On the evening of Saturday, March 3, the Tribute to James Hillman had a very special guest speaker, Michael Meade.
Before his presentation began, one of my close friends told me she had seen him speak before. She explained to me how dynamic he is, but there really is no understanding it until you witness it yourself! He is a storyteller in touch with the depth of soul and the power of community. He has the power to evoke deep emotion and the ability to speak wisely without preaching. To begin with, Meade told us the evening would serve very much like a traditional funeral, which traditionally used to take place for three days (just as this event!). He said you have to Remember, Recognize, and Let Go. We had been remembering Hillman since the Friday evening reception. Now he was having us recognize the loss, and Sunday we would see the art of Letting Go.
Meade instructed that there are three ways to help souls move in the other world: tears, prayers, and song. He defined prayer as a means of thinking of something greater than ourselves (inclusive to all religions, or no religion). Then he taught us a song to sing together. It was an ancient song, and he said we couldn’t mess up the words. He explained that the song was an honor to the elder. The meaning and feeling resonated. Also, there’s something greatly powerful about having 200 people sing in unison, being led by this great man.
Here is a brief video I took with my iPhone. The visual quality isn’t great, but the audio came through nicely and hopefully it captures some of the event for you.
As Meade reflected on James Hillman, he said he could describe James in two words: Extravagant and Irreplaceable. He defined “extra-vagant” as “to wonder outside, beyond the boundaries.” And he defined “irreplaceable” as the “job of every human being.” You want “to live life so fully that everyone knows there will never be another person like you.”
Then he told us a story through song. It was the story of a sage, a tiger, and a grieving woman finding a deep strength within herself. I believe it resonated for us all. His drumming was exquisite, and the storytelling was poignant in this collective time of grief.
Meade then reflected on Senex and Puer, a topic of one of Hillman’s books, and one that came up frequently throughout the day. According to Meade, senex and puer, ending and beginning, are inside us all. Therefore, we’re living with a split inside ourselves. Until we each heal it in ourselves, it will not be healed in the collective. Giving us some direction, Meade indicated that we can respond from the heart, which, in olden days, was considered the organ of perception. The world is in catastrophe. But it’s not the end of the world. It’s only the end of the way wethink about the world, according to Meade. We need to accept our pathologies, our cracks, and our confusions.
As we prepared for a funerary ritual, Meade explained that when you are memorializing any one person, others may come to mind. That was also part of old traditions. In other words, it’s natural and okay. Really, grief for one allows for grief of all. And finally, returning to the ideas of gratitude expressed throughout the day, Meade reflected that you can only feel gratitude when you are whole.
Then Meade led the group through a ritual. The lights were dimmed. We chanted the song he had taught us. And one by one we came up to light small candles and place them on an alter in remembrance of James Hillman.