Last weekend I attended the yearly Forum conference of the Northwest Alliance for Psychoanalytic Study. One breakout session was called, “What Happens to the Alchemist?’, facilitated by Sandra Christiensen, ARNP, Tanya Ruckstuhl, LICSW, and Gillian Vik LMHC. We participated in writing and art exercises exploring the response to collective trauma.
Tanya asked us to write a description of our perfect world. I had no idea my response would be so emotional. I had tears in my eyes as I wrote the following:
“In childhood the possibilities were limitless. Spirit reigned. Companions were filled with laughter and mischief.
I would have a world now that feels that way. A democracy that is real; social justice the primary value. Wealth used in service of this primary value, including imagination, art, nature, the new words carved on the base of the Statue of Liberty, She, Venus, our MS Liberty, welcoming not only our huddled masses yearning to be free, but our artists, our lovers of life.
Greed will be boring in my brave new world, banished to frogs who want more mantises in the night.
Humans will want light and community, with each other.
He would weep, I know this somehow, Carl Gustave Jung, holding a candle in the last year of his life. He saw a very dark vision for humanity—in a dream or a day vision.
Do I believe him? I have a granddaughter. She seeks joy. A future. Inside I flip back and forth, from despair to denial, “Oh even Trump can’t be so bad…”
Joy, where are you?”
The next part of our writing assignment was to take what we could from our Perfect World description and bring it into our lives now.
“Continue to make art, to love, to give. Call Pramilla (our representative in the US Congress) more often to tell her she’s doing a great job.
See, feel the beauty of the earth. See, feel, the gratitude for the wealth of my life: my family, friends, the amazing people in my psychotherapy practice, the Daphne blooming in the garden.”
Many of us in the workshop read our writing aloud, both The Perfect World, and the Alchemical distillation of it into the now. We left talking among ourselves, sharing what flowers we were planting in our gardens, what marches we were going to attend. There was a lightness, and, yes, a joy.
The ancient Alchemists practiced in secret, attempting with their art to transform lead into gold. We can take their example and strive each day to transform our worry, our grief as we witness so much trauma in the news, into the experience of the now. There we can find the gold of activism, and the resplendent wonder of nature in Spring.