As summer is coming to a close, my focus on the Enchanted Oasis is about finished. I need to return to some of the writing that I put to the side, partially because I have a book fair that I’ll be attending on September 8th for my book The Seven Foundations of a Resilient Livelihood.
It’s also feels about time that I return to more of a focus on the practical side of writing for this blog as we move into a new season next month.
How’s your writing been going this last season (summer or winter depending on where you live)?
Mine has been prolific in some ways and a dry well for others.
So this week, I want to share with you some quotes that have been attracting me back to my novel writer’s journey.
My first source of writing inspiration comes from Joseph Campbell:
Wherever the poetry of myth is interpreted as biography, history, or science it is killed. The living images become only remote facts of a distant time or sky. Furthermore, it is never difficult to demonstrate that as science and history mythology is absurd. When a civilization begins to interpret its mythology in this way, the life goes out of it, temples becomes museums, and the link between the two perspectives is dissolved.
To bring the images back to life, one has to seek, not interesting applications to modern affairs, but illuminating hints from the inspired past. When these are found, vast areas of half-dead iconography disclose again their permanently human meaning.
This particular passage not only inspires me to look at ancient mythology with a fresh view, it makes me want to be part of creating and reinvigorating the mythology of our time through my writing. For we are creating a mythology by the way we live our lives and the actions we take. It’s good for each of us to question our personal mythology, and not just accept someone else’s mythology unconsciously.
What myths are you creating or supporting through the way you live your life?
Do you have any half-dead myths that need to be enlivened again?
Some of the most important journeys in life happen after we first experience failure, and having learned from the experience, we start our journey again, with the gold of experience and wisdom guiding us.
Perhaps this has happened to you after failure.
You decide to love again, and find the love of your life.
You start another business and this time you succeed beyond your imagination.
You lose your health and through a new way of living you find a way to feel better than ever before.
You hit bottom with your finances and experience a quantum leap allowing you to rebuild prosperity to new levels.
Sometimes failing is exactly what we need to move to the next level in our life.
Have you ever experienced challenges that are resolved by returning again?
Are you on any journeys in life where starting again is the best way to resolves an issue?
This is part of the Enchanted Journey series for July and August 2012. Check in every day through August 4th to catch the whole series.
The way a book begins matters. It’s the same for a journey of any sort.
The first lines of a novel give us a sense of the style of the author, the storyline of the plot and often the genre we will be reading.
In the same way that a writer works diligently at creating and revising to create a great beginning of a work or story, we ought to spend some time making the beginnings of our journeys something special.
If you are starting a trip, a project, a family or any other beginning in life, have you put as much attention to the beginning of your journey as you are to the final destination?
This is part of the Enchanted Journey series written back in July and August 2012.
This post concludes my brief and cursory exploration of symbols of enchantment in this blog.
Outside of this blog, I’m currently writing more stories and in-depth discussion for a book that I hope to have published this fall, but can’t include it all here.
My goal is to share the highlights of this new book freely with you, and hope you’re enjoying this journey through our Enchanted Oasis.
When I was thinking about the topic of enchanted symbols, I asked myself:
What are the most powerful enchanted symbols in the world?
My mind immediately went to the powerful symbols we see in the external world:
Symbols for money
International Business Logos
Stories and Movies
Flags of Countries
All of these symbols influence our actions, whether we realize it or not, and are very powerful in both good and negative ways. We need to understand our personal and collective relationship to these symbols of power and control, as well as their positive side of freedom, peace and prosperity.
Yet, when I asked my spirit and heart this same question about the most powerful enchanted symbols in the world, I received a different answer.
One that may sound too simplistic or trite, but I don’t believe it is.
Spirit told me that our most powerful symbol of enchantment is our smile. The smiles and genuinely kind expression on the faces of the people around us are more powerful than we often recognize. Symbols of currency, business, country, and even religion are temporary. They will pass from existence some day. Some stories may endure for thousands of years, but if we put much focus on these symbols, even religious stories, we can miss an important piece of life.
Smiles are also temporary expressions. They can be recorded through art, but the true power and enchantment of smiling comes from daily use.
We may not understand or appreciate other people’s customs, food choices, beliefs, religions, points of view etc. Fortunately, the creator of Life made us capable of communicating unconditional love and peace through our face. No expression is more powerfully good than a genuine smile. It not only transforms others, it transforms us. Scientists are now recognizing that sometimes we can act as if, until it becomes true for us, though I’m not suggesting that you discard difficult emotional experience and only smile.
There is a reason, that this simplistic symbol 🙂 is used in so many places, including social media. There are other emotive symbols, and other expressions, but none of them bring as much good will and connection as a smile.
The most powerful stories share the timeless wisdom of how we need to cherish the gift of Life and be our best self in the moment. Every religion teaches this. And we can show our understanding and faith in something bigger than ourselves through our choice to smile.
We cannot hoard our smiles and save them for another day.In fact, the more we use this enchanted symbol to connect and appreciate the people and loves of your life, the more enchanted our life becomes.
There is much in life that can cause us to feel pain and sadness. Look at the News any day and you will see suffering. We cannot run away from heartbreak. Yet, even in the midst of whatever is happening in our life or the world, each of us, no matter what our situation, has received this gift to create the most powerful enchantment in the world – a smile.
For me the question for today, and the rest of my life is:
How have can I use my own magical power of a simple genuine smile to enchant my world today?
What do you think the most powerful enchanted symbols are in the world? I’d love to hear your ideas.
I leave you with this blessing:
May you every day enchant the world around you and receive the very best enchantment that life has to offer!
For millennia, humans have discovered and created symbols and stories of how the world works that protect and nurture us. Sometimes the symbols were called Gods and Goddesses, sometimes they were enchanted figures. Never has humankind had more access to more universal symbols than we do now, and maybe that is part of the challenge we face moving forward.
Perhaps, we need to choose more carefully the symbols we individually and collectively allow to guide our lives and art.
Many spiritual practices involve focusing on the good in life through prayer, or repeating a mantra or contemplating a sacred icon. Unfortunately, the pace of modern life often pulls us away from the very symbols that refresh our spirits, and we settle for a focus on stories of fear instead.
The Power of Symbols of Fear
Symbols have an energy about them, whether they are dark or light.
Yesterday, in America, we saw the worst case of the tying together of a dystopic movie about Batman with a horrible real life image of death and destruction. Some people blame Hollywood for creating visions and using symbols of violence and being able to spread them to us in ways that earlier humans never could have experienced.
Scientists say that humans pay much more attention to dark events and symbols of doom than we do to happier events because of how our brain works. The fear center in our brain is always on alert to protect us, so we are naturally looking out for danger and how a tragic event might happen to us. And of course the media and Hollywood play up to these fears, as does much of mythology and religion.
If we look back thousands of years, the fear center has dominated our mythology, particularly in our focus on mythical Gods of War and real life ones as well. Every spiritual master has taught us that we must move beyond fear, but that’s tough to do when you’re surrounded by messages and symbols of fear.
More and more people are recognizing that we can’t keep living out of that fear center in our brains and hope to create a better world, despite the fact that as human beings we are fragile creatures and can easily get hurt in the world. That’s why it matters what symbols we give our attention and focus.
Healing with Enchanted Symbols
What then is a practical alternative to dealing with the constant bombardment in our daily lives with negative messages and symbols?
First of all, I believe that religious symbols generally speaking have an enchanted quality inherent in their being that heals us. Almost every religion talks about miracles and our power to create them in our own lives through compassion and love. So focusing on religious stories, symbols and ideas is a way to heal with symbols for many people.
There are other types of symbols that can be healing and those are the ones we find in our stories and novels and movies. If you had to come up with a fictional enchanted symbol which is the antidote to modern fear, what would it be for you? How do you manage the symbols and stories that bombard you every day?
One of the ways I counter fear is to look for stories with a positive vision of the future, another is to look for ones from the past that contained wisdom we can still use. The third is to write my own stories. Two of my favorite enchanted symbols are the centaur and mermaids, and both of these figures are modified in my novel, in ways that you wouldn’t necessarily recognize the original symbol.
A centaur is a symbol of the capacity for both wildness and wisdom in man. The centaur Chiron was said to the be the teacher of Achilles, and for astrologers the planetoid Chiron is seen as a healing force in the sky. It interesting to see how we interpret symbols differently in different times of history. If you watched the Harry Potter movies, you saw centaurs running wild in the forest, mostly as symbols of wild freedom. This interpretation seems fitting for what we see in society now, because in some ways we have lost touch with the healing part of our animal nature.
Mermaids to me are connected with the healing power of water and our oceans, and are generally seen as gentle creatures that often rescue humans from shipwrecks and danger. The exerpt of my novel that I shared a while back included genetically modified whales, that in many ways serve as mermaids in my story.
Finding Your Own Healing Enchanted Symbols
We are living through a time when the conditions of human existence are changing so quickly, and we don’t have enough of a collective utopic or even positive future vision to offset the dystopic and life destroying symbols that are abounding in the world and our stories now. The creatures of enchantment that collectively have fascinated us in recent years have been werewolves and vampires, and dark knights.
For those of us who are writer, artists, thought leaders, societal change experts and healers, we need to be aware of our own symbols. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t create dark characters or symbols or stories. I just wonder if the world could use some different kinds of symbols and stories that uplift our hearts and minds. The great mythologist Joseph Campbell said we needed new myths for this new time in history.
This is one of the major challenges that writers and creative types of our time in history must address. If we want a better future, we need to be purveyors of new symbols or a new empowerment of old symbols with energies of peace and freedom and social justice that have laid dormant for too long. There is a need to create masterful new stories that go beyond violence, conquest and fear. Yet, we have to also to tell the truth of our fearful and violent times as well.
Here’s a few questions to consider:
Are there enchanted symbols that keep appearing in your life and stories?
If you had to choose a favorite enchanted symbol what would it be?
What period of history might it come from?
How might that symbol inspire others to view life differently?
What are the most powerful symbols in the world today?
Tomorrow, I’m going to complete this brief exploration of enchanted symbols by talking about what I believe have become the most powerful symbols and stories of enchantment in the world, and they might surprise you.
The first symbol of enchantment in my Enchanted Oasis series is the Green Man, a reflection of our longing for connection with nature.
Given the role of all plants in consuming our carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen in the air for us to breathe, perhaps the Green Man symbol is a mirror of something deep within us that knows we are more intimately connected to the green world than we realize.
If you’re unfamiliar with this symbol of enchantment, Wikipedia discusses the idea of the green man in this way:
A Green Man is a sculpture, drawing, or other representation of a face surrounded by or made from leaves. Branches or vines may sprout from the nose, mouth, nostrils or other parts of the face and these shoots may bear flowers or fruit. Commonly used as a decorative architectural ornament, Green Men are frequently found on carvings in churches and other buildings (both secular and ecclesiastical). “The Green Man” is also a popular name for English public houses and various interpretations of the name appear on in signs, which sometimes show a full figure rather than just the head.
The Green Man motif has many variations. Found in many cultures around the world, the Green Man is often related to natural vegetative deities springing up in different cultures throughout the ages. Primarily it is interpreted as a symbol of rebirth, or “renaissance”, representing the cycle of growth each spring. Some speculate that the mythology of the Green Man developed independently in the traditions of separate ancient cultures and evolved into the wide variety of examples found throughout history.
We are indebted to the artists and sculptors among us who create these beautiful symbols of man intertwined with nature. For my own part, the Green Man symbol shows up in the novel series that I’m revising this summer, in a slightly different manifestation.
The artistic use of enchanted symbols can also be a reminder for many of us to take practical action. The Green Man reminds us that it is in our best interest to remember our close connection with the trees of the earth.
There are many ways to work on the sustainability of our world, but in my opinion, few are more important than maintaining and rebuilding forests around the world. The challenge is that climate change is going to make this more difficult. Across the U.S. global climate change is creating fires that destroy forests like those in California this year, and without frosts to kill insects that attack trees, many species of trees are suffering. So, we’re going to have a battle on our hands.
Does the Green Man or other symbols of enchantment intertwined with nature speak to you?
If maintaining a green earth is an important issue for you, how might the use of an enchanted nature symbol in your art or life add to your commitment and actions?
As we continue our theme of the Enchanted Oasis, I thought it would be fun to explore symbols of enchantment, that we find in our lives and sometimes use in our writing.
The symbols we use and encounter in our daily lives, our stories and our mythology reflect so much about our longings.
For the next several days I’ll be sharing posts about several symbols — the green man, the minotaur, Chiron, mermaids, the phoenix, ghosts and genies of jin. These are symbols that have been meaningful to me and continue to appear in many places in our culture and its stories.
What symbols of enchantment speak most deeply to you?
As we continue to explore our inner and outer enchanted oasis, these symbols can be pathways to discover the questions that pull your life forward.