Category Archives: art

WandaVision: Unconscious in Our Episodes

“So long, darling….”

 

“Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”  — Marianne Williamson

 

The final episode of WandaVision has been in the past for a while now, so I’m figuring that any of you who were interested in seeing it already managed to do so. If not, I must add:

**SPOILER ALERT!**

I’m a rather vague and desultory fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That is, I’ve seen most of the movies from the past decade, and I was heavily into Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., mostly because of my crush on Clark Gregg (Agent Phil Coulson), but I don’t have the wide-ranging background knowledge necessary to understand WandaVision with all its cross-references, or the memory to keep track of everything I have seen over the years.

So I wasn’t really expecting to be, but I was immediately enthralled with this oddest addition to the MCU, and now I’m seriously crushing on both Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen.

We see the origins of a whole crew of super beings in this series, and those who knew them from the comics were excited to have them show up on the screen. The superhero tropes weren’t the point, though, and like some of the critics whose work I’ve read, I was a bit jarred and almost annoyed when the final magic-fire-smiting battle of the witches came along, iconic and necessary though it was. We were in it more for the small-screen, intimately emotional story at the core. 

Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff is incandescent even when she’s not throwing red fireballs around the neighborhood. She is catastrophically powerful, exquisitely vulnerable, and most of all profoundly broken. In her short life she has lost her parents, her home, her brother, her husband, and any chance at stability or normality. Unable to bear the latest and sharpest loss, she has retreated into a comforting world constructed from the American sitcoms that she enjoyed as a child, her last memories of happiness with her family.

 

 

It’s a perfect story for our reality-warped, grief-soaked, wrenchingly surreal time.

When the story begins, we’re confused and nonplussed. There is no explanation for the sudden appearance of these superhero characters in a ’50s-style sitcom. It doesn’t take long for the characters themselves to begin to realize that they don’t belong there and something is terribly wrong. At some level Wanda realizes that she’s creating this televised reality (including the pithy commercials) but she fights that knowledge with everything she’s got. Messages break through from the outside, but she rejects them. She has to be forced to understand what she has done.

It seems to me that this is pretty much what we’re all doing every day. 

Like Wanda, we are terrified of our own power and of the responsibility that comes with it. Wanda has been told that she is dangerous and will destroy the world. As individuals, we are unlikely to do that, but as a species, we know the destruction we are capable of, even as we protest our innocence.

The sitcom world is enticingly free of such concerns. Vision is the perfect husband, devoted, caring and empathetic, poetic and philosophical with a charming edge of goofiness— not to mention able to fly, walk through walls, and protect his family from sundry technological and supernatural attacks. Yes, he’s a synthezoid, but hey, we’ve made worse choices in romantic partners, right? Don’t judge.

And of course he is perfect; he is Wanda’s creation, everything she wants him to be, and he becomes acutely aware of that. In the series finale, just before the artificial world disintegrates and he is destroyed, he asks Wanda, “What am I?” She explains, ripping our hearts out: “You, Vision, are the piece of the Mind Stone that lives in me. You are a body of wires and blood and bone that I created. You are my sadness and my hope. But mostly, you’re my love.”

We do not, most of us at least, create our lovers’ physical forms. But I will argue that in a sense we create everything else about them. Do we ever know the true nature of anything we perceive, or only what we perceive of it? Demonstrably no. So do we ever know the true nature of the people in our lives, or only our perceptions of them? The answer is obvious.

(When I was a teenager, this truth slammed into me suddenly when I saw it in a play, before I was ready for it. I had a sort of nervous breakdown in response. I remember blubbering uncontrollably while my mother held me and wondered what in the world to do with me. Since then I have made peace with the fact that reality is slippery and undefined and no one quite exists as they appear.)

We all change form over time, and adjust to the programming necessary to live different lives. This is as true within one lifetime as it is across many. As Vision begins to dissolve, he recounts, with wonder, the very different forms he has taken over time. “Who knows what I might be next,” he concludes wistfully.

There is another truth embedded in this scene. Wanda has already stated firmly that “family is forever”— and that does appear to be the case in the real world, whether we like it or not! As Vision’s body dematerializes, the two agree, “We have said goodbye before, so it stands to reason…. we’ll say hello again.” Cheesy? Perhaps, but who cares? We needed it, and it’s true. Relationships don’t end with one lifetime/series/episode.  As for Vision, we know we can expect to see more of him in other stories, and most likely we’ll see the kids as well. 

 

 

I don’t know how to tell you what I was feeling as Wanda stood alone in the midst of the desolate lot that was all that was left of her dream home, or why I experienced that specific image with such intensity. It was visceral, a twisting in my chest, as if all the losses and griefs of the past year spun together into a black hole. All that even though I have not personally experienced the great losses that so many others have.  I believe that stories have been crucial to our emotional survival during the pandemic, but sometimes the processing they facilitate can be hard going.

So much more could be said about WandaVision, and so much has been.  Here’s a worthwhile example, an interview with someone at least as enthusiastic as I and way more knowledgeable about the MCU: https://news.yahoo.com/breaking-down-wandavision-thrilling-easter-235442212.html

I can’t end without mentioning everyone’s favorite quote, which we hear the real Vision say in a flashback: “What is grief, if not love persevering?”

Wanda is the heroine of this story, but she is also its primary villain. She has conscripted other living, conscious beings into her fantasy against their will, and that, too, is a fine metaphor for our time. The past year has felt like things just happen randomly, without our knowledge or consent, like we’ve been cast in someone’s movie for which we never auditioned. It’s good to be reminded that we are the writers, directors and producers.

Wanda says that she doesn’t understand her power, but she vows to learn. Let’s do that.

May the reality you create be beautiful and filled with love, and may it harm no one.


**********************************************************************

While looking for the Marianne Williamson quote above, I found some others that seemed relevant:

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”  — Carl Jung

“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.”  —Thich Nhat Hanh

“We are the sum of the things we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.” — Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” — James Baldwin

And the rest of the quote from A Return to Love:  “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

 

 

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When We Used to Dance

An eerie interlude with magical music by Kitka.

We will do these things again!

2 Comments

November 1, 2020 · 12:30 am

Our Lady burning

Delighted to see that these chandeliers still exist!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notre Dame means so much to me that I used some of my photos of her as the theme for this blog. Like so many around the world, I was stricken and in tears during the fire on April 15. It turned out that things were not as bad as we feared, and at least this time it was an accident, not another willful act of destruction. But as I worked on writing about it, the church and other sites in Sri Lanka were bombed, with great loss of life, on Easter morning. I threw out what I had written before, and wrote this instead:

 

Our Lady burning

At Sacré-Coeur I felt nothing.
That gorgeous edifice towering on its hill,
seen from everywhere, unable to be unseen,
never moved me.
I read that it was made
to bring back the flock,
rekindle faith in the heart of France.
Imposed as it is imposing,
it floats above the city
without root, it seems to me.

Notre Dame is my place,
central, home to my soul,
“where God lives,” as a friend said,
and Saint Michel hovers nearby.
The power must have simmered there
long before those stones were cut.
From the depths it infuses them,
rises like sap through those square towers,
spirit soaring despite the attenuated tops.
Imperfect beloved, at times unwell,
she has been clothed with misplaced additions,
but her identity has endured, her significance,
through violation and neglect.

Here, it’s been a hard time that has not stopped.
On the same day there was a local burning;
a child dead, others hurt, homes lost.
A small building but great importance.
The week before, death after death,
other children, a strange paroxysm.
My friend murdered by someone close,
leaving her own children.
Our city reeling, impossible events,
then more impossible events.
And Our Lady burned, and it seemed
nothing could be counted upon.

But that was not enough,
because this is the world
and it has humans in it.
To add to the month of churches torched,
we must have bombs,
and now we use them on Easter,
and more children and more mothers
must be blown away.
because the founders of our faiths
never got through to us
and we think God only lives
in our own kind of house.

(In the book it says, “Jesus wept.”)

The humans inside the churches
have also killed, also violated.
Hearing of Notre Dame,
some said good riddance.
A man entered another cathedral
with gasoline.

 

Hope

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notre Dame burned, by accident, on 4/15/19. On Easter, 4/21/19, a church in Sri Lanka was bombed during the morning services. All this followed arson attacks on churches and a social service organization in the south of the US. Here are some things others had to say:

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2019/4/15/1850518/-The-Barbarians-at-the-Gate-Rejoice-on-Daily-Kos-at-the-Death-of-Civilization

https://www.wired.com/story/the-notre-dame-fire-and-the-future-of-history/

https://johnpavlovitz.com/2019/04/15/notre-dame-reminds-us-that-we-belong-to-one-another/

https://www.thenation.com/article/notre-dame-fire-muslim-france-islamophobia/

https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/notre-dame-in-the-french-imagination
‘At moments of enormous and historic loss, one seeks, perhaps foolishly or with false reassurance, for some sense of continuity, including the continuities of disaster and renewal.’
‘…Still, the cathedral belongs to everyone, and everyone is rooting for its restoration. The French leftist and staunch atheist Jean-Luc Mélenchon wrote on Monday evening that, while he could not see the hand of God in the cathedral, nonetheless, “If it seems so powerful, it’s without doubt because human beings surpassed themselves in putting Notre-Dame in the world. Those who feel the emptiness of a universe deprived of meaning and the absurdity of the human condition see here the apotheosis of the spirit of thousands of women and men who worked over two centuries and eight hundred years.”’

http://www.sacre-coeur-montmartre.com/english/history-and-visit/article/the-origin-of-the-construction-of
(Sacré-Coeur will celebrate its 100th birthday this fall.)

And here are a few moments of heaven:
https://www.facebook.com/eleneguschdom/videos/vb.1579282359/10216830307341533/?type=3

 

Behind the cathedral

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In happier times

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More Healing Mandalas from CJ, and Her New Book on the Wolves!

Mandala055I am beyond delighted to tell you that CJ Rogers’ first book, Raised By Wolves: A Pack Odyssey has been published and is now available.  It tells the story of her first four years of living with and learning from the wolves.  She has a great deal more still to say about the couple of decades between then and now, and further books are in the works.

http://www.amazon.com/Raised-Wolves-Odyssey-CJ-Rogers-ebook/dp/B01BUI0TTM/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1458078390&sr=1-1&keywords=cj+rogers+wolves

You may remember that CJ is known as the Jane Goodall of wolves.  She knows them more intimately than perhaps any other human on the planet.  If you have any interest in wolves themselves, the development of early human societies and our relationship with canines, or the natural world in general, you will find a lot to think about here.

When I introduced you to CJ’s fascinating artwork a while back, for some reason I was unable to access the website that houses many of her mandalas, and all I had to show you was a few poor-quality photos.  Here is a look at the huge bounty of designs she’s done, including some new ones:

http://www.cjmandalas.com/

CJ was describing to me how life-saving this process of drawing mandalas has been for her during times of the most extreme pain and illness.  She has highly recommended that I try it, but my little attempts have not resulted in anything much so far.  Maybe you’ll have more success yourself?

CJ doesn’t have web access in the area of rural New Mexico where she lives, but please feel free to contact her through the website, and the message will be passed on to her.

 

 

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Healing Mandalas by CJ Rogers

toward I-40 from CJ's

Dr CJ Rogers lives in far western New Mexico, with a pack of wolves whom she cares for and studies.  She is known as “The Jane Goodall of Wolves.”  To get to her research station, you go waytheheck out from I-40, along a road that looks like this picture.

You can find out a bit about CJ’s* work and see photos of the wolves at http://raisedbywolvesinc.com/index.html.

The reason CJ and the animals are waytheheck out there is that when they lived closer to so-called civilization, people shot at the animals, and some were killed.  Even though they were quite safely kept behind a high chain-link fence and could not possibly have harmed anyone.  Some people seem to have the idea that any and all wolves should die, no matter where they are or what they’re doing.

That was a long time ago, but the trauma still reverberates.  In more recent years, some of the wolves have naturally reached the end of their lives and passed on.  Each one was a beloved, important, and individually known and understood member of the community, and each was greatly mourned.  The wolves have their own ways of dealing with grief.  CJ, who worked as a Jungian psychotherapist before the wolves came to her, painted mandalas to work through her thoughts and feelings.

These mandalas were done through an intuitive process with the symbols arising spontaneously, not planned ahead.  They have been put up on the Web in the past, but somehow became lost there, so I am taking this opportunity to put them in front of more eyes.  I wish I had had the equipment available, while visiting out there, to take clearer photos.  I also wish you could see the real thing close up, because they include dimensional gel ink and have texture as well as color.

Often mandala-making is recommended as a means of spiritual and psychological development or working out problems, finding out what’s in one’s head.  I’ve taken a class or two that involved it, but I couldn’t do anything remotely like this.  Recently, CJ recommended that I try making a mandala again.  I demurred, but then a patient brought me some adult coloring pages, with of course a mandala on top.  OK.  I pulled out the colored pencil collection and got started.

I hope you will enjoy these images whether you are inspired to try your own or not.  Feel free to zoom to see the rich detail.

CJ mandala 1

CJ mandala 2 cropped

CJ mandala 3

CJ mandala 4 cropped

CJ mandala 5 cropped

CJ mandala 6 cropped

Please note: Raised By Wolves is always in need of donations, but the address given for donations on the website is no longer correct.  If you would like to donate, and I hope you will, please contact me at EleneDOM@aol.com for the address.


* I don’t mean any disrespect in referring to Dr. Rogers this way– it just doesn’t feel right to call her by her formal title in this context.

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