30 Days of Jung — Day 16: #Darkness #Community #Altruism #Support


I’m beginning to see a pattern now with these quotes: consciousness and darkness, meaning and light. I haven’t bothered to look at the 30 least-popular quotes of Jung’s but I wonder what they are. After I get home from vacation and am on a decent network I will do that.

Welcome to Day 16 of “30 Days of Jung,” my series, wherein (soon, I will start repeating myself, like now) I take a famous quote of Carl G. Jung‘s and try to make sense or refute or invert or disembowel it or where I turn into a heaping pile of mush because of it in 1,000 words or less.

If you don’t know who Jung is, he formulated the theories of introverted and extroverted personalities, the stages of individuation, the basis of the “Meyers-Briggs” personality (INFJ / ESFJ, etc.) tests. He’s the “father” of modern-day psychoanalysis. In short, he’s a badass. But he’s dead, so he can’t be with us today.

Here is today’s:

“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being.” ― C.G. Jung

I have a confession to make: this is the third post I wrote in one day, last Friday the 28th. I just wanted to get some of these done because the weather forecast was looking amazing and I had to take advantage of the lack of rain.

We are over the hump! I have published more of these quotes than I have yet to do! Yay me! Yay you for hanging in there and not punting me!

Are you learning about yourself? I am learning about myself and it’s hard to shake this stuff once I not only read the quotes but also process them with my eyes, hands and being — I feel this stuff in my stomach and sometimes I get a micro-headache.

Those headaches are what some people consider subconscious “blocks” of the mental energy toward accountability or vulnerability.

I think I get them not necessarily for those reasons, but I can’t be too sure. I also suspect because this is a lot of work. I will admit that I’m doing several a day while on this vacation (for instance today is Friday, June 28, and I’m doing so many now just to bang them out so I can have a few days off from the keyboard, but I also enjoy doing them and the team is fishing so… and it beats going for a run, which I should do…)

I digress. Shocking I know.

Kindle a light of meaning in the darkness. Not ON the darkness.

In the darkness. That implies that you’re in it too with that (other) person, you’re not just shining a light ON the darkness. You are leading a way out perhaps, but certainly are included IN the darkness’s darkness.

“We can discern.” … “we.”

Jung was on a committee when he wrote this one I guess.

“Mere being.” Mere: two usages which can mean or highlight very different things. One usage is to emphasize how small or insignificant something is: “mere mortals” ; and the other usage is to emphasize how small something is despite the fact that it can influence a situation or outcome: “the mere thought of it turned his stomach.”

This quote sounds like old Jung, resigned Jung, tired Jung, grumpy Jung. It feels like a stark contrast to the Jung of Day 12 who said we had the privilege of a lifetime to become who we truly are.

I have to disagree with this quote a little. I will try inverting it. No, I won’t. Strike that.

I do not feel it is my sole purpose to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of (my? yours?) mere being.

This makes the whole living / existence gig sound utterly I depressing. I don’t think that I’m here to shine a light on anyone’s darkness. I don’t think you’re here to do that for me. I think I’m supposed to do that for myself and I’ll be honest with you: I’m feeling a lot possessive of my inner sparkler at the moment.

I really don’t like this quote. If you could see me right now, you’d see this:


It’s not a very pretty picture, is it? That’s my “I don’t believe the fish was quite that big” face. It’s also the expression I make when I am feeling put-upon, encumbered and not thrilled with the fact that I have to drive a carful of third-graders home from a candy factory.

I feel like the sole purpose of my human existence is to simply get by with a genuine smile as often as possible while owning my crap when I don’t have a smile on my face. I feel like it’s about reframing sometimes, about shining the light on my dark assessments and coming out on top of it all with a better attitude than with what I started.

I think the quote makes me feel like if I don’t light a spark in someone else’s darkness that I’m not living a full life. There are plenty of people, trust me, who would like me to keep my sparkler to myself. So what do we do then?

I’m reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink while on vacation. I’m admittedly late to the party as the book was written in 2006, but I’ve had it on my shelf since then. I’ve been meaning to read it for years, because I tend to be indecisive (I’ve heard we Libras are like that) but I also think part of me didn’t want to read it because then once I’d read it, and I started to listen to my intuition then I’d have to make up my mind and be settled with the decisions I’d made and well, who wants that?

So I look back to the quote. In the darkness. … Mere being.

And I change my course a little: maybe this is wise Jung, seasoned Jung.

Maybe this is the Jung who in his practice of learning and discerning “individuation” has come to the conclusion that even though we are individuals, we are also part of a whole now; that our singular mere beings are also meant to light the paths for others despite our being dead like Jung or alive like me and you.

Maybe just being or allowing ourselves into “the darkness,” or for some of us simply allowing that there is “darkness” is enough of a start. If we go back to that second use of “mere,” the one about something small influencing an outcome, it seems hopeful doesn’t it?

These quotes are beginning to wear on me a little, I’ll be honest. I am feeling a bit like Jack Torrence in The Shining; I’m looking forward to a few days off from all this psychology and nonfiction.

This quote is hard. So in the spirit of Blink (I’m only 50 pages into it) I maintain my initial reaction that this is a later, tired but seasoned Jung who I feel like is ready to close up shop while at the same time seeing the benefit of working so hard to help people find their own inner lights to share with others in their darknesses.

Thank you.

ps — I wrote this on Friday and today is Sunday, still two days early but two days later from the original writing of this post and I have come to the conclusion that Jung wrote this with other people to help him, the “we” and that proposes to me that he too might have needed community to to better serve people. So I started thinking this morning when I woke up about the movie of my youth called, “The Breakfast Club,” where six students from all different walks of life joined together for a Saturday detention at their high school to fight the power, learn about the janitor, get to know and align with one another and truly grow beyond their little boxes.

Because Murphy did what he did that door the other night, my husband ended up rising early Sunday and making a trip to the Walmart where when he walked in, he was in a horrible mood: bad sleep, worrying about the repair, wondering about Murphy and having to perform the repair and then: Walmart of all places while he was on vacation.

When he came back, he said he’d had a wonderful time: he’d met helpful people (which is a redundancy here in Canada) and he’d solved his problems and he found a community because he was able to help other people there too. It was that he was a kindle in his own darkness as well as others.

That the rub: “We’re all alone in this together.” — Lily Tomlin

About Grass Oil by Molly Field

follow me on twitter @mollyfieldtweet. i'm working on a memoir and i've written two books thus unpublished because i'm a scaredy cat. i hail from a Eugene O'Neill play and an Augusten Burroughs novel but i'm a married, sober straight mom. i write about parenting, mindfulness, irony, personal growth and other mysteries vividly with a bit of humor. "Grass Oil" comes from my son's description of dinner i made one night. the content of the blog is random, simple, funny and clever. stop by, it would be nice to get to know you. :)

7 responses »

  1. You are always so thought evoking. May we all find our way out of the darkness while providing a light for others, doing what we love to make a difference.

  2. Hmmm, you look a little like Sally Fields in Forest Gump in the pic you posted. Anyway that’s a really nice quote you posted 🙂

  3. I tend to look at this quote from an existential point of view. We have to create the meaning in/of our lives. Without a purpose, all we have is despair and darkness (death). This is probably why people have religion. I think maybe Jung believed we didn’t have to look outside of ourselves to find that meaning. What makes us truly live as opposed to merely being alive?

    • Thanks, Lil. I think you’re right. I do think that if we didn’t have meaning then we’d likely flounder, but what about the people who blame their lack of meaning-feeling on others? Where’s the kindle there? Gah. Don’t answer. I still hate this quote, but I like your assessment. It’s way better than mine. : )

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