Upside down

Thursday, May 26, 2011

May 26, 2011

Dear Julie,

The tornado deposited Dorothy and Toto in the Technicolor Land of Oz, but the denizens of Joplin have no such fate. Devastation and heartbreak are all around. They must wonder what will become of their town and their lives.

One of DC's sister lives in Neosho, a town just 12 miles south of Joplin. Just before the twister struck, she and her husband had driven north past Joplin to begin a trip to Canada. That's nowhere near a close call. Thousands of people had the closest of close calls Sunday.

What providence spares one life and ends another? At least we know we will never know.

People in Oklahoma and Missouri know how to live with tornadoes -- just not ordinarily with tornadoes so calamitous. Those interviewed right after the tornado struck were still in a state of shock and probably still are. For those of us watching on TV this summons up our own experiences with shock, with experiencing a world turned upside down. You feel as if you are in a dream.

Life in a dream can be surreal. Things are unfamiliar. Dreams are illogical, can be nightmarish, can overload the senses, can be grotesque, horrifying, inexplicable, unsettling, inspiring, confusing, heart-wrenching. Then you wake up. But this is Joplin's reality.

In dreams, the landscape and the rules are topsy-turvy. Life in Joplin, Mo., seems that way today.

Jungian psychology holds that the figures we encounter in dreams can both represent aspects of ourselves and also can have counterparts in the waking world. That dreams, whether we can interpret them or not, are messages from another realm to our souls.

If this dream is unintelligible, no one in Joplin is unchanged by it. Dreams ask questions from our deepest selves, the Jungian psychologist and writer Jill Mellick says. They ask us to open our hearts.

Things were black and white in Kansas. Not so much in Oz. Oh, the bad witches are ugly and the good witch is lovely, but the wizard is no Merlin. Oz sparkles with greens and ruby slippers, but flying monkeys are about. Fortunately, three familiar-looking helpers representing Dorothy's own intelligence, heart and courage come to her aid.

Hindu deities personify the divine in each being. Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are all different aspects of the Supreme Being. Hindus invoke these mythological psychological archetypes just as Christians pray for guidance.

Calling on the intelligence, heart and courage in themselves and others eventually will restore life of some kind in Joplin. In the past decade, people in Indonesia, New Orleans, Haiti and Japan have discovered how slow and grievous the process is. It calls for faith, another divine quality that exists in us all. For now, the world is upside down.

Love, Sam

Sam Blackwell is a former reporter for the Southeast Missourian.

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