As the Gathering to Offer Tribute and Celebrate the Life and Work of James Hillman continued on Saturday, March 3, attendees were blessed with a variety of reflections from Hillman’s colleagues. Please enjoy the excerpts below.
Dennis Slattery quoted Hillman from a presentation he gave in 2000 at UCSB: “Notice. Listen. Appreciate. Something is always speaking.” In addition to reflecting on the fun of parties at Hillman’s house, including a reluctant tap-dance performance by Hillman, Slattery focused on the soulful side of Hillman, citing a heart-felt gift Hillman once sent him. The gift was a reflection of Hillman’s listening. He truly heard his friends and colleagues when they spoke. Slattery concluded, “Listening to another human being might be the most generous gift we can give.”
Michael Sipiora placed emphases on the importance of one’s character and made a call for our society to untie the link between old age and death. Mary Watkins reflected on the welfare of society, concluding that “Self is a self among, not a soul apart.” Her call was to an awareness of dysfunction in community. Joe Coppin discussed a beautiful image of a living fence that appeared to him in a dream. In his imagining, this is something sufficient to hold ideas but not prevent them from flirting with other ideas. He concluded that dream is the natural state of the human mind. Ed Casey discussed Nietzsche’s notion “Love Your Fate” and examined how slowing down – one of Hillman’s great traits – makes sudden insight possible. In each of these reflections, the influence of Hillman shone through.
Glen Slater focused on the collective unconscious, which Hillman defined as unconsciousness of our collective history. Slater described that Hillman befriended ideas and would sit with them until they revealed their deeper characteristics. Hillman’s capacity for listening was reflected upon again and again, making clear his generosity and attention to detail in both his personal relationships and in his work. In conclusion, Slater explained that our ideas, like our complexes, often have us more than we have them. It appears Hillman had a better grip on his ideas than many of us manage. His patience with his ideas permitted him to present great depth in his books and presentations in a way that resonates for the intellect and the soul.
Robert Romanyshyn discussed places of language in the land of the soul. Quoting Keats’ notion of the world as the vale of soul-making, Romanyshyn declared that the consciousness of nature is in each of us through our collective unconscious. He directed that we can hold onto our epiphanies of words by letting them go. Important places to be are in the gap, on the bridge, at the threshold, at the edge of the abyss. He warned us that the best way to kill the soul is to bastardize logos.
Ginette Paris opened to the audience in a deeply personal way by sharing her experience at the loss of Hillman, her close friend and colleague. And in respect of her and her experience, I do not feel comfortable in restating it here. I mention it only to say that I was moved by her discussion, her openness, and her soulfulness. As she continued with her reflection, Paris indicated that during his sickness, Hillman stated, “I am dying, but I could not be more engaged in living.” Through personal experience and intimate understanding of Hillman, she powerfully depicted the vibrancy and energy he always maintained. She pointed us to the image of the tree, reminding that the soul sends roots down as much as it sends branches upward. Paris reflected further that the art of dying permits us each to have our own way. And it is through our own unique Rise and Fall that we get the variety of life, which was, according to Hillman, the “cosmic lesson of life.”
As the speakers participated in a brief roundtable discussion, Slater emphasized that our culture tends to ask for the separation of good and bad before asking if something is beautiful or ugly. He shared an antidote he had heard Hillman present. In short, if a kid drops the wrapper to his candy, the father shouldn’t talk about littering and the importance of picking up trash. Instead, he should tell the kid that if he doesn’t put the wrapper with the other wrappers, it will be lonely without its friends. Engage the imagination, the beauty, the soul!
Romanyshyn reflected again on “the connective tissue between ideas and taking time,” emphasizing that “words have roots in the suffering of the soul.”
Finally, Paris shared Hillman’s fantasy – and really love – of work. She said his image for working was a farmer. I envision honor, hard work, patience. Paris mentioned cleaning and creating.
Rumi: “It’s easier to be angry than to think.”