I read a lovely little book last night by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, a woman I first became acquainted with a few years ago when I was looking into an MA in Mythological Studies at Pacifica University. Actually the degree would have been an MA in Mythological Studies with an emphasis in Depth Psychology, as this university centers its education around the philosophies and ideas of such thinkers as Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud. For those of you who are asking, “What does a degree in mythology entail?” I’m glad you asked…and I think the Pacifica website does a pretty good job of summing it up:
Pacifica Graduate Institute’s program in Mythological Studies explores the understanding of human experience revealed in mythology and in the manifold links between myth and ritual, literature, art, and religious experience. Special attention is given to depth psychological and archetypal approaches to the study of myth.
Although I eventually deciding not to go forward with the degree, that hasn’t stopped me from my quest to become knowledgeable of all the writers and thinkers on the Mythological Studies reading list, and Clarissa Pinkola Estes is one of them.
Mrs. Estes is a Jungian-trained psychoanalyst, an award winning poet, and the founder of a human rights organization that focuses on broadcasting stories over the radio to trouble spots throughout the world. She grew up in a family that told many a story, something which later fueled her love of the oral tradition and her passion to share that with the rest of the world. My kind of woman!
I went a little crazy on www.half.com last week and ended up ordering quite a few books, most of which are on my reading list, and a couple of which were not. While Mrs. Estes and her book “Women Who Run With Wolves” are on the reading list, I ended up ordering a different book of hers that was not: “The Gift of Story: A Wise Tale About What Is Enough”. I’ll eventually read the former, but the latter was the one that really caught my attention. Actually it was the synopsis that made me push the BUY button:
“Stories that instruct, renew, and heal provide a vital nourishment to the psyche that cannot be obtained in any other way. Stories reveal over and over again the precious and peculiar knack that humans have for triumph over travail. They provide all the vital instructions we need to live a useful, necessary, and unbounded life-a life of meaning, a life worth remembering.”
After reading that I thought to myself, “I could have written that…that sounds like me!” Yet when the book arrived yesterday, I’ll admit I was a little disappointed; what I had assumed would be a lengthy and in-depth analysis of the nature of Story and its importance in our lives, was in actuality only slightly bigger than a 4×6 picture with only about 30 pages between its two covers. But sometimes the most powerful gifts come in small packages, and the story she told in those 30 pages was exactly as she had promised in her title…it was enough.
I’ll resist the urge to paraphrase her lovely story, but I will say that this is a book that I think all would enjoy. The question posed at the beginning is simple: “What is enough?” Take a moment to think about your answer; what does “enough” mean to you? If you had to leave your life right now and go out into the world, what would you take with you? Would it be something tangible, something meaningful yet transient? At first my answer was my journal-I would be devastated to lose my collection of ideas and writings, but I have so many journals…would I be able to take them all? Then I thought, my computer. My computer can hold all of my thoughts and ideas and musings, and it’s also something that can connect me with friends and family all over the world (provided I have an internet connection!). But then I thought about it some more, and I realized that although I would be sad to leave those behind, I don’t need a journal or a computer to harbor my thoughts and ideas and stories; those I can carry within me. The ancient people certainly didn’t have computers and emails to connect them…they simply had to walk and pay that person a visit, and when they told their stories, they did so by gathering together and sharing them aloud.
So I read the book, and her answer was so simple that I knew it to be true for me too (hint: it’s also the name of a chart topping song by one of Britain’s most popular boy bands) Answer: All you need is love. If you were stripped of everything you owned love will remain, and with that comes the power to connect with others and start anew. When you really think about it, she’s right…it really is enough.