December 31, 2020
As I write this on the eve of a new year, the Roman god Janus comes to mind. Janus was the root of our word “January,” and he was imagined in Roman culture as a being with two faces. One face looked back, the other looked forward. I will do likewise in this newsletter.
Call up memories of this past year and two things immediately come to mind: the pandemic and the presidential election. Both are likely to have lasting, long-term effects, and both hold lessons for us. In the case of the election, we learned that claims of “voter fraud” are bogus, that the United States can hold elections that draw in a sizeable percentage of our voting population without malfeasance or subterfuge. We also discovered the feasibility and value of voting by mail, which sparked the participation of many more voters in nearly all states.
As for lessons from the pandemic, it remains to be seen if the learning opportunities it offers us have been recognized, much less taken to heart. Some examples:
- It became clear over the course of 2020 that a nation-wide pandemic requires national direction, since only the federal government has both the resources and the national perspective to address the situation. Lesson: the federal government is essential and should not be regarded as “the problem” (Ronald Reagan & company to the contrary).
- The pandemic also taught us the insanity of politicizing a public health crisis. Lesson: such crises require skillful coordination and calls for unity and cooperation among all people, rather than divisive rhetoric and the denigration of experts’ advice by political leaders.
- The pandemic forced months-long lockdowns and quarantines, mandating people isolate or maintain “social distancing”–situations which elicited complaints from Extraverts who found the experience stressful, while Introverts (like me) found the solitude enormously energizing. Given the strong preference for Extraversion in the American temperament (something both Carl and Emma Jung found hard to endure), many Americans ignored the warnings and engaged in social, athletic and family events. The result? Massive spread of the virus and thousands more people succumbing to the plague. Lesson: There is great value in isolation (as I note in the blog essay “The Value in Isolation” archived on our web site), but, from all I have read and the lamentations I have heard from some Jungian Center participants, many people fail to see this value. Extraverts, for example, could learn a lot about their inner life, the “inhabitants” of their “inner city,” and the riches lying in their unconscious if they took the opportunity in their isolation to look within. The experience of isolation, with its consequent stress for Extraverts, could also spark some empathy in Extraverts, in helping them to understand the stress Introverts live with constantly amid the Extraversion of American life.
These are just three lessons the pandemic offers us. But I doubt we as a nation have learned these lessons, or even are aware of them.
Janus also looked to the future. Perhaps we will take the recent events to heart and learn the lessons they offer us. Perhaps 2021 will see greater appreciation for the role and functions of our federal government. Perhaps Congress will overcome its polarization and produce legislation addressing the pressing needs of our population. Perhaps Extraverts will become more empathetic and respectful of Introverts’ need for solitude. “Perhaps”–none of these are a sure thing.
What is a sure thing is that the Jungian Center looks forward to Winter term, which begins on January 5th, with session 5 of Treasures of the World’s Religion (focus on Taoism) and Gnosticism, beginning on January 6th.
Gnosticism, Wednesdays, Jan. 6,13,20,27; 7-9PM; 7-9PM (Eastern US time) via Zoom; $60 (via PayPal or check in $US); to register, email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
A millennia-old form of spirituality, Gnosticism has experienced a reflorescence in the last 50 years, as many ancient texts have been discovered in the Near East. This course uses both primary sources and modern commentary to present the key Gnostic teachings and the secret wisdom that lies at the heart of gnosis. Particular attention is given to Jung’s appreciation and use of Gnosticism in his work and thought. Led by Sue Mehrtens
I hope you have a safe and healthy New Year and 2021.
link to our January blog essay “Going with the Flow of History:”