I am part of an online journaling group organized by Mepkin Abbey. We are working/listening/journaling our way through Don Bisson's series of CDs from a presention, Individuation: Beyond Happy and Normal. Our last chunk explored the book of Jonah.
It's interesting to think about the book of Jonah and what it has to say to us about psychological health. We're used to reading the book as a picture of a reluctant prophet, and therefore many of us might assume it doesn't apply to us. We're not prophets, after all.
Because Don Bisson is a Marist brother, he does approach the material through a Christian lens. But he's also a Jungian, which makes for interesting juxtapositions. His approach of the main lesson of Jonah is that we need to get the right ticket to the right destination.
When I first heard him say that, I heard ticket as a type of parking ticket, not a plane ticket or a train ticket.
For those of us who say no to what God asks of us, he says we need to think about the moral dimension to saying no.
He also says we should notice what whales show up to remind us that we're going in the wrong direction. I found that an interesting way of thinking about the whale.
I am now thinking of the end of Jonah, where Jonah goes off in a snit about how everyone reacts positively to his message. Once again, we see someone trying to micromanage the miracles.
And now I'm thinking of my manuscript of essays. Should I try to do a major overhaul? I have decided that the title should be Micromanaging the Miracles. Maybe I should revise with that in mind.
Or maybe I should create a different manuscript, something designed to be a daily devotions. Could I develop enough new stuff to say about each of God's people who tried to micromanage the miracles?
I have so many potential projects--not to mention the manuscripts that I've already created and can't find a place to publish them. It's enough to make a girl feel discouraged.
But I also know that life works in mysterious ways. I blogged for years and many of those blog posts have found new life in various publications, which was not my plan when I started blogging.
If I suddenly become a popular writer whose audience has a voracious appetite for my work, at least I have plenty of work to release.
I have spent the last 10 minutes trying to think of a way to conclude this blog post--how can I tie Jonah to my writing life? Is my writing life the whale or the ticket?
In the depths of despair, it's tempting to think of all the writing rejections as the whale that tells us that we've taken the wrong direction. But the life of the prophet reminds us that failure is part of the process--and the life of Jonah reminds us that even when we get with the program, when people accept us, we might still pout.
Jungian psychologists would not be surprised by this process. One of the ideas that I found most comforting from our recent journaling time is that our culture tells us that as we get older, life should get easier because we've got it all figured out--but that's not the way it is at all. Failure is part of the process.
To be called to be oneself in one's historical moment is never easy--even though we look at the life of the great humans and think they always knew exactly where they were going. But it's the essential task of every human.