"I might. . .suggest that you were already a writer many years before you began writing, many years before you found or were clobbered by your catalyst. I would think you became a writer at about age 10 or 11, around the same time that eventual serial killers start torturing small animals they find in their neighborhood, and bridge engineers design their first birdhouse, and veterinarians rescue their first baby bird."
Do you think that's true? Does it happen that early? Or even earlier?
There's a famous Jungian analyst by the name of James Hillman who says we are like acorns, with all of our future talents and potentials curled up tight inside of us like our DNA. He calls that stuff inside the acorn our "daimon." He points out the obvious, that no acorn can grow into an oak tree without the requisite light, food, and water. Then he takes it at least a step further, claiming that sometimes the "bad" things that happen in our lives are that food, light, and water. In his book, The Soul's Code, he points to Hitler as an example of someone to whom exactly the "right" things happened to grow him up to be the mass murderer he became, things such as a father who beat him every day. Given different circumstances, Hillman suggests, that acorn would still have been packed with the right stuff to grow a sadist, but that particular oak could not have reached its full "potential" without the particular "nurturing" it received as a young twig.
I probably was "always" a writer, even before I could even read, much less write, and it did take a particular event to catalyze that into being. A lot of good things and people fed and watered me, but there were some "bad" things and people along the way, too. There was the college English teacher who read my first short story aloud to the class--to make fun of it, and to lead the class in laughing at it and at me. There were the editors who rejected me. There were people and events like that, which had the effect of holding off my attempt to bloom until the right time, the truly right time. I still don't admire people like that teacher, but I am grateful to him in a weird way, because he convinced me I didn't have any talent for fiction, which turned me toward journalism, which turned out to be a great training ground for a novelist.
So far, Hillman's theories sound pretty familiar. But now, here's where he takes it a big step further. In an interview, Hillman talked about how the daimon knows exactly what it needs and goes after it. . .
". . .this daimon is too big a burden for children to carry, too, and the daimon doesn't want to be treated as a child. For example, the Nobel prize winner in biology, Barbara McClintock, didn't want tools that were children's tools. She wanted her father to give her real tools. She was five years old and she didn't want a kid's hammer and a kid's saw. And Yehudi Menuhin didn't want a child's violin with metal strings, he wanted the real thing even though he was only four years old. Why? Because the daimon knows what it needs and the child is not up to the task. You feel that when you are a kid. You fall in love as a little child just as strongly as you do when you're twenty or forty. You have ideas of God and death and disaster and catastrophe fantasies of that sort that are just as strong as when you are sixty. I mean it's there. So much of it is already there. . . .
"So much of it is already there. . ."
Do you feel as if you've had a "daimon" within you, an inner drive pulling you in unconscious ways to where you needed to go? Were you born with a kernel, an acorn, of what and who you would become in this life? Or maybe you've seen it in somebody else?
Or, not? :)
I have no idea if Hillman's right. It could all be just a fancy name for "fate." (I'm just barely touching on his ideas.) I do like how he encourages his readers to examine the good and bad of their lives for "symptoms" of the nature of their daimon, and then to "grow down" into that rich smelly moist soil, instead of resenting it, or trying to rise ethereally above it. That advice has an earthy, non-resisting Buddhist feeling, and I like it. For one thing, a life lived like that would be a life lived without resentment. To resent that teacher of mine, for instance, would be like a plant resenting its fertilizer.
Allrighty then! Enough heavy pondering for one morning. Maybe we'll see who's got a daimon and who's just a little demon. :) I'll see ya in the comments, where the truly important stuff, like coffee and tea, is being served up!