Thursday, May 27, 2010

More From Wandering Souls

Another set of passages from Wandering Souls, by Wayne Karlin.

"In Joseph Campbell's description of the 'Journey of the Hero' monomyth, the journeyer is self-driven into exile by a sense that something essential is lacking in the community that nourished him. He goes down to a dark place people by demons, accompanied by a guide of doubtful nature, and there receives a wound. But the traveler survives that wound, and not only learns from the wounding but brings that received wisdom back to the community. The hero uses what he has learned - the wisdom of the wound - to change or fill what was missing in that community. The heroism is not so much in the journey as in the return; the journeyer makes the choice of moving back into his world again and attempting to fix it. That contemplation and universalizing o fthe hard-won wisdom of wounds is the difference between memory as therapy and memory as art, the difference between the therapeutic and the heroic. Philip Caputo describes the process in his postscript to A Rumor of War: 'The job of the battle-singer is to wring order and meaning out of the chaotic clash of arms, to keep the tribe human by providing it with models of virtuous behavior - heroes who reflected the tribe's loftiest aspirations - and with examples of impious behavior that reflected its worst failings.'

"Art, myth, and psychology mix, each an incarnation of the other. The need of some writers to wound the place they come from so that it can learn what they have learned, what it is responsible for, and so be worthy of homecoming, is echoed in Dr. Judith Herman's description of trauma and recovery. Trauma occurs, she writes, when a horrible event or events cause a break in one's own life narrative. On the other side of that break, you can no longer see yourself in the same way. Recovery from trauma starts to occur when you are able to tell your story, in sensory detail, to people willing to listen without judgment and willing to be changed by what they hear - in other words, when you can be taken back into a community that is willing to be wounded itself, willing to break through a comforting shell of protective myths and learn what you have learned. 'Healing from trauma depends upon communalization of the trauma,' writes Jonathan Shay. The damaged past must be brought back up into the light and contemplated for meaning before it can be mourned; it is what the individual must do for himself or herself, what the artist can create for the community, as O'Brien creates, in art, the face he could not bear look into before. If this communalization does not happen, you remain forever exiled, forever outside your community..... pp. 173-74]

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