Sunday, June 6, 2010

Synchronicity Tales: Library Angels on the Plane

Portland, Oregon

I boarded the plane bound from Minneapolis to Portland with my in-flight reading in hand: Stephen Greenblatt's Will in the World, an excellent study of how Shakespeare rose from obscure origins to become the greatest writer in the English language. When I found my aisle seat, the fellow by the window asked how I was enjoying the book. Quite soon he was telling me how he was in Statford last year when the news broke that a hitherto unknown portrait of Shakespeare had been identified in an Irish country house and was then on its way to the bard's birthplace.
    My literate rowmate proved to be an artist and glass-blower. He gave me his card, which bears the following inscription:

bon vivant

I am a keen student of how people define themselves, and I told Marshall that this was one of the best three word self-definitions I had come across.
    Asked to define my own work, I spoke about how I help people to use dreams as a source of guidance and imagery for self-healing, and as the royal road to identifying our essential stories, the ones we want to remember and enact.
    He wanted to know more about the application of dreamwork to healing. I told him a little of the story of my friend Wanda Burch, a twenty year survivor of breast cancer who gives her own account of her use of Active Dreaming techniques in her brave and beautiful book She Who Dreams. Marshall took note of the title, explaining that he was on his way to Portland to support a family member who was recovering from cancer.
    Our conversation was interrupted by the arrival of a young man who took the seat between us. More introductions ensued. The young man told us he recently graduated from St Olof's with a degree in music. He is a vocalist who sang with the St Olof's choir all over the British Isles, and in many other places.
     I asked him whether it is true that composers tend to look down on librettists to the extent suggested in Robertson Davies' novel The Lyre of Orpheus, which I had finished the night before. He was unfamiliar with the novel, so I explained the plot, which turns on the creative pains and misadventures of an unlikely crew who set about trying to make an opera out of sketches by Hoffmann, with an entirely new libretto, while the long-dead composer watches from the limbo of composers who are waiting for someone to complete their unfinished work.
     "E.T.A. Hoffmann?" the new graduate echoed. "We studied him in my last semester." He gave me a rundown on Hoffmann's musical oeuvre, and asked about Hoffmann's second career as the author of dark fantasy stories, which were based in no small degree on his dreams and nightmares and sightings of apparitions, including several versions of the double or doppelganger.
    He spoke of a piece his choir had sung in his last concert, with lyrics from Goethe. His face fell when he added that the brilliant young composer was struggling with cancer. He had heard the tale end of my account of Wanda's use of dream imagery in helping to heal cancer, and asked me to repeat the details of her book.
    I think we were accompanied on that flight by angels who were both literate and caring.


Wanda said...

I have been a fan of your Airplane Synchronicity stories, as you know, since the first one you ever shared. I have even been present for some of them. It strikes me that I should fly alone more often - or on flights on planes large enough to have side-by-side seats. I have a few stories, but I am usually flying with family or I am on solo trips to Washington DC on planes so tiny that there is no seat neighbor.

And, wow! Thanks for sharing my story and my book, particularly in such distinguished book company and with such interesting people with interesting life stories of their own.

Anonymous said...

I recently had an interaction with a library angel which then manifested as a synchronistic experience. I was going out for some coffee this morning when my trip was interrupted by multiple families of geese bringing their young goslings across the main st. of my town. During this pause I thought about posting the experience on your blog, but then discarded the idea because I thought it too trivial. But then when I checked you blog and saw both synchronicity and library angels in the title of this post, I thought maybe I should go ahead.

Anyway, Recently in a dream I was handed the book "Angela's Ashes" by someone who seemed to be a guide. I got the book and began reading it. I confess to having a hard time getting through the first half or so...So much hardship was difficult to read about. A few days ago I was talking to a good friend who is also an avid dreamer. We were discussing the master/servant relationship and how in its most pristine state the roles can become blurred. Later I was thinking about this and how it was really the essence of the Tao as opposed to opposites. Then I remembered the gospel story of Jesus washing the apostles feet. This touched me deeply. I then picked up Angela's Ashes after ignoring it for over a week. And read the part where the author as an 11 y.o. went to confession because of guilt after stealing food due to hunger. After being told of this sin and his desperate situation the priest was overcome and told him he was absolved and to pray for him as he was not worthy to wash his feet. So I guess I now know where to focus my efforts!
Thank you Robert for helping to see the significance of these experiences!
Your Humble Servant

Nancy said...

Thanks for "tale end". So fitting!

Marshall said...

Hello Robert,
I was was a pleasure meeting you on the plane, truly one of my own personal favorite "airplane synchronicities." I am tending to my sister, who is healing very, very well from her surgery. And I am enjoying the first of your books I have chosen to read, "the Three 'Only' Things, which essentially opens with stories of: airplane synchornicities!
I'm not one to always wonder what things 'mean,' being content to enjoy the shivers of an experience. I look forward to reading all of your books, and maintaining a correspondence in the years to come. And perhaps I will learn to remember my dreams, too. Cheers.

Alla said...

What a wonderful story! It seems to me that everything just snugs in places naturally by itself when you are traveling. :-) It made me wish to board a plane too... :-)

E.T.A. Hoffmann was one of my favorites when I was a teenager. I used to be ill a few times a year, and I loved reading in bed. We had a fat book by Hoffmann; my very loved stories were "Little Zaches, Called Zinnober" and (- sure!) "The Nutkracker and The Mouse King". He was the figure who inspired and influenced by his literary works many composers, and among others - Robert Schumann. I've never heard any of his musical pieces, though; probably, they weren't as bright as his fantastic tales.

By the way, what do you think about speculations on Shakespeare's personality mystification? Many years ago I read about the Ratfords (I think that was the name) - the earl and his wife. That article was at least very interesting; I have no idea how true it might be. History is a strange thing in general. It has always been manipulated, interpreted and misinterpreted...

Robert Moss said...

Wanda - I recount one of our shared experiences or "airline sync" (involving an encounter with a black dog on a plane) in my book "The Three 'Only" Things." In the same book, I discuss Andre Breton's suggestion that going around with a friend who shares the same passionate interests can produce a kind of doubling of magnetic energy, drawing incidents and encounters related to those interests even thicker and faster than otherwise. However, my general experience is that I tend to notice and attract many of the most remarkable cases of meaningful coincidence when I am alone on the road AND am seized with strong emotions and/or a driving interest.

Robert Moss said...

Mike - Thanks for stopping for the geese, and for sharing how you followed the reading assignment your dream gave you until eventually it made deep sense. I don't recall whether geese are mentioned in "Angela's Ashes" but of course the wild goose is one of the premier images of Ireland and the Irish, maybe especially appropriate for the Irish of the diaspora.

Robert Moss said...

Nancy - I noticed the typo, and decided to leave it as is. Every good tale deserves a tale end...

Robert Moss said...

Marshall - Sending blessings to your sister for her rapid recovery and return to vibrant good health. The right imagery - for which our dreams are the best factory we have - can be enormously helpful in healing and recovery.

Robert Moss said...

Alla - There are huge gaps in our knowledge of Shakespeare's life (which have encourage all thoughts of theories about whether there was more than one author of his astonishing body of work) yet as Stephen Greenblatt observes "more is known about him than about most professional writers of his time" and he was famous in his own day. I recommend Greenblatt's book as an elegant and probing study of what we can discern from the careful comparison of the content of the plays, the social and religious context, the documentary pickings and some common-sense psychology.