Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Playing with Mythic Meanings

Originally posted on July 26, 2013

Oh, sure, one part of life generates meaning, at first unconsciously, then more consciously. What is fun, though, is to add extras—all the possible stories that never were or are. I play many parts, some more real and serious, some more imaginal.elf

For millennia we had stories that were sort of believed. The degree to which they were believed by what percentage of the people is not recorded. Perhaps it didn’t matter. But in the last five hundred years or so, it became a big deal: Which stories would folks take as literally true and which not? There were so many variations, and people fought wars and burned and tortured other people as heretics or whatever because of beliefs. So it’s gotten so that we should take care with what we believe so that others aren’t hurt by these ideas.

One way to soften the process is to realize that believing is not an all-or-nothing proposition. Kids believe part-way; they know they’re playing; they’re really involved; but not so involved that they can’t stop, or modify the play if the other players get too rough. It’s a rather healthy skill to use, to be able to tolerate this in-between state.

Lynda Barry writes in her books on art about sustaining a loose hold on reality, on knowing, on trying to do it “right” versus playing and exploring and fooling around. This in-between state is really a very important achievement. It lightens so much up, and allows the unconscious room to get aligned and make its constructive contributions.

So I make up characters, worlds, and such; enjoy tall stories and exaggerating kids’ songs; cartoon a lot and resonate with other creative souls who similarly hang out in the realm of “pretend.” It’s not all little kid stuff, but neither does it need to be dark and full of nastiness in order to be grown-up.

I confess that mainly I do it for myself and my wife, for fun, sometimes with my kids and grandkids. But really, shifting roles to my past career as a psychiatrist, reflecting on the problems of the world, and problems of people, I think one of those problems is that few people give themselves permission to enter this in-between world.

It’s no harder than learning to swim, which is also in-between deep water and air. Come on in!


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