In Advent and Psychic Birth, author Mariann Burke shares a story C.G. Jung told about a dialogue with a Native American. The man said his tribe lived on the roof of the world and helped the sun travel across the sky. “We do this not only for ourselves, but for the whole world. If we were to cease practicing our religion, in ten years the sun would no longer rise.”
Burke cautions us not to dismiss this idea. She links the Advent imagery of emptiness and parthenogenesis with ancient winter solstice practices wherein the world died and was reborn. Humans actively participated in this process, and in the chaos between the death of the old world and the birth of the new.
Although we no longer think of this time as the literal death and rebirth of the world, it cannot be denied that we actively participate in the creation and continual re-creation of the world we live in, through ideas, beliefs, words and actions. Our making of meaning shapes the collective story as it unfolds, re-visions the past and projects the future. How would it change things to consider this as the man in Jung’s story does? To think that the living out of our lives, day to day, is a part of the making and remaking of the world?
As a younger person I remember at times feeling dwarfed and intimidated by a culture that often didn’t seem to reflect what I valued at all. The temptation was to hide the aspects of myself that clashed with that culture, to avoid conflict and protect myself. That temptation still surfaces often. When I was contemplating working as a therapist, for instance, I confessed to an older therapist whose work I very much respected that I questioned whether or not I wanted to go into a profession that had so easily embraced ideas I thought were irresponsible and reductionistic. She challenged me to consider the idea that one can change things just by being in the world and that it wasn’t always as important to fight and defend different values as it was simply to live them.