Canadian literary critic Northrop Frye recognized the symbolism and patterns associated with both the seasons and literary genres. He noted that autumn is the dying stage of the calendar, which parallels thetragedy genre because it is known for the “fall” or demise of a character.
In tragedy the focus is on the individual, specifically his/her isolation. The story begins with one whom has a sense of free will (that summer-like freedom and idyllic situations) and moves them into a world of causation; a world dependent on the natural law or fate. This often occurs in situations beyond one’s control such as deaths, health issues, ‘pink slips’, and the seasons.
At this time of year we put our gardens ‘to rest’, and perhaps with shorter days, we begin feeling a tad (or more) melancholy. How do you feel about summer ending?
Psychologically, when people encounter a ‘fall,’ they are depressed, feel trapped and perceive that life is meaningless. As unpleasant as these times are, descents provide an opportunity for revitalization.
However, if we are to gain any renewal we must stay long enough in the muck to learn what the angst is really about. This belief often goes against common practices such as taking anti-depressants or keeping busy to avoid these uncomfortable feelings.
Many times in our lives we enter the dreaded cave, tunnel or watery depths, as Jonah did when swallowed by the whale. As the Supertramp(D. Richards/R.Hodgson) song stated:
Does it feel that your life’s become a catastrophe?
Oh, it has to be for you to grow, boy.
At these times, we are required to remove our masks, roles and false persona. We may feel as if we are ‘coming apart’ or ‘going crazy’ as we experience an inner dismemberment. As our fears arise we ask, “Who am I? How do I really want to live my life?” We find ourselves weighing options that no longer have meaning for us.
However stuck in our angst we feel we may be, there is nothing not ever happening. Energy previously spent outwardly is pulled inward; trying to problem solve, going through different scenarios and options. As we spend time looking at what we have been and who we want to be, insights are seen. Glimpses of new, albeit scary, possibilities occur.
If we decide to stay in the muck, courageously and patiently as Jung phrased it, “holding the tension of opposites,” we eventually reach a still point where our perception shifts from old to new. It’s neither the right nor the left hand; it is something else, something new.
However, there will be losses, and these bring suffering. As much as Ego struggles and resists, it is strong enough to handle the pain.
We eventually ascent back to a new phase of life, integrating the lessons learned in our recent descent. As we continue along our spiral of life, we wisely know there will be other necessary descents which we will heroically accept and travel.