Monday, May 18, 2009

On floating and childish things

Whenever I go to Evanston, Illinois - where I was teaching an Active Dreaming workshop last weekend - I like to walk the path along Lake Michigan up to what I call the Northwestern Message Board. This is a grand jumble of cement slabs and boulders behind the Northwestern university campus that the kids have adorned with the colors of their imaginations. You feel young hearts beating, and hopes running high. While some of the painted messages are out of the Hallmarks greeting cards aisle - "I will love you forever", "True love never dies" - some, whether borrowed or original, are infused with freshness and wonder.

It was raining hard as I followed the lakeshore path under the hood of a light windbreaker, but my heart still leaped when I saw the first signal from the Message Board: "COUNT ME IN", painted on a slab in big bold letters. Following the path up onto a headland, behind a young girl wobbling along on a creaky purple bike, I found an old favorite. A student artist went to great trouble to produce a painting of a couple in a kitchen who are about to leave ordinary reality in a transport of romance. The girl in the picture is holding a bouquet and starting to rise into the air as her lover, his feet already well off the ground, lifts her to join him in a kiss. The artist has added the inscription: "Will You Float With Me?" If we notice an echo of Chagall's floating brides, it's more than an echo - the kitchen scene is borrowed from Chagall's 1915 painting "The Kiss". But I hope the anonymous copyist still got full marks from his girl for his lovely invitation, and that they are floating gloriously through life.

I sat down on a bench just above the floaters to have a longish cell phone conversation with the wonderful couple who produced my "Way of the Dreamer" DVD series. The theme: producing a new DVD program on "Dreaming with Children". As we warmed to the theme, I was delighted to notice - just beyond the floating couple - a slab with this message: "The reluctance to put away childish things may be a requirement of genius." The quote is a neat backhand swipe at Paul's injunction (in Corinthians 11:13) about the need for a man to "put away childish thingss." I read the message over the phone with gusto. It turned out, again, to be borrowed material - from journalist and writer Rebecca Pepper Sinkler.
C.S.Lewis played with Paul's famous Bible phrase a slightly different way, while conveying a similar message: “To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”
I wondered what a man I had encountered the day before on the plane en route to Chicago's O'Hare airport would have made of this. As he tried to push through a crowded aisle, he said loudly, "Life is never easy, and it's never pleasant." I couldn't let this go. I looked up at him from my seat and said, "I do hope life gives you cause to change that opinion. Otherwise you may find that opinion walking ahead of you, giving you more and more reasons to believe it."
I walked further along the lakeshore path and found a message I'll bet wasn't borrowed: "Randy, you are more radiant than tungsten." I wonder where that led. What we encounter in life depends so much on what we can imagine. I am quite certain that if I go with the idea that I am "more radiant than tungsten" I will encounter - and attract - very different things on my life roads than if I insist on the mantra that life is "never easy and never pleasant".
In the Evanston workshop, a psychotherapist shared a dream in which she met two small people who had a planet to themselves, out among the stars. We were reminded of Saint-Exupéry's Little Prince. "Grown-ups never understand anything for themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them," we are reminded in that luminous book.
Drumming and dreaming and making up stories, we weren't afraid of "chidish things" during our weekend adventures. I led a journey to the Dream Library, where you can enter the world of any book or picture you like (including those that have not yet been seen in the world) or consult a master teacher. The assignment this time was to find and bring back "the story you most need to know and to tell." I was drawn to many stories, but then one asserted itself with a just-so-ness I could not resist. It begins like this:
I'm never afraid of the night, because Bear is with me. Sometimes he goes ahead when we travel. Sometimes he holds my hand. Sometimes he stays behind, but holds the end of a red cord he ties around my middle so he can pull me back in a hurry. Everyone needs a Bear.


Barbara Butler McCoy said...

I am always so very grateful for the work you do and the insights you share with us, but this quote is absolutely wonderful: "I do hope life gives you cause to change that opinion. Otherwise you may find that opinion walking ahead of you, giving you more and more reasons to believe it." So many times I've wished for the words to gently introduce someone who is, as the blackfoot say, 'down-minded' to the power of their thoughts. Thank you for this. Wow.

Donna K said...

hi Robert -
Tungsten is also called "Wolfram". And Indeed, everyone Does need a Bear...
Wolves & Tigers and Bears - Oh My!

Karolyn said...

Beautifully written Robert - I think the task of childhood is to learn, but the task of adulthood is to un-learn so much of what was passed on to us in the guise of getting us to "grow-up!" Yes we've got to practice some "mind-unfullness" and do a regular brain dump of no longer useful programs of guilt, shame, fear, insecurity, grandiosity, jealousy, worry doubt...its by our constant focusing on them that they become prayers in their own way for things we dont want. I am sad for that man that somehow got the download that life was more about pain instead of "float with me". Hopefully your words broke the spell that was cast over him, probably as a child. So glad you are helping not only the kids to stay in contact with their wise child, but the grownups as well!

Robert Moss said...

Yes, dear Karolyn, so much of our cause is about helping grown-ups to reclaim the "wonder-child" within them.

Barbara, it's always wonderful to hear your warm and generous voice.

Donna, thanks for the mineralogy! May you too glow "more radiant than tungsten."

Unknown said...

On Monday when you posted this, I was introducing women (ranging in age from 65-75) to Laughter Yoga. There is always a theme of allowing ourselves to access "child-like joy"- but I opted to focus the entire session on this theme, so I brought along bubbles, butterfly nets, crayons, jumpropes, hula hoops - and, best of all, our imaginations. I was overjoyed by the light that came into their eyes and glow in their smiles as they were given permission to "play" with "toys"- have fun - and surrender to their inner kids.

It's even more reinforcing to come here and read this today. REALLY excited about the DVD project! ;-)

Unknown said...

Yes, I need a bear. I would love a red rope around my middle.

I'm going to ask for a bear. I'll bet he/she will come for me. I'm ready.

Robert, the statement to the man who was always expecting the worst out of life, draws me up short. I think I've been doing that off and on myself.....thank you again.

Sometimes disappointments, cancer, old wounds, whatever make us afraid of trusting the universe to help and guide us.

Barbara, the term "down-minded" is very discriptive.

Thanks to all here and especially Robert.

Wanda Burch said... the end of a red I like that a lot. "My kind of bear," said one named "Trust."

anne said...

This post gave me goosebumps. I had just finished reading 'His Dark Materials' trilogy by Philip Pullman, and thinking about the friendship between Lyra and King Iorek Byrnison, and oh!
Thanks Robert Moss for your blog and for your work.

anne said...

Oh, and the trilogy is about parallel worlds...