Thursday, April 24, 2014

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Threading Our Way toward Wholeness by Writing
Reflective writing is a conduit for memory. One prime stimulus for eliciting memories for reflection is returning to a location where one has spent time in the past. Twice I have returned to live in an area where I lived previously. The first time, ironically, I was returning to a community just outside of Asheville, North Carolina, the town that author Thomas Wolfe made famous in his novel You Can’t Go Home Again.

I did go home again, wandering the streets of Asheville with one foot in the 1990s and the other in the 1950s. Walking up Patton Avenue toward Pack Square, I saw the Woolworth five and dime store where my mother treated my sister and me to club sandwiches with fountain cokes on our rare shopping trips in town. I was pleased that the wonderful Art Deco building that formerly housed Woolworth’s still graces the avenue. On the other side of Patton Avenue, I could feel the old Imperial movie theater where I watched endless movies as a child. Now, that space is a parking lot, nicely landscaped, but still a parking lot. My younger self, however, still hovers somewhere in that space among the parked cars and trimmed shrubs, eating pop corn and watching Doris Day films .

The two time frames were superimposed on one another and hard to disentangle. Walking the avenue in the 1990s, I found myself remembering a particular day shopping with my mother (in the days before the Civil Rights Act) in a popular department store and begging her to let me drink from the Colored water fountain. She agreed, and I trotted over to take a drink. I must have had a strange look on my face when I turned around because she asked me what was wrong. In a voice I know reflected disappointment and, perhaps, some aggrievement, I responded: “The water isn’t colored; it’s just plain water.” The childlike, literal take on the sign’s message reveals the underlying dissonance of such signs from that time. The dissonance of that memory affects me still.

These experiences–both walking up Patton Avenue in the 1950s and again in the 1990s, plus now writting about these memories in the 2010s–these experience are all alive in my memory. My experience is manifold; it is layered and complex. Each memory creates its own meaning and each added layer of memory creates more layers of meaning, and all the memories coming together create yet another wholeness. Writing is my means of threading my way through to the wholeness.

I’m reminded of Ariadne’s thread (in one version of the Greek myth) that she leaves for Theseus in the labyrinth so he can find his way past the Minotaur and come out of the labyrinth safely. I am both Ariadne and Theseus (they were half-brother and sister), following the thread that I have left myself in my own labyrinth of memory.

Writing is such a helpful and creative skill. Word by word, we weave our way to greater meaning and understanding, following the thread of our experiences, our memories, our insights. One magic of reflective writing is that it can conflate time frames: the disparate events flow together and we are able to understand them in the context of one another. We weave our way forward toward a newer level of understanding, hopefully toward a larger wholeness than we began with when the reflections began.

Happily, I take up the thread again and again as I write. In this response, I hear an echo of one of Maharishi’s favorite quotations from the Bhagavad Gita.

“Curving back upon My own Nature, I create again and again—creation and administration of creation, both are a natural phenomenon on the basis of My self-referral consciousness.” (Bhagavad-Gita 9.8),

Resources:

“Ariadne.” Encylopedia Mythica. Retrieved January 17, 2011 from
http://www.pantheon.org/articles/a/ariadne.html The Gita quotation is taken from Tom Egenes’ text for his class on Vedic Expressions.

For further discussion, one can read more about self-referral consciousness in the following:

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Bhagavad Gita: A New Translation and Commentary, Chapter 1-6. Fairfield, IA: MIU Press, 1976 (1967). 


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