“Bring me a rose in the winter time, when it’s hard to find.”
“Well, dear Father,” she said, “as you insist upon it, I
beg that you will bring me a rose. I have not seen one
since we came here, and I love them so much.”
Beauty and the Beast: De Villeneuve
It’s snowing in the Pacific Northwest. Just a light dusting actually, enough to evoke the nostalgia of childhood when all seemed well with the world. I would like to be there again, but the post-election reality of a world turned upside down, fear and despair nipping at the heels of holiday preparations won’t let me go down memory lane. At least not in childhood memories. More is needed to nurture a response that is not contaminated by fear, a hope that is not based on clichés. We need to dig deeper into the archetypal world, the world of imagery that can offer us a radical -to the roots- reality of how to transform individually and collectively. So, give me rose in the wintertime.
I love the song by Ernie Sheldon and found myself humming it this weekend as I struggled to stay positive about the future of our country and our world. I participated in a colloquium with colleagues from around the world on Stillpointspaces, an international platform for analysts, therapists and counselors. We spoke of the loss of the container, the loss of certainty and vision that is sweeping the world. Brexit, Italy’s refusal of reforms, the collapsing of the distance between the far left and the far right. Trump. The revelation that the split between the conscious and the unconscious can no longer be ignored. So, yes, I hummed give me hope when it is hard to find, give me peace when it is hard to find, remind me that something can emerge from these dark times. Austria rejects the right-wing candidate, the Dakota pipeline will not go through tribal lands. Yes, give me a rose in the wintertime!
For two years, five women from the Assisi Institute community met to discuss to the foundational fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, based on Marie Louise van Franz’s Interpretation of Fairy Tales. A curse is put on someone. Why? We don’t know. A father loses everything twice and allows his daughter to take his place when he steals a rose from the Beast’s garden. There is no mother. A daughter is willing to enter the lair of the Beast to save her father. Love conquers all in the end, Beauty, finally sees the human behind the cursed Beast and chooses him over the demands of her family. The holy coniuintio is achieved. In Cocteau’s 1947 movie, the resplendent Beauty and the Beast ascend to a heavenly realm - prince and princess live happily ever after.
In our group though, we saw this fairy tale as more than a ‘coming of age’ story more than a template for human development, anima and animus both. We wanted to know who put the thought of asking for a rose into Beauty’s head? What deep knowing and wisdom knew that the asking for the impossible and miraculous, would be the catalyst for the story? While Beauty does not know that her innocent request will take her father to the Beast’s castle in a winter storm, something deep in the Psyche did. We heard the voice of the Feminine whisper to her: hold out for the impossible, see beyond the temporal to the eternal, ask for the rose.
She says: Hold out for the possibility of life emerging when it ‘ought’ not, when the conditions are harsh, the ground cold and unyielding, the sun low and unwarm. She says: ask for the impossible, and then follow the story as you confront your fears, your inner voices, the way good girls ought to be. Be brave, see clearly, hold on to the tension between the opposites, winter – rose. And then choose. Choice is the active expression of an ego who knows the costs of consciousness and is willing to pay the price. It is the one who engages in the fight against the forces that would keep it in thrall to the collective values and give in, give up. She says: Ask for the rose and then go to the castle.
We do not go into the castle as naïve young women, regardless of our ages. We go into the castle to see beyond the surface of things into the reality of this world and our part of it. We will do what is in front of us to do and what is inside of us to transform. We will meet one another at Seeing Red, where the ground may be softened, where we bring warmth, and hold on to the vision of a rose emerging from the snow. As Stephen Mitchell writes in Parables and Portraits about the camel who dove through the eye of the needle: “It is not just that such things are possible,” the camel thinks, smiling. “But that such things are possible for me.” Give me rose in the wintertime. Every time.
"Quick! Hide! They're coming!" I couldn't keep the smile off my face as my two young adult children acted like much younger children, scrambling through the kitchen and living room, giggling and squealing and looking for a place to hide in order to jump out and surprise their brother and his wife who were arriving for the Thanksgiving holiday. All of us joined in the conspiracy as the newly married couple walked through the front door. "Hello? Anybody home?" they shouted into the silence. Then, just as they stepped into the kitchen, the conspirators jumped into the open with shouts of "Surprise!" and squeals and laughter erupted as all of us exchanged hugs and celebrated this holiday focused around homecoming and gratitude and food.
Admittedly, going into this particular Thanksgiving, following on the heels of the recent presidential election, I was struggling to shake myself out of a pervading sense of despair and despondency even as I cleaned and put up holiday decorations. However, as our tribe began arriving via planes, trains and automobiles, coming through our front door loaded with suitcases and their favorite pies as contributions to the feast, the voices of loved ones ushered me into the archetypal world of Hestia. The despair and dread that seemed to have hung like a thick cloud in the air after the election, slowly started lifting even as smells of homemade ravioli and champagne basted turkey permeated our home.
As the Thanksgiving weekend wound to a close and I packed tupperware containers full of leftover turkey, stuffing and desserts to send home with our kids, I put a smile on my face to hide the bittersweet goodbyes of seeing them off to their respective parts of the country. While it was difficult to see them go, I knew there was something waiting for me to unpack even as I helped them pack their overstuffed suitcases. Later, that evening as I drank a cup of tea by the woodstove and tried to reacclimate to a home now, strangely silent, I was able to get still enough to listen to what was knocking at the door. I opened my e-mail and read the poignant words of women from all around the country traumatized by this election and asking what can we do, where do we start?
We start by feeding ourselves, the deepest part of ourselves. We start by making time to do what feeds our souls. Whatever that may be. Putting on our favorite pair of PJs or threadbare sweatpants. Going for walks in the mountains or by the ocean. Curling up in a chair by the fireplace. Letting ourselves grieve and mourn and at the same time, digging deep, deeply enough to hear her. That deepest part of ourselves that connects us to something greater than ourselves. She is still here. She is not silent and she can not be voted out of office.
She is calling us to radical hope as defined by Jonathan Lear when he writes:
"What makes this hope radical is that it is directed toward a future goodness that transcends the current ability to understand what it is. Radical hope anticipates a good for which those who have the hope as yet lack the appropriate concepts with which to understand it." Here is where Lear echoes what Rebecca Solnit writes so eloquently about in her book, Hope in the Dark: "Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act."
This is not an ephemeral hope based on fluff. It is not a manic defense. This is a hope that mandates courage because it is a hope that calls us to act, to engage with the messiness of humanity, to be honest with all the ways in which we "other" others and to have the fortitude to see those places where we "other" ourselves. Radical hope lives in the margins, on the fringes, outside of the easily travelled highways of popular opinion. It is radical because it dares to imagine possibilities not yet seen let alone embraced. It calls for courage because it will ask things of us we have not yet brought to the table.
This radical hope lives in the creative unconscious. To the degree that I am able to pay attention to the imagistic language of my creative unconscious, I will be connected to a psychic reality that is able to disrupt the despair and despondency of this post-election climate with new possibilities and new pathways forward. These are times of challenge and uncertainty and as Rebecca Solnit reminds us: "in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act." The answer to the question so many of us are asking: "What can I do?" will not come from outside ourselves. The answer is waiting for us to make space for her. She is here. She is waiting for us to open the door and make room at the table.