The Imago

August 14, 2016 — Leave a comment


The imago. It is the picture within that informs, or even  haunts the unconscious. For me, the imago of children in summer has always held a deep pang. I am not sure why. I suppose we all grieve lost youth.

Nothing speaks of the wonder of summer childhood than this photo of my friend, Jacqueline, and her twin girls on the Cape.  All of this to say, we are in the middle of summer! We have to remember to experience it in real time, in real life, before the picture in our eyes fades to the imago  known only in dreams.

womanFor a moment, forget the battle is between people. Forget the politics. Nix most of the noise. Look at them as ancient Greece might view them – as forces on Olympus. For almost two thousand years, the patriarchy has pushed maternal power into the ground. For most of that time, civilization, with all the good it has done, has kicked mom – the goddess, the wise woman, the giver of life – to the curb. Men have built the cities. And the armies. Women have had to cope with the construct and the death. Now, we are at the brink . These are growing pains. They hurt like hell. The masculine is being rebalanced with the feminine. No healthy civilization can survive without the Mother.

This woman is not fully feminine. She had to fight like a man to produce the change. There was no other way. Still she bears most of the marks of majestic woman – lover, mother, nurturer, shaper of ideas. She was maimed by a well-meaning , powerful husband who let Eros transmute him, for a time, into a scoundrel and a fool. She is our transitional mother. Some call her “hawk”. She wears a pantsuit. The child she battles for is not yet ready to accept a fully sexualized mother. Still, she is the woman right for the times.

Rise of the Feminine

To rebalance, mom must go to war with a monstrous shadow of the patriarchy, Bad Dad. In epic measure, Bad Dad represents the reckless underbelly of unbalanced masculinity. He is everything wrong with the cities. Bad Dad marries his courtesans. He touches his daughters like courtesans. No dragon has slain his ego. He demonizes race. He demonizes religious sects. Only the father’s name appears on his golden towers in his cities of gold.

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice,” said Martin Luther King, Jr. What were the last words of the Christ? “Here is your mother.” And we have been bashing mother into the ground ever since. It is as if we men can not embrace the blood, and the sex, and the power of the feminine mystique. The woman brings life but life is too mysterious for man to bear. In the conclusion to Herman Hesse’s classic about the male psyche, the sensualist Goldmund asks the  unbending aesthetic patriarch, Goldmund, “But how will  die when your time comes, Narcissus, since you have  no mother? Without a mother, one cannot love. Without a mother, one cannot die.” Psychiatrist Carl Jung maintained that there will never be peace until the masculine and the feminine become balanced in the circle of belonging.

What is before us is more than detail, more than people, more than politics. It is the hand of life at the throttle of the psychic energies that shape humankind. As the Greeks might view it today, Transitional Mom must battle Bad Dad over the fate of the child. And who is the child? In myth, it is always the same. The child is the world.

Marni Nixon at her home in New York

With her two shopping bags full of notes, and her velvet gloves, she helped a punk college kid launch his first musical based on Medea, the play by Euripides. What was I thinking? She was tireless, funny, tough, and impossible. I had no idea what I was doing but she got me through it. I could not afford to pay her except with cheap lunches and dinners at the local diner, Tiny Naylors. She did not care. She loved the patty melts . She cut the lousy songs, kept the passable ones. She edited the book. She coached the children in the show how to carry a tune. She even dubbed the voice of the sorceress, Medea, when the lead clammed up and couldn’t hit the high notes.

Marni Nixon was a sorceress, herself – hiding behind the screen and lending her voice to the musical treasures of American film history including West Side Story, My Fair Lady, and The King and I. Her mimetic gift allowed her to transform her singing voice to sound like an movie star’s speaking voice. The kind and friendly Ghost Voice of the American movie musical has died at 86. Surely, a sacred confluence is gathering somewhere in the stars where Marni, Audrey Hepburn, Deborah Kerr, and Natalie Wood can sing as one , and in key, as they celebrate the sheer miracle of life.