I just finished Blankets by Craig Thompson, a beautifully drawn and told story about his own childhood and teenage years.
I’ll mention a couple of things that stood out to me.
Wholeness. After meeting a young woman who becomes a close friend and then his lover, he says in the presence of my muse I no longer needed to draw.
He hasn’t yet found his own wholeness, so his girlfriend fills the hole he experiences in himself. I assume drawing normally filled the hole for him, and now his girlfriend does so he no longer experiences a need to draw. Of course, when we find our own wholeness more fully we can still very much enjoy relationships, art, and anything else in life. And it now comes more from joy than neediness.
Most of us try to fill the holes we experience in ourselves through relationships, work, status, and other things in the world. It’s natural and it helps us taste wholeness and how it is to feels to be more whole. As we realize that these are band-aids (they are temporary and not completely satisfactory), we may explore finding our own wholeness in ourselves. The wholeness that’s already here. And the wholeness that’s filled out and becomes richer as we develop parts of ourselves.
Christianity and duality. He has a conservative Christian upbringing. And although a basic experience of duality is reflected in most religions and worldviews, Christianity is perhaps especially strongly dualistic. It comes with ideas about a strong division between of heaven and hell, virtue and sin, body and soul, and so on.
When Craig meets his girlfriend, it triggers these images. On the one hand, he is afraid of being led into temptation and eventually to damnation and hell. On the other hand, he sees her as perfect and a goddess. This is normal. We all do it to some extent. It’s the nature of projections. It’s what happens when our mind invests an overlay of imagination with energy (associates it with sensations) so the imagination appears real, solid, and true to itself.
When this happens, we miss out of the intimacy that comes from recognizing the other as ourselves, as a complex and ordinary and ordinarily extraordinary human being. Again, it’s normal. It’s part of being human. It’s part of the play of life as it plays itself out through and as us human beings.
Thoughts split and divide the world. That’s their function and why they are so useful. They help us navigate and function as human beings in the world.
If we recognize thoughts as thoughts, and see they are guides and questions about the world and have no final truth in them, then they are especially useful.
And yet, we often hold them as more true than they are. And then, their ability to split the world (in our imagination) appears as real, solid, and true splits. It appears as something inherent in the world itself, and not just something created from our overlay of thought and imagination. Our imagination appears real.
I just read Blankets by Craig Thompson which is a beautiful graphic novel about his own childhood and teen years. He meets a woman who becomes a friend and lover, and whom he also partially sees as a temptress and a possible source of damnation. (Because of his attraction to her combined with his conservative Christian upbringing.) And partially as his muse and a perfect goddess.
Christianity is an especially good example of how our imagination can divide the world, and how we can invest some of those splits with a great deal of energy and sense of reality and truth. In Christianity, we divide the world up in good and bad, God and Satan, heaven and earth, this life and the next, virtue and sin, and so on.
So when young Craig meets a beautiful woman he finds himself attracted to, it triggers an inner conflict that his Christian upbringing set him up for. She is a friend and lover. And, sometimes, as he is afraid of sinning, he sees her as his possible downfall and ticket to hell. And he sees her as perfect, his muse, and a goddess. An ordinary complex beautiful flawed human being like himself becomes, in his mind, a devil and a goddess.
We all do this in different ways. It’s how the mind works.
Our mind projects. It puts an overlay of imagination on the world, and takes this overlay as real and true or not. That’s the first projection. The second is seeing qualities and characteristics we know from ourselves in others and the world, whether we are aware of it in ourselves or not. When we are aware of either of these, the projection is just a way to ask questions about and an aid in navigating the world. If we are not aware of what’s happening, it becomes a blind projection and we create blind spots for ourselves.
One area we do this is with our potential and actual romantic partners. And it’s encouraged by biology and evolution. It makes evolutionary sense that we project something amazing and perfect on potential partners as it makes us attracted, it makes us invest energy in the possible or early relationship, and it makes it more likely that we will procreate.
At the same time, it’s good to be aware of what’s happening. To notice the projections. Notice what’s projected. Notice it comes from imagination combined with sensations. Notice the images and sensations are in me, and that the qualities and characteristics I see in the other
And that’s what’s happening for most of us anyway, especially as we mature in the relationship and as human beings. That too is probably built into us from evolution, and it’s definitely built into us as (a local expression of and) part of life and reality.
Note: I wanted to say a few words about “in the presence of my muse I no longer needed to draw”. He hasn’t yet found his own wholeness, so his girlfriend fills the hole he experiences in himself. I assume drawing normally filled the hole for him, and now his girlfriend does so he no longer experiences a need to draw. Of course, when we find our own wholeness more fully we can still very much enjoy relationships, art, and anything else in life. And it comes more from joy than neediness.