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Posts Tagged ‘puer aeternus’

c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is spent.

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” (Robert Frost)

Lately, as parents pass on and friends my age show signs of illness and decline, I look in the mirror and see that my own body, too, is beginning to succumb to the inevitable outcome of the material dimension. I passed the Puer Aeternus stage quite a while back, (when everything seemed possible and I was invincible) but recently, I have begun to contemplate how, exactly, I have spent my brief time here on planet Earth. I see that I have no children to justify my years, no pension, no fortune, no fame. Perhaps no one will even remember me…almost certainly not in a hundred years. It is an odd feeling to notice one’s body winding down, and yet to feel the Spirit, the curiosity and enthusiasm for life only just now beginning to wake up and stretch out. Does it happen like this for everyone? Perhaps this is where those phrases about life being over “all too quickly” and “in the blink of an eye” come from?

One thing that I know for certain…I have not spent my life following the herd. Sometimes in darker moments, I wonder if that was wise. But if given the choices all over again, I most certainly would have made creativity, intellectual and spiritual curiosity, and relationship the highest priorities…far above security, money and social acceptance. That may not be everyone’s definition of a life well spent, but it has been mine. When I temporarily lose my way, I remember this quote:

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children…to leave the world a better place…to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

“Not Following” (pencil, watercolor, gouache)

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is double.

Wizards and avatars aside, most of us cannot be in more than one place at a time, and virtually none of us will live forever. As a result of these limitations, life in a human body will be mostly about making choices.

It is an archetypal situation that pairs, or doubles, the seeming contraries of Joy and Grief. No matter how joyful it can be to choose something, inherent in every choice will be the other thing(s) not chosen… the other man, the other career, the other road… the other dinner entrée. It is the classic bitter-sweet experience… and one that becomes more pronounced as one’s years accumulate and death approaches. Perhaps humans have evolved beliefs in things like reincarnation and a heaven to compensate for the sense of things missed?

Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung (1875-1961), popularized the archetype of the puer aeternus, the eternal boy (or puella, girl), but it is a truth that has been around far longer than the recording of myth. The Puer embodies the very human resistance to the necessity of making choices in life, and the resistance to the limitations that are invariably part of those choices. The Puer in us wants to have it all… and with no consequences whatsoever! It is a stance on life that is not workable in the long-term. And it is a stance on life that cheats the Soul out of its learning experiences.

In The Book of Runes, Ralph Blum states that “The ability to foresee consequences before you act is a mark of the profound person.” But sometimes only negative consequences can be seen in the moment of choosing: options lost, forks in the road, doors closed. How do we choose wisely? By “… choosing with the heart, not the mind,” say all great teachers. By choosing what we love most, and would be most sorry to have missed…

The fear of making choices, popularized by the well-worn phrase, “Fear of Committment,” over-emphasizes the loss inherent in choice-making, and usually fails to take into account the joy of making a choice… a choice which naturally leads to more choices and more choices again, as a tree branches out from its trunk. To make a choice is not a dead-end. It is only the next step, the beginning of something new. ‘Choosing from the heart’ does require a healthy amount of faith and wisdom…faith that there will be no wrong choices… only lessons and more lessons… and the joy (and grief) of choosing once again.

What’s for dinner?

“Contemplation” (watercolor, pen & ink)

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