The second essay of our triptych focuses on the thought forms of Jung, the intellectual shaman, who would delve, had he the inclination, helter-skelter into any aspect of many a myth, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, not withstanding. Let’s do that very same thing through the lens of his imaginative and evocative legacy.
Within chaos, creativity is found and within creativity we find answers to life’s mysteries even when those answers are not what was anticipated. Let’s combine chaos theory with Jung.
The Shaman is the healer for their community. They use healing methods that are out of the norm for cultures not their own but the methods work for the healing of all community members including the ill, the old, and the outliers—those that live their lives on the periphery of the village. Shamans work with queer tools albeit oftentimes common ones. Jung worked with syntax, language, imagery, art, and imagination. These were the tools he wielded to heal the psyche that joins with healing of the body and the soul.
We’re using the terms of chaos theory to crack open our myth and in this second essay we’re opening it with easy to grasp terms: open and closed systems. It takes little explanation to differentiate these. A closed system is a unit of unchallenged beliefs or operations within a group or amalgamation. Closed systems are found in mechanical objects, living creatures, conventional forms of business, and architecture, for example. Open systems allow, although not always willingly, outside influences to impinge on the system. Examples include extreme weather, moving vehicle accidents, and new ideas that challenge a person’s way of viewing the world.
Let’s move into our myth from the perspective of a bird’s eye view. When we look down from the heights we see something odd: not that there is a house in the woods because that’s not unusual, but that bears live in the house. Why don’t the bears live in bear habitat—say, the open woods around them or inside of a cave? Our bears have accommodated themselves into a system that they’re normally outside of.
This tells us two unusual things about the Three Bears. 1). They’ve moved from a closed to an open system by virtue of adopting another culture. We don’t know when or why this occurred but we know they’re comfy within their abode as can be seen by the accoutrements in the home. 2). Their diet has changed from berries, roots and raw meat to a staple in human breakfast foods: porridge.
It appears as though our bears have become domesticated, maybe even gentrified.
Conversely, Goldilocks has left her dwelling to travel into animal habitat. Who allowed this child to travel in the forest without companionship and direction to the point that she became lost? Is she acting within her parent’s directives or has her curiosity driven her to defy their prohibitions? Perhaps she was comfortable in the woods but found herself walking them later than normal and is wandering aimlessly. Perhaps this was her very first venture into the wilds and she got lost quickly without directions to find her way back.
Suffice it to say our main characters have switched places from a cultural perspective. The bears’ domesticity runs opposite to Goldilocks’ wild-child journey into the forest.
These are the first behaviors that signal we’re inside an open system for all of the characters in our myth are acting outside of the norm for their species. Children ought to obey their parents, and if they enter the forest, they should be prepared with map, flashlight, and cell phone. Bears live in caves, not in sticks and mortar dwellings made by man.
As a matter of fact, if our small bear was a “baby bear” as some renditions of the myth tell, he runs the risk of being killed by the adult male bear, if that is indeed the gender of one of the large bears. Survival of the dominant male is innate in the bear kingdom. That’s why female bears raise their young alone. There are several role reversals going on that signal chaos has occurred sometime in the past for our Three Bears.
Within an open system change can become unpredictable at the least and volatile at the worst. Soon, Goldilocks loses her way and begins to look for help. She finds it at the sight of a cottage, a dwelling that signals aid, support, and direction. We don’t hear her questioning when she finds no one at home. She operates outside the social etiquette of entering a stranger’s home uninvited, but from a surety that inside she will gain what she cannot find in the forest.
Take note that Goldilocks has her survival skills operative at a moment’s notice and we shall soon see more of these skills in action.
The metaphor of finding “home” amidst being lost is not to be missed. Jung would surely point out that the forest, or the woods, is a metaphor for the unconscious, that vast territory of psychic unknown that is, in the same breathe, such a large part of who we know ourselves to be. The unconscious directs our actions at times without our being aware of it, for better or for worse. Goldilocks ventured into this wild, dark area alone and without the tools to return to her familiar abode. As a metaphor she ventured from the known to the unknown, from a closed system to an open system, and from external control (parents) to internal creativity (adventure).
She is one brave girl!
Inside the home, Goldilocks becomes immediately aware of her hunger. And just in time, because the sweet smell of porridge wafts to her nostrils leading her to the breakfast on the table. Before she eats, a closed system dilemma presents itself: there are three bowls available. Within chaos theory it is understood that our brains will naturally abstract patterns to assist us through the chaos. Which one should she choose?
Oftentimes, the doorway into chaos is choice. Choice allows us the option to move forward into the unknown and the untried. Goldilocks responds by allowing herself options: “Should I try this one or that one?” The organized, orderly activity of making a decision helps her to self-regulate. She has moved from the fright of being lost into the activity of providing herself with the basics of survival.
Goldilocks is now interested in comfort and the rocking chairs provide the perfect vehicle with which to sooth herself. But, alas, another choice confronts her. Which chair will she be able to operate with the greatest efficiency? She makes her choice and begins rocking. At times, the known, here in the form of the rocking chair that is “just right”, doesn’t allow the unknown, a small but problematic rocking chair, to surface until after it is too late. Destruction occurs. The chair was too—rickety, broken, decayed, we were not told—and with Goldilocks’ vigorous back and forth the weakened chair breaks apart, having met its maximum degrees of freedom.
Chaos is a fleeting doorway and can open with such abruptness that the situation blasts apart the safety of a closed system.
Next, Goldilocks becomes aware of her tiredness. She has found a surrogate for home, she has nourished herself on good food, and now she finds herself in need of rest. Again, the pesky order of a closed system confronts her: which bed will provide her with the sleep she needs? In short order, Goldilocks makes her decision and finds her self fast asleep.
Common to many myths is the numeral “3”. Found within the tasks offered our mythical characters is a dilemma that involves three tasks or three choices. This serves to cement decision-making and signifies successful passage to a lesson learned. Despite not knowing where she is in the forest, Goldilocks has shown she is able to care for her most basic needs.
Before we move onto the Three Bears and their reactions to the closed system that has been busted wide open by our half-pint, lets put a Jungian metaphor onto the activity of sleep.
Just as entering the forest is a metaphor for entering the chaotic unconscious, sleep is a metaphor for entering the same realm. At a presumably early time in the day, our lost traveler is feeling the need to surrender to sleep. Does she know she will enter her other self while sleeping? Does she go there purposefully, in order to self-organize her chaotic situation?
I suggest she does.
Just as children’s ‘play’ is equivalent to adult’s ‘work’, children enter into the mystery of chaos with more abandon than adults and without an adult’s restraint. In their minimally socialized state children are risk takers. A child willingly enters mysterious encounters as an everyday thing when allowed and even when not allowed. They act as though they are cats with nine lives.
Physically speaking, sleep provides a universal need—no one operates effectively in life without sleep, in the realm of mankind or in the realm of the animal kingdom. That’s why there are beds in the bears’ cottage. What is noteworthy here is Goldilocks’ ability to allow her self to fall asleep instantly.
If you were lost, alone, and didn’t know how to return home, would you be able to fall asleep easily and get the rest you needed before tackling your dilemma? Exhaustion can aid in the endeavor toward sleep, but let’s remember it’s morning in our myth. Goldilocks just finished breakfast implying that she recently arose from a night’s sleep before taking off on her adventure. Surely, she is old enough to have outgrown morning naps!
No, a nap is unnecessary. Goldilocks is practicing her survival skills and she knows that before she ventures back into the (unconsciousness of the) woods, she needs to be in tip-top shape.
We can push our myth further and wonder about Goldilocks’ intent to sleep in order to dream a solution for the next phase of her journey, but we won’t. It’s enough to know that she practices significant self-care skills amidst her challenging adventure.
The Three Bears have arrived home and into this portion of the essay. We have discussed their strange lifestyle: living and eating like humans. They’ve adjusted to an unnatural lifestyle so it comes as a surprise when they react so strongly to their uninvited guest. They even respond to her with human emotions!
Insult. Suspicion. Fear.
They’ve been living in their own closed system, and as you may have discerned by now, open and closed systems can switch readily from one to the other depending on the chaos or organization introduced into the system. Unnatural as the bears’ lifestyle is, Goldilocks actions are a bifurcation point leading to chaos within their system that they have yet to identify. Who has treated the Three Bears in such a manner as to incite their adverse emotions? They explore until they find the culprit.
If the Three Bears were acting within their “bearness” they may have rushed the intruder in their home with the intent of ill will. But they stand in indecision—a watermark of a closed system—until Goldilocks awakens herself.
More chaos ensues. Goldilocks throws off the comforter (apply your own symbolism here if you will) and rushes to escape the wrath of the bears. Where has her indomitable spirit gone? Suddenly, after taking care of herself with ample effectiveness, she is either unable or unwilling to face the creatures looming over her in outrage.
She’s outta there! Say what you will about Goldilocks’ lost nerve, but chaos is draining and can easily deplete our spirits. Chaos cannot be predicted nor controlled and takes from us all that it can. Goldilocks reenters the forest from wince she came rather than to face those frightening bears.
A myth isn’t complete until discussion has been had about the heroine’s looks. We’ve clearly viewed Goldilocks as a young child— seven or eight years of age came to mind. She has bright eyes to match her bright mind. In many children’s books she is wearing a blue smock that mirrors her blue eyes.
We’ve yet to mention the symbolism of her name. Jung would be aghast at such an oversight even when it is an obvious correlation. Goldilocks is named for her golden hair. Ah, now that it’s been said, numerous associations come to mind.
Goldilocks’ golden hair speaks of wealth, protection, and beauty. In one of the original versions of our myth, the antagonist was an old crone with silver hair rather than our young Goldilocks who is full of vim and vigor and endowed with golden tresses. The change in character may have been due to association. Our youthful vanity, regardless of our age, draws us to identify more with youth and riches than age and all things grey.
We are nearly at the end of our ursine tale. If you’ve fully joined our associations and symbolism of bite size portions between chaos theory and Jungian Shamanism you may wonder about one last thing. Where was the WC in the bears’ home? Amidst all of Goldilocks’ physically self-adaptive behaviors to the chaos she herself evoked, why did she never have a need to use the restroom?
Rest assured, the process of elimination is a natural necessity for human beings, just as it is for animals. As a topic it factors into the last essay of our triptych, along with our familiar bears although they come in a different number set than what we’ve become accustomed to. For now, we will close the last page to our myth of Goldilocks and the Three Bears and move forward into a vision of two bears and their impact on one woman with Alzheimer’s disease.
Perhaps it will seem a complex connection but we will simplify as we move along. Not too much though. Chaos theory tells us that we yearn for simplification as a means of handling higher order complexity because it causes us to feel uncomfortable and disconnected. Chaos stretches us like a rubber band pulled to its elastic limits.
We will add an element of shape shifting to the essay, an experience that is pivotal to Shamanism and chaos theory. We will also add a second term from Shamanism that mixes with chaos theory quite well: trickster. Yes, the last of our triptych takes us into the heart of human connection, life, death, and deceit, the trickster’s forte.
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