What’s My Name?

At my elementary school, there were these huge trees with deep scoops in the trunks, and great gaps between the roots.  We would build little lean-tos with twigs and leaves, and called these fairy houses.  Carl Jung used to futz around with blocks, building a castle, and then a real dwelling for himself, echoing the childhood play that nourished him.  He was rebuilding himself, or sorting himself out, with the blocks.

In imitation of Jung, I bought some blocks, and built five or six small structures on my living room carpet.  I might use some of the compositions for paintings.  I might just goof around with them.  It’s summer, and I’m rebuilding myself.  Although I wanted to make one big wall or fortress, I ended up with a village of buildings.  Just like in my writing, I often try to roll out a castle, and end up with cottages.  That’s just who I am.

Last night, I rented “The Bourne Identity,” which I had never seen.  It reminded me of “The Muppets Take Manhattan.”  Stay with me here.  Kermit gets hit by a car and loses his memory.  He adopts this alter ego, “Phil,” who has no feelings for Miss Piggy and no gleeful goofiness.  Eventually, Piggy throws him against a wall and it all comes back, bang!

Similarly, in “The Bourne Identity,” an alarmingly young Matt Damon does not know who he is.  Bourne’s ultimate revelation is less pleasant than Kermit’s.  While Kermit awakens to a network of loving friends, Jason Bourne awakens to his violent instincts, homicidal social connections, and his own cowardice, er, conscience.  On the plus side, Bourne has the physique of an A plus certified movie star, especially compared to Kermit’s skinny, pot-belly figure (no offense, buddy).

Real-life amnesia is apparently quite rare.  The process used in all these movies and all those soap operas is recognizeable, though.  Sometimes you get to a place in your life where you hit a wall: who am I?  I don’t make sense to myself.  You bumble around on instinct, wary and thoughtful.  And then it often comes in a flash: whoa!  That’s me!

While you are lost and seeking yourself, there is a freshness to the connections you make.  Kermit playfully throws himself a name, “Phi,” to his friends’ Jill, Gil, and Bill.  He works his repressed, snide side for a while.  Bourne kisses the girl, as if it’s all new to him, and probably everything else feels new, too.  Sadly, the film is PG-13, so we largely have to use our imaginations.

As lost as they both might feel, Kermit and Bourne are recognizeable to the audience.  Kermit retains his ambition and his crowd-pleasing instincts.  Bourne still knows how to work a stick shift and kill with a ballpoint pen.  Getting a solid case of amnesia ultimately helps them.  Kermit’s disappearance motivates his friends to step up and take up some of the burden of leadership.  They were taking him for granted, and he didn’t have to do it all himself.  Bourne has time to absorb his new moral stance.  Losing your mind does have its advantages.  Or, in one of my favorite turns of phrase, “He who loses his life will find it.”


On Sunday, I lit a candle in each room of my house: bedroom (dresser), bathroom (shelf), and living room (windowsill).  Usually I light one at a time.  As I lit them, I thought, I am going to forget one.  I will burn my house down!  My mother always used to warn me about this.

I was reading more Jung earlier that day.  Jung is dreamy good for Sunday.  He quoted the Bible: “old men shall dream dreams.”  Old Testament, Joel, quoted by the New Testament, in Acts.  The school year is old, elderly, in fact, dying.  I was dreaming dreams.  I had dreamed about how people’s hearts are like the sun, sometimes clouded over, but always nuclear powerful.

I did blow out all the candles on my way out.  And I remembered that it was Pentecost.  How funny, that on Pentecost I had lit all these candles in the middle of the day, on a sunny, hot afternoon.  I happened to be wearing an appropriate, reddish-colored shirt, too.  I bumbled into church, late as usual, and there was our lesson:  “Old men shall dream dreams,”  The New Testament version– Acts.

What could it possibly have meant, that your leader got killed and no God stepped in?  Well, people come up with some ideas, and the only canonical narrative ones are Acts.  I found the whole thing rather uncomfortable last time I read it.  Healings, prisons sprung open, people falling down blind on country roads.  The Pentecost story is the nuttiest one, where Jesus’ friends are hanging out, and get inspired, and open their mouths to speak, and it’s like everyone has one of those Star Trek translation earpieces in, each person in the crowd hears God talking to him in a way that makes sense.  This disturbs them so  much that their only theory is: these guys must be hammered.

Why they don’t suspect that they are drunk is a reasonable question.  They are the ones hearing things.  Well, maybe it’s the people who can’t hear God are the ones making the accusations.  They usually are.  As a comic aside, Peter assures them that no one is drunk.  It’s 9 AM.  As everyone knows, you could be drunk at 4 AM, maybe even 6, but it is impossible to be drunk at 9.

Peter’s theory is that these are “last days,” and that “the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood…. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  Instead of the sun in your heart, you will feel dark and lost, and you will ask for help, and then you and your friends will light up like jack-o-lanterns, and breathe, and everyone will hear God, out of that.

Jung writes about many experiences he had that he can’t say are “real.” He saw a mosaic in Ravenna that gutted him with its beauty, and later found out it wasn’t there.  I went to get coffee after church, and blowing up the street like tumbleweeds, I saw bright balloons.  A red one.  Then a baby blue one.  How weird.  Were they really there?  Balloons are happy breath.  Blowing out celebration.  I think I saw them, and I think I heard them, in my own language.