I was thrilled to sit down with my good friend Julienne Givot and discuss archetypes, movies and more for her popular show, The Archetypal Tarot Podcast. You can download the show for free on iTunes or listen online at the bottom of this page:
You are invited to post questions and comments about your experience starting out with The Way: A Journey of Healing and Self Acceptance in the comment area below.
We will post specific discussion topics in new posts in the coming weeks.
Visit this link to check in and see all of the discussion posts:
I begin the first reflection in The Way with a quote from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: “The whole of life lies in the verb seeing.” Mike Nichols taught my generation how to see.
College students in the 60’s memorized the improvisational comedy routines he did with his partner Elaine May. They and their contemporaries didn’t tell jokes like Bob Hope and Milton Berle and other favorites of the “greatest generation.” Their humor was different, edgier, situational rooted in the angst, neuroses, and existential panic of the first generation to grow up with the bomb.
Nichols first film, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf exposed people to a view of marriage and relationship that was the polar opposite of “Leave It to Beaver” and “Father Knows Best.” It shocked viewers as it hurtled forward at roller coaster speed moving audiences from laughter to heartbreak and back.
His second film, The Graduate (1967) was a cri de coeur for a generation who was being told that the future was “plastic.” The same year the film was released, “Don’t Trust Anyone over 30” became the generation’s slogan. Dustin Hoffman’s Benjamin, the rebel without a clue, became the symbol of its confusion and unrest, so much so that the July 11, 1969 cover of Life magazine features an image of Dustin Hoffman contrasted with an image of John Wayne and the caption: “Dusty and the Duke—A Choice of Heroes.” (I have a copy of the magazine.) At the end of “The Graduate” Dustin Hoffman and Katherine Ross, accompanied by the music of Simon and Garfunkel, escape without having any idea of where they were going. The songs gave voice to Benjamin’s inarticulate longing and to that of much of my generation.
More often than not his best films portrayed people trying not to lose their souls in an increasingly impersonal world. He followed The Graduate with an adaptation of Joseph Heller’s novel Catch 22 a satire of war that mirrored the nation’s frustration with Vietnam. Silkwood dramatized the efforts of the whistleblower heroine, and gave voice to baby-boomer paranoia and legitimate distrust of faceless corporations. Charlie Wilson’s War, Nichols last film in a career that spanned forty years, depicted an anti-hero’s maneuvering his way through the swamp of government bureaucracy in Washington.
Mike Nichols was an artist of his age and for the ages. His work challenged and inspired me and I will miss him.
After all of the excitement and getting folks to vote on the next Archetypes & A Movie course, we have pulled a switch-a-rooney! Julienne and I got part way into recording the ‘Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ and it just didn’t feel right. Both our intuition and wisdom told us that it simply wasn’t the right time for it. Having just taught “The Way” a few days before, it was the most timely and generative choice for the next audio workshop.
We plan to combine the recording of my talk in LA with the recording of the movie commentary plus even more bonus material. Look for the new course in late summer! (We’re hoping by September…)
Our apologies to everyone who voted for Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, it remains at the top of our list and we are sure that the course on The Way will be fulfilling as well.
Is it possible to make a pilgrimage in one day? Perhaps, not, but it is possible to begin! Spend a day with and on “The Way“.
When: July 12th, 9am – 3:30pm
Where: All Saints Church, 132 N. Euclid Ave. Pasadena, CA 91101
Fee: $55 (with lunch), $45 (bring your own lunch)
Many films are contemplative works of art, they meet us where we are and offer a mirror image of our inner selves.
The film, “The Way” is such a work of art. It follows four pilgrims as they travel the El Camino de Santiago de Compostela. It features actor Martin Sheen and is directed by his son Emilio Estevez. The film is powerful, inspirational, capturing the outer journey while illuminating the inner one.
Join teacher and spiritual director, Jim Curtan as he guides us along the route of the pilgrimage, pausing along the way, as pilgrims do, at various stages of the journey to reflect on the insight, inspiration and intuitive guidance we receive.
Jim has combined his 20 years experience in the entertainment industry with more than a decade as a retreat leader, archetypal counselor and spiritual director to develop a unique and entertaining approach to using film as a gateway to rich spiritual experience.
“The geographical pilgrimage is the symbolic acting out an inner journey. The inner journey is the interpolation of the meanings and signs of the outer pilgrimage. One can have one without the other. It is best to have both.”
-Thomas Merton, “Mystics and Zen Masters”
Many of you have already enjoyed the first edition of my ‘Archetypes and a Movie’ series: Ratatouille: Fate, Destiny & the Hero’s Journey. We are in the process of planning the next workshop and would love your feedback on what you would most like to see and learn from.
The theme of “pilgrimage” has been coming up quite a bit lately and pilgrimages can take many forms. While you don’t literally need to travel to go on a pilgrimage, it’s always a journey to the Sacred. The word pilgrim (from the Latin peregrinus) means a traveler, literally one who has come from afar.
Each of these films are an exploration of the archetype of the pilgrimage. We’d like to know which one you would most like to experience as an audio workshop.
Please take a few seconds to complete the 3 poll questions below.
Jim and Julienne
Film Choices for a course on Pilgrimage
The Way (2010) staring Martin Sheen
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011) staring Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith & Tom Wilkinson
The Darjeeling Limited (2007) staring Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson & Jason Schwartzman
Philomena (2013) staring Judi Dench & Steve Coogan
You can also use the comments below to suggest a film not on this list and tell us why you’d like to learn from it.
In the magnificent new document, Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis exhorts “all the communities to an ever watchful scrutiny of the signs of the times.” This, he says, “is a grave responsibility, since certain present realities, unless effectively dealt with, are capable of setting off processes of dehumanization which would then be hard to reverse.” Later in the document, the Pope says, “When we attempt to read signs of the times it is helpful to listen to young people and the elderly.”
St. Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuits, of which Pope Francis is a member, placed great emphasis on scrutinizing the signs of the times as a vital tool of spiritual discernment. As the product of eight years of Jesuit education, I have long been in the habit of paying attention to the signs of the time.
Here are some signs that caught my attention during the December 3rd broadcast of NPR’s Morning Edition.
- The median rent for an apartment in San Francisco has risen to $3400 per month. Evictions have risen 175% in the last three years as landlords and real estate speculators evict long time tenants to convert apartment buildings into condos. Many of these evictees are disabled or seniors on fixed incomes. The inner Mission District, home to a mix of working-class Latinos, artists and activists, has been particularly hard hit. Former Mayor Art Agnos says the city is struggling to keep families who make $60,000 to S100,000 per year in the city and “It’s all but over for the poor.”
- Every three years since 2000, 15 year-olds from around the world take a test to evaluate their skills in reading, math and science. Scores for U. S. students have been flat since 2003.
- Close to 2,000,000 new jobs have been added to the work force this year, however many new hires are working fragmented unpredictable hours. They are asked to commit to 5 days of availability for last-minute scheduling with no guarantee of work. Instead the employee waits on call while a computer program calculates the need for more or less staff to be called in during the day.
- Conservative columnist, Yuval Levin was interviewed about his new book, The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine and the Birth of Right and Left. He spoke about the distinction between governments run on principles and governments run on theories. The interview left little doubt that leaders in all three branches of our government have lost sight of the principles on which our nation is founded and have brought us to near-paralysis in a never-ending debate about theories—a debate which fails to serve or support the people.
- All of this good news was followed by the Marketplace Morning Report’s discussion of the 17% unemployment rate among young people 16-24. Harper’s Magazine Columnist, Jeff Madrick, a Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute noted that while corporations and special interest groups like seniors have full-time lobbyists representing their interests, young people who are “rapidly becoming the most disadvantaged group in America” have no voice or representation at all. College graduates who can’t find better jobs and seniors who can’t afford to retire are filling jobs that used to provide entry-level employment for the young. Madrick suggests that the popularity of movies like The Hunger Games and movements like Occupy Wall Street reflect young people’s growing dissatisfaction with the establishment. He ends the interview wondering, “Is rebellion the only way you’re going to get some justice out of the nation?” . . . “It would not be unprecedented.”
Another way of reading the signs of the times is by paying close attention to popular culture, movies and television. And this has, no doubt, been the year of the survivor. Dystopian societies abound in which the privileged and cynical 1% hoard food, medicine and resources while the 99% live in fear and misery as they do in Catching Fire, Elysium and most especially, 12 Years A Slave. Entrenched and inefficient bureaucracies, self- righteous in their superiority strangle others with their out-of-date often arbitrary rules, threatening the lives of AIDS patients in The Dallas Buyers Club and at-risk teenagers in both Short Term 12 and Fruitvale Station. The heroine of Gravity and the hero of All is Lost fight for life alone in the incomprehensible and unforgiving vastness of space and sea. The kidnapped hero of Captain Phillips discovers that captors are as desperate to survive as he is. When Captain Phiilips asks the hijackers if there isn’t something else they could do as an alternative to being pirates, their leader says, “Maybe in America.” Today some Americans might reply, “Maybe not.”
Although not all of the characters survive, their will to survive is a testament to the strength and resilience of the human spirit.
The only character in a major film that lacks the character and skills to survive is Jasmine, the privileged and entitled central character of Woody Allen’s latest film, Blue Jasmine. Unlike the characters in the rest of this year’s films, all of whom nature and the times have made into unsentimental realists, Jasmine clings to the groundless expectation that she will be magically restored to the station she unwaveringly believes she deserves.
Reflecting on the signs of the times, Joshua Cooper Ramo, in his book, The Age of the Unthinkable, says
“In a time of change and perpetual surprise we’ve arrived at a moment of peril that not long ago would have seemed unimaginable. . . . All around us the ideas and institutions that we once relied upon for our safety and security are failing.”
“In a revolutionary era of surprise and innovation,” he continues,” you need to learn to think and act like a revolutionary. People at revolutions who didn=t act that way have a particular name: victims.”
Jasmine and her larcenous, con-artist husband represent the culture of high finance, hedge funds and fraudulent mortgages—the fabled “1%” who manipulate markets, news media and the nation’s pay-to-play political system. Pushed to the wall, they are revealed to have neither courage, nor character, nor endurance. They are rigid and unable to adapt, to imagine a world other than the one they’ve lost. They are victims.
The younger generation of the 1% has no buy-in to the market. They get their news from John Stewart and Stephen Colbert who mercilessly expose the hypocrisies and folly of the elite. They are more likely to read the rigorous investigative reporting of Matt Taibbi and others in Rolling Stone than to scan the pages of The Wall Street Journal. They organize through the social media. They don’t watch television: they download entertainment from the internet. Walter White (Breaking Bad), the straight arrow high-school chemistry teacher who, screwed over by the system when he needs health care, becomes a ruthless drug lord is a folk hero. Heisenberg T-shirts abound.
Katniss, the heroine of “The Hunger Games”, along with the protagonists of Dallas Buyer’s Club, Short Term 12, Fruitvale Station, Elysium, Captain Phillips, and even 12 Years a Slave represent the “99%”. What unites these characters is their refusal to be victims; they inspire us with their refusal to submit passively or helplessly to the circumstances they find themselves in regardless of how hopeless and impossible they might be. They are rebels and revolutionaries.
Asked if he was an optimist, Pope Francis said,
“I do not like to use the word optimism because that is about a psychological attitude. I like to use the word hope. Hope is a gift from God that cannot be reduced to optimism, which is only human. God does not mislead hope; God cannot deny himself. God is all promise.”
In these chaotic times, these movies, most of which are based on true life events, speak to me like signs. They give me hope.
Happy New Year!
Hidden amidst the glut of over-produced and under-performing summer blockbusters and tired sequels, are a handful of movies that are worth checking out. Here are a few of my recommendations.
The East is a smart, complex, suspenseful thriller about the war the battle between eco-terrorists and corporate polluters. The morally certain heroine, played by Brit Marling (who also co-authored the screenplay), goes undercover to infiltrate and expose an anarchist group and discovers an alternately idealistic and violent commune. She finds her loyalties shifting as she discovers increasingly disturbing information about the agency that hired her and the clients it represents.
20 Feet from Stardom is a joyful, inspiring documentary recounting the lives and careers of five rock and roll back up singers who have sung with everybody from the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Tina Turner to Bruce Springsteen and Bette Midler. Among the featured backup singers is the legendary Darlene Love whose battle to escape the control of record producer Phil Spector provides the heart of the story.
Fill the Void is a beautiful and moving Israeli import about family, tradition, faith and the tension between choice and duty. It offers a rare glimpse into the hidden lives of Ultra-Orthodox Jews as they find ways to confront tragedy and renewal within the strong bonds of community. This is a masterpiece. Not to be missed.
Fruitvale Station. The recent Trayvon Martin tragedy may give this beautifully crafted film added resonance and timeliness, but it stands on its own as a powerful work of art, the best film I’ve seen this summer. First time director, Ryan Coogler has adapted the true story of Oscar Grant, a twenty-two year old black man who was shot in the back by a Bay Area transit officer on New Year’s Eve 2008. The film chronicles the last day of Oscar’s life. Although, the events of the day are ordinary, each moment is made precious by the viewer’s knowledge that it is his last. The film features Octavia Spencer (Academy Award winner for The Help) as Oscar’s mother and Michael B. Jordan (The Wire and Friday Night Lights) in a star-making performance as Oscar. Like the best works of art, this film is worth repeated viewing and reflection.
The Way, Way Back is a coming of age story about an adolescent forced to spend the summer at a vacation home with his divorced mother, her creep boyfriend, his nasty daughter and their dysfunctional neighbors. He finds refuge at a local water park where he is mentored under the tutelage of its eccentric staff. From the producers of Juno and Little Miss Sunshine and written and directed by the Academy Award Winning screenwriters of “The Descendants,” the movie blends comedy and pathos with the same expertise they brought to their previous movies. Featuring knockout comic performances from Allison Janney and Sam Rockwell.
Much Ado About Nothing. Joss Whedon, the creator of Buffy the Vampire Killer and the writer/director of last year’s highest grossing movie, The Avengers, would seem an odd choice to adapt and direct Shakespeare’s classic comedy. It turns out to be a perfect match. Filmed in black and white in only 12 days, using the director’s home for all the locations on a budget that was likely 1% of the budget for The Avengers, Whedon has created a sophisticated, playful, down-to-earth, romantic comedy. You don’t have studied Shakespeare to enjoy it.
Spiritual direction is a relationship in which the director assists you in the discovery of who you are called to become in fidelity to the inmost desires of your heart. It is a tool for cultivating your ability to recognize the voice of spirit and develop the faith and courage to follow it fully and freely.
If therapy addresses the question, “Who am I?” then spiritual direction addresses “Why am I here?”
Spiritual direction serves the person who is ready to step into the challenging exploration of “What does God/Spirit/the Universe expect from me? How may I best use my individual talents?”
“Joy is the spiritual practice of embracing life on life’s terms.
A healthy spirit takes play seriously and is playful in the presence of the serious.”
“Your archetypes are the guides on this path of realization—-twelve lifelong companions that show you the pitfalls and the greatness along the road to deep inner joy. In understanding them, you gain a perspective that stokes your creative fire, enlivens your relationships, increases your vitality, and deepens your spirituality.”
— Caroline Myss
An archetypal consultant is a companion and guide who assists the clients in defining and interpreting the archetypal patterns that influence our daily lives.
Archetypes are universal energy patterns which ‘play out’ in our lives. These patterns repeat themselves whether we are conscious of them or not. Identifying our dominant archetypal patterns along with their light and shadow aspects provides profound insight into both our own lives and our personal and professional relationships.
Each of us is ‘living a story.’ Sometimes it’s a story we have created for ourselves; frequently it is a story that has been told to us by others which we’ve incorporated as our own and accepted as true without every really examining it.
All too often, the biases of our culture encourage the voice of the Victim or Wounded Child to become the default narrator and our stories are reduced to histories of our wounds and limitations. Such distorted perspectives keep us from embracing the transforming possibilities that exist only in the present.
The 12-archetype template introduced in Caroline Myss’s seminal work, “Sacred Contracts” is a liberating tool that allows us to examine our history from twelve different points of view. Weaving these twelve perspectives together, frees us to see our lives symbolically and cultivate a fresh, inspiring spiritual narrative with which to meet life’s choices and challenges.