When I was in my thirties I saw a very good psychiatrist once weekly for a few years. He’d escaped the holocaust as a child. He wrote about prenatal psychology. He loved rabbits. He told me to read Freud when I was Jung and to read Jung as I grew old. This past year I’ve studied Jung’s red book, a hard read. It is a visionary work, a record and exegis of personal vision. His vision proposes its own transpersonal nature. He still believes in the transpersonal subconscious. I listen to lectures I downloaded to guide me through this formidable text, this fool thing.
The lecturer, one doctor Owens, talks about how humans live in two worlds, how the inner reality which we call the psychic realm is no less real and no less infinite than the outer cosmos. He says that in accord with the spirit of this time we look mostly outward into time and space.
Dr. Owens says “Some people have visions. Almost everyone has impressive dreams at some point and we let them go. but there have been people across time who, in having visions, took them as real, as important, and they made ethical judgements about them, integrated them into their sense of what it was to be human and conscious. He speaks of a feeling called ‘solistalgia’ for what is lost from generation to generation in our long, long history. Jung repeats that history is key, says there cannot be a psychology without history.”
Owens defines ‘solistalgia’ as the sense of loss of an ecological environment that one has known. He says “Often one’s sense, one’s set point of what one has known, is a place where one grew up as a younger person. And as years pass you go back and you feel the change and you feel a nostalgia, a loss for what’s gone, for old meaning. But the problem is that this sense of loss is reset with each generation. We only know what we have lost in our own lifetime, what we have seen gone in our own lifetime”.
Doctor Owens says it occurred to him that when Jung talked about history as a key in understanding the psyche, he was talking much about this concept, How we don’t know what we’ve lost because we don’t know what we had, what we once felt, what we once knew, what we once experienced in terms of the psyche. Our age has become distant from, he says, a primary affirmation of meaning in the collective unconscious.
There can be no psychology, no understanding, critical psychology without history, without a sense of what it is, what it has been and perhaps what it will be, to be human. To become aware of the inner, the timeless reality we must give it our attention, we must turn to the depths, for gnosis, for vision.”
Doctor Owens’s enthusiasms have kept me company through many nights.
Doctor Owens’s enthusiasm compensates, I fear, for my lack of it. I get a contact high. His voice reassures me. More than once I’ve noticed ruefully, even wistfully that I am like my mother listening to her southern gospel radio preachers late at night as she has always done. He is a good speaker and I am often absurdly lonely, illustrating my own private solistalgia for posterity.
There are always places in town where people who share interests gather for bickering and backrubs, like anyplace. I spend part of a day every week moving among them with my small devices and a dry novel in my bag. I hit the bank, the deli early in the morning, jug city. I was born and raised here. There’s a bit of an artsy strip in what’s left of the old architecture. Tattoo and vape shops. I talk to a woman I’ve known since kindergarten about her upcoming court case, about her mother’s poise behind the ice-cream counter all those years, about my new Blundstones. If you’re nice to everybody you get an overview of the gossip.
I go to the grocery store. The summer tourists are gone so I know most faces from my school years. The eye contact is less dismissive, less harried, more sure of its place here now the summer people are gone. I see old faces that I recall as they were young. We smile and recognize each other, forgive one another for getting old. The prices are a little lower here and there, not much. As I poke at produce I tell myself “Nostalgia is a displacement activity. Have vision? Sell paintings of it and get the hell out of town.”
In the parking lot I walk through ghosts of slab alley houses long ago bulldozed, paved over. I notice old family traits in passing faces, in people’s gaits. We played hide and seek here among wooden houses built in the local style. The humility of those buildings, the local vernacular, became an embarrassment in time. The mortified people felt cut off from the world. The vernacular now is chain joints with parking lots. Now the renovations embarrass. We look like everywhere awful. You’d have to be pretty fucking thirsty to walk to the new liquor store they built outside of town but you can buy a car in a couple places on main street.
On holiday I lay on a sofa in a shotgun house half asleep all afternoon listening to the trains and after dark wandered up over the tracks to the quiet edge of the boozy dance quarter by myself to a makeshift place with a piano around which Canadians play chess. One night I nearly stepped on a possum among the gnarly roots and broken pavestone on the patio. Little white head tilting up like a Georgia O’Keefe cow skull.
Keep the paint in your dark areas thin. That’s my advice.
Don’t speak of a god, speak to a god.
Paint with an intransitive love, a love without object. The painter David Milne talked of it in his diary. It isn’t too choosy. It doesn’t pine. His words always stuck with me like a koan.