Bird Droppings July 22, 2010
The soul is the engine
It has been nearly fifty years since diesel and electric engines replaced the giant steam locomotives that plied the tracks from Scranton Pennsylvania and the rich anthracite coal regions to New Jersey and New York, hauling the fuel of the times on the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad (Jenson, 1975). I have long been fascinated with the great trains of the past, perhaps because Mr. Frank E. Bird Sr., my namesake and grandfather was an engineer on the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western coal trains from 1900-1946. I do not remember much of my late grandfather, even though we traveled from our home to see my grandparents as children many years ago but the images of his being an engineer have stayed with me. Pinar (2004) states, “’One returns to the past, to capture it as it was, and as it hovers over the present’ (1976, 55)” (p.36). The past is part of who we are and within us in the present in our imaginations and memories. “Our lives may be determined less by our childhood than by the way we have learned to imagine our childhoods” (Hillman, , 1996, p. 4).
My early interest and fascination grew as a child and in 1954 I woke up to a Christmas morning and a circular track of a model Lionel O gauge steam engine and train set around our Christmas tree. It became a family tradition and that set was a family fixture for many years. When I had children of my own it was pulled out again and set up nearly thirty years later although this time it ran its circle around the dining room table trying to give a piece of my childhood to my children. Memory is an aspect of who we are Morris (2001) quotes Legroff, 1992, “Memory is the raw material of history, whether mental, oral or written, it is the living source from which historians draw” (p. 90). I was trying to share my past with my children as my father had passed down to me. When I was a child my father would often tell stories of my grandfather and the great steam locomotives he would pilot. Occasionally he would pull out an old engineer’s cap or lantern of my grandfathers to add some visual excitement to the stories. Still sitting on my father’s shelf at his home is my grandfather’s kerosene lantern from the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad.
A few years back a movie was made about the late Robert Johnson, one of the great blues guitarists, staring Ralph Macchio and Joe Seneca, entitled Crossroads. The film was about a classically trained guitar player who wanted to find Robert Johnson’s lost song. Willie Brown, Joe Seneca’s character said “you cannot really play the blues till you can play the train song”, that thought stuck with me. Blues players would use sounds from the trains in their music. There is a surreal aspect to these massive metal machines, intertwined with our music and imagination trains are a fascinating piece of our being. Trains are an element of the industrial revolution yet linked metaphysically to us, it could be the size and power, the getting us from point A to point B, or maybe for bluesman it was the life and blood of their travels around the country, a freedom of sorts linked to the railroad.
My implecation of the engine as the soul and as a driving force in who we are has credo in perhaps even our dreams. Our soul or who we are is often uncovered in dreams. Hall (1983) in looking at a dream interpretation states “Trains in contrast to automobiles and buses are set on a fixed track, without the option of moving somewhat at will; they therefore tend to be associated with compulsive or habitual activities” (p. 83). This interpretation of a dream about trains was based on the analyzing and deciphering by the therapist as a part of Carl Jung’s therapy process. Jung classically saw “the dream as a ‘message’ to the ego and as a self representation of the psyche” (Hall, , 1983, p. 24) . Dream interpretation is ongoing, “for dream interpretation involves a constant dialogue between the ego and the unconscious” (Hall, , 1983, p. 25) and the interpretation allows some conscious attention to be paid in the direction of where individuation is going . There is a connection to who we are and our dreams. Zukav (1979) addresses Quantum Physics and Jung’s ideas in acausal events using a statement from the Noble prize winning physicist and friend of Jung, Wolfgang Pauli, “From the inner center the psyche seems to move outward, in the sense of extraversion in to the physical realm” (p. 56). Essentially our unconscious inner self is trying to make itself known. This inner unconscious part of us is who we really are.
My own journey of searching for who I am did not involve a dream of trains as I began this paper, but it did reflect back to pieces of my childhood and how the train for me was significant. The idea of an analogy to a train developed as readings and lecture ideas seemed coincidentally related, to borrow a term from Jung, synchronicity. Jung, (1960) provides an insight with: “Links to the unconscious can also be attributed to these acausal coincidences and events” (p.95). R. Hull translator of Carl Jung’s work, Jung (1960) states, “Jung first used the term ‘Synchronicity’ only in 1930 in his memorial address for Richard Wilhelm (p. vii)”. The word was in response to observations of patients where chance, meaningful, and timely coincidences occurred. As my idea developed pieces seemed to fall in place. Jung defined synchronicity “as any apparent coincidence that inspires a sense of wonder and personal meaning or particular significance to the observer” (Joseph, , 1999, p. xi). Was it coincidence that I took a copy of James Hillman’s book The Soul’s Code: In search of character and calling, with me for extra reading on a recent trip to Statesboro for graduate studies? The concept of synchronicity indicates a meaningful coincidence of two or more events, where something other than the probability of chance is involved (Jung, 1960). The ideas fell in place and began to make sense. As I thought of what direction to go with curriculum theory, coming from my psychological and theological background and life long fascination with trains, the idea of using the analogy of a train and approaching three areas of man’s endeavor, to understand and rationalize the existence of each of us, our soul, our character and our curriculum became clear.
Smith(1999) writes that, “Piercing through the illusions of modern life is extremely difficult, given a culture where advertising and other media forms are organized so persistently to produce mass public deception” (p. 4). Smith(1999) points to an ongoing issue we have in finding who we are and why . The illusions “obliterate the lines between fact and fiction” (p. 5). In order to dig deeper into curriculum we have to understand who we are as an individual and how we translate and comprehend curriculum and ourselves and how people see us. Pinar (1994) explains that “Freud, Jung and now Lang (among others) were digging underneath the surface of their lives, trying to uncover the roots of what is experienced on the surface” (p. 17). Smith (1999) implores us to look in side ourselves:
Maybe this is the time to embark collectively on a new long journey inward, not for the purpose simply of celebrating our personal or collective subjectivities, but for the more noble one of laying down the outward things that enslave us (p. 5).
In order to deal with what is before us, that which enslaves us (Smith, 1999), we need to over come our inner self.
This inner look is mentioned often as psychologists and theologians struggle with the concept of who we are. Jung (1995) continues the idea with “We need to know more of human nature, because the only real danger that exists is man himself” (p. 2). Uncovering our past and memories is part of looking at who we are. The idea that soul or spirit is just confined to religion can be seen in the understanding of what constitutes that inner search. A word used often as a search word is faith and is explained in Fowler, (1981):
Faith is not always religious in its content or context. To ask these questions of oneself does not necessarily mean to elicit answers about religious commitment or belief. Faith is a persons or groups way of moving into the force field of life. (p.5)
The search and looking within trying to understand who we are trying to find soul is part of who we are. It is what makes us human and drives how we interact with the existing world and how we perceive that world.
What is the soul and its effect on our life? Frattaroli, (2001) defines soul as, I think of the soul as the experiencing self, the ‘I,’ an ineffable whole that integrates processes happening at four levels of experience – body, brain, mind, and spirit” (p.6). Macdonald, (1995) offers, “The process of human development is considered here to be a process of becoming.” (p.16) Morris (2001) addresses the idea of spirit using an idea from Hegel “The subjective side of spirit is nature, matter and human life. But this subjective side that moves through us is unconscious” (p. 104). Spirit is then who we are subjectively? Britzman (2003) offers, “Somewhere between reality and fantasy, between need and want, between the affect and the idea, and between dependency and autonomy, there can emerge the material from which the subject spins a life” (p. 57). We end in metaphysical subjectivity as to what is this entity of spirit and or soul? Deciphering the concept of soul which too often is tied to a religious connotation is challenging. Thomas Moore, student of James Hillman, a former priest and now psychologist and counselor defines soul, Moore, (1992) states:
Soul is not a thing, but a quality or dimension of experiencing life and ourselves. It has to do with the depth value, relatedness, heart, and personal substance. I do not use the word here as an object of religious belief or something to do with immortality. When we say someone has soul we know what we mean. (p.5)
“Renaissance philosophers often said that it is the soul that makes us human. We can turn around and note that is when we are most human we have the greatest access to soul”(Moore, 1992, p.9). Mary Aswell Doll in the introduction to her book Like letters in running Water, includes in her thoughts her interdisciplinary studies with religion and psychology that help probe the inner workings of soul. It is only through coming to terms with inner understanding that we can address outer concerns. It takes inner looks to stir and fire up the imagination and to build and develop ideas and expand learning (Doll, 2000). Kesson (2000), reflects with Jack Miller who states: “To talk about the “soul”, we might as well say inner life of children. My latest book Education and the soul talks about Soul in a moral sense, which is really taken out of a religious sense” (p.99). It is that inner being of who are that is our soul.
Looking over various authors and thinkers and gathering pieces from them. It is Hegel’s thought of the subjective side of spirit (Morris, 2001), soul is where nature and life intertwine. Soul is a process of becoming (Macdonald, 1995). Soul is the material a subject spins into a life (Britzman, 2003). Soul is the experiencing self (Frattaroli, 2001). Soul is digging and searching and uncovering the roots (William F. Pinar, 1994). Soul is that which makes us human (Moore, 1992). Soul is also only through coming to terms with inner understandings (Doll, 2000). There is much that makes soul, soul is who we are, it is not a perception or necessarily an understanding it is us. If we can access that piece and utilize it is the engine of ourselves. In postulating this idea of soul as Hillman calls this piece of us, it is the driving force of who we are (Hillman, 1996). Soul is the engine of the train in our lives it is often unknowingly what pulls the train of our lives around the track. Sorry for a change of pace in my writing starting to get APA in gear and get serious about my dissertation writing. As we each search for who we are and why may we still keep all in harms way on our minds and in our hearts.
Britzman, D. P. (2003). After-Education Albany State University of New York.
Doll, M. A. (2000). Like Letters in Running Water. Mahweh: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Fowler, J. W. (1981). Stages of Faith: The psychology of Human Development and the quest for who we are. New York: Harper Collins.
Frattaroli, E. (2001). Healing the Soul in the age of the brain. New York: Penquin Putnam Inc.
Hall, J. A. (1983). Jungian Dream Interpretation Toronto: Inner City Books.
Hillman, J. (1996). The Soul’s Code. New York: Warner Books Inc.
Jenson, O. O. (1975). The American heritage history of railroads in America; Avenel N.J. New York: American Heritage Publishing Co.: distribution by McGraw Hill.
Joseph, F. (1999). Synchronicity and you. Boston: Element Books.
Jung, C. G. (1960). Synchronicity: An Acausal connecting principle (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Jung, C. G. (1995). Jung on Evil. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Kesson, K. (2000). Spirituality and the curiculum: A hermeneutic Discussion. JCT: Journal of Curriculum Theorizing, 16(Spring 2000), 93-104.
Macdonald, J. B. (1995). Theory as a prayful act: the collected essays of James B. Macdonald (Vol. 22). New York: Peter Lang.
Moore, T. (1992). The Care of the Soul. New York: Harper Collins.
Morris, M. (2001). Curriculum and the Holocaust. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
Pinar, W. F. (1994). Autobiography, politics and sexuality: essays in curriculum theory 1972-1992. New York: Peter Lang.
Pinar, W. F. (2004). What is Curriculum Theory. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc.
Pinar, W. F. a. G., Madeleine R. (1976). Towards a poor curriculum. Dubuque: Kendall/Hunt.
Smith, D. G. (1999). Pedagon: Interdisciplinary essays in the Human Sciences, Pedagogy and Culture (Vol. 15). New York: Peter Lang.
Zuchav, G. (1979). The Dancing Wu Li Masters: An overview of the new physics. New York: William Morrow and Company