, falling in love with some, hating others, getting to
know some, making friends with some, hanging some in the closet on each
otherís hooks - hooks on which hang fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers,
other loves, idols, fantasies, maybe even past lives, and true mythological
consciousness that sometimes come to life within one with such force that we
feel a thread that goes hack thousands of years, even to other realms of
All of this is what we "marry" in the other, a process that goes
on while we manage to earn a living, go to the movies, watch television, go
to the doctor, walk on Ďthe Palisades, drive to Texas, follow the
election, try to stop drinking, eat too much Haagen Dazs.
Obviously, if two people are completely oblivious to this level of life,
they cannot live consciously on this level of life. If one person is
oblivious, life canít he lived at this pitch. (Though this is a level that
works its ways whether or not you are aware of it; it is, in Lawrence
Durrellís phrase, "the life of your life," and most people
thrash around on its surface, the puppets of their needs, hardly guessing.)
If two people are in competition with each other, then this sort of
responsibility toward each otherís inners cannot occur. (This sense of
women and men in competition is a common notion now, and I donít
necessarily mean career competition, nor do I mean that people pursuing the
same careers are necessarily in competition.) Nor can life be lived at this
pitch if one person is trying to tame the other. Nor can it occur if people
are trying to live up to an ideology, whether it is a Christianist ideology,
an "itís-time-to-live-happily-ever-after" ideology, or a
"liberated man/liberated woman" ideology. Sooner or later your
wife is going to come prancing through the living room with the flayed
undead carcass of her ex-husband or her lost father, and youíre going to
be slipping on their psychic slime, and watch out, mamaís boy, that bitch
wants to dance, to dance with her horror, and you better he able to give her
something more present than a Marxist or new age or fundamentalist ideology.
With volatile people much of this is surprisingly out front, given the eyes
to see it, But the same stuff goes down with sedate, quiet couples. It just
happens more undercover, and is harder to spot. Worse than harder to spot,
itís harder to feel, because itís not so specific. But it is, after all,
the mannerly Anglo-Saxon peoples who started a new religion partly to
institute divorce and who fought hundreds of years of religious wars partly
to keep a Protestantism that allowed divorce. It is their descendants in
America who have largely made divorce a legal institution. Even so, roughly
a third of the murders that occur in America take place within families.
These forces can remain unknown, but they are never unfelt.
Statistically, there are many more violent crimes per capita within families
in the United States than there are in any other nation. When you consider
that this is the nation most responsible for the stability of the worldís
economy and that this nation - these families - elect leaders who have
the power to end all life on this planet, you may agree with me that this
issue of what might constitute a dynamically sane marriage is as crucial as
wars in the Third World, economic justice, and nuclear survival. These
situations are certainly and umbilically linked.
Which brings me to my main point: there may be no more important project of
our time than displacing Christianist fiction of monopersonality. This
fiction is the notion that each person has a central and unified
"I" which determines his or her acts. "I" have been
writing this to say that I don't think people experience life that way. I do
think they experience language that way, and hence are doomed to speak about
life in structures contrary to their experience. This contributes to the
pervasive and impotent sense of bafflement that very quickly can turn to
Marriage, for instance. Our conventional concept of marriage came out of the
life of feudal Europe, a life so strictured that it likely evoked only two
or three of the
within one person on any given day. The higher
thinkers and artists of the time knew most of what we know about the psyche
- their cathedrals prove it. And the worshipers had a virtual chorus line
of saints they could react to with their various selves. But they worked six
days a week, they went to bed at dark, they were married and often had
families by the time they were fifteen, and their life span was often not
much more than forty years. Except for the church and the holidays, there
were next to no external stimuli outside of the daily grind. We are still
speaking their language. We are still structuring thoughts - envisioning
reality - with their grammar. But our lives are totally different.
Modern society can be defined as a barrage of stimuli haphazardly evoking
many conflicting selves daily in every individual. These selves - as our
art proves, from the Pyramids to Homer, from the Bible to Chartres and the
present - have always been alive and only restlessly asleep in our race;
now theyíve been awakened by a cacophony of concurrent and constant
calls. Yet most Western thought - most psychology, socio-economic theory
(both leftist and rightist), feminist theory, to name a few - labor under
a model of the human personality as outdated for contemporary life as
Newtonian physics was to relativity physics.
This meditation on marriage has been based on another model of the psyche
entirely: the notion that we have not a single center, but several centers;
that each of these centers may act independently of each other; and that
each center has in turn various active aspects, or shadings; and that alt
these centers are unified more by an
atmosphere, an overall mood and rhythm, than by anything as stolid as a
"central command post" called an "ego" or whatever.
There is a central awareness; but awareness us not control. Confusing
awareness with control is the mistake Western thought has been making for
centuries. It is tempting to call this awareness many things - oneís
ego, oneís character, oneís personality - but those words are just
screens onto which we can project what we most need and want to be,
projections that change depending on which inner self we are expressing and
acting out at the moment.
A new model of the psyche must take this unifying
urge into account, and presume that its impulse is fundamental to us; but a
new model of the psyche must go beyond this impulse and envision the inner
multiplicity which this impulse strains to unify. Itís as though the
reason this impulse is so strong is that thereís so much within the
individual to unify. For too Long Western thought has mistaken the impulse
to unify for the entity itself (the psyche) that needs such an impulse
because of its very multiplicity. The central "I" is not a fact,
it s a longing - the longing of all the selves within the psyche that are
starving because they are not recognized.
This notion is certainly not original with me. You can find it, in various
forms, in the novels of Doris Lessing and Lawrence Durrell, in the teachings
of the Sufis and the Zens, in the art of Picasso and Bosch, in the poems of
Ovid and Lorca, in the writings of Gurdjieff and Laing and Jung and
Marie-Louise von Franz: and James Hillman. Here is a passage of Laingís
Politics of Experience that get at it in terms similar to and possibly
clearer than mine:
rnetamorphoses that one man may go through in one day as he moves from one
mode of sociality to another - family man, speck of crowd dust,
functionary at an organization, friend. These are not simply different
roles: each is a whole past and present and future, offering different
options and constraints, different kinds of closeness and distance,
different sets of rights and obligations, different pledges and
I know of no theory of
the individual that fully recognizes this. There is every temptation to
start with a notion of some supposed basic personality, but halo, effects
are not reducible to one internal system. The tired family man at the
office and the tired businessman at home attest to the fact that people
carry over not just one set of internal objects, hut various internalized
social modes of being, from one context to another." (Laingís
My description, as compared to Laingís, is, well, more Catholic than
Protestant, more the Tarot than the I Ching. No matter. The important thing
- as important, I believe, as relativity proved to be (indeed this may be
the only way we can cope with relativity) - is that many are at the
beginning of a theory of personality that will gradually overwhelm the
monopersonality model that still warps the Westís vision, for that is a
model as inadequate to a more accurate perception and experience of what we
are as Newtonís mechanical-universe model was for charting any but the
grossest, most obvious movements of the universe.
It is crucial to every form of human effort that we forge a model of the
psyche that is closer to our hour-to-hour experience, because, in the long
run, as a society, we can share only what we can express. Our institutions
donít match our experience, and that is causing chaos on a world scale. It
is likely that these institutions wonít match our experience until we can
articulate our experience in more accurately contemporary terms. Marriage is
only one of those institutions.
Remember Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard walking away down the road at
the end of Modern Times? Theyíre broke. Theyíre vulnerable to any
circumstance. Their walk is almost a dance. Theyíre on their way. Thatís
the image of marriage that keeps this married man going. For us, marriage is
a journey toward an unknown destination. The "solace" possible is
to be reasonably certain youíre not going backward, not uselessly covering
the same terrain again and again, not circling one another in one place.
Sometimes, of course, you find yourself walking backward, facing where youíve
been, blind to where youíre going - interesting, disorienting, and
infuriating, but it happens. Sometimes youíre pushing each over impossibly
steep, sheer terrain. The metaphors, from this point on, could be as endless
as the road. The important thing seems to be not to kid ourselves about the
destination. We donít know it. It is not "security," which is
impossible to achieve on planet Earth in the latter half of the twentieth
It is not "happiness," by which we generally mean nothing
but giddy forgetfulness about the dangers of all our lives together. It is
not "self realization," by which people usually mean a separate
peace. There is no separate peace. - "While there is a soul in prison,
I am not free," said Eugene Debs once upon a time, and that goes for
all sorts of prisons, psychic as well as walled, and itís as true if youíre
married as if youíre not. Getting married wonít stop it from being true.
Until we accept the fact that technology has married us all, has made us one
people on one planet, and until we are more courageous about that larger
marriage, there will he no peace, and the destination of any of us, married
or not, will be unknown.
The mission of marriage in our age is to live out the question: how far can
men and women go together? Because they must go wherever it is they are
going together. There is no such thing as going alone. Given the doings and
the structure of the psyche, there is no such thing as being alone. If you
are the only one in the room, it is still a crowded room.
Marriage creates a field between two people in which these issues can he
lived out, lived through. This, of course, happens or tries to happen
wilIy-nilly in any serious connection between people; but it is the focus
and inner mission of marriage. That is the danger of marriage, and its very
danger is its hope and the measure of its importance.
In this sense, marriage is on the cutting edge of this culture now as it may
never have been before. What men and women may or may not become is being
tested in its crucible.
So Ö I get up to look for matches for my cigar before I re-read all this
and send it in, and Jan says, "I hope itís not like the first
"What do you mean?"
"I hope they know we laugh sometimes."
In laughter my writing is weakest, and she knows this better than anyone.
"We laugh a lot," I say.
"Not in the first draft."
+ + +
Lesson 1 /
intro / course outline /
glossary / chat