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Tag Archives: Depth Psychology

I am not sure why the term “fellow traveler” came to mind when I was writing this post. I think, in my head, it had a much different emotional undertone than its actual historical context suggests. Despite its name, this will not be a post about the legacy of communism in the late 1940s, nor about the Russian intellectual movement following the revolution of 1917 (sorry, Helen).

Rather, this blog post is about a particular kind of emotional connection that I have begun to notice as having a pattern. This blog post is about the moment when you connect with someone you recognize as one of your “tribe.”  Not just when someone recognizes the obscure T-shirt you’re wearing, or when your TV-show ringtone turns someone’s head–but when you exchange a few words with someone and find that, somehow, you understand them, and they understand you.

An example of this is an interaction I had at work the other day (side note: “The Other Day” is another of my favorite expressions, a verbal [citation challenge] which nods to humans’ nonlinear, irregular perception of the passage of time–but I’ll write another post about that later). AS I WAS SAYING:

At the place I work, we are required to wear aprons (huge denim aprons which either look awful or adorable depending on whether or not you ask my girlfriend) and nametags. My name tag says my name, which is one of the most common names in the Western world (Michel, Miguel, Micky, Michael, Michelle, Mike, Mikael, Michal, Michele, etc.). I am ringing out a woman’s purchases when a man comes up, looks at my name tag, and addresses me.

“It means God-Like,” he says, “You know. The name Michael.”

I know what he means immediately. The conventional etymology of the name Michael is, originally, a question, posed by an angel to a devil: “Who is like God?” What the man is doing is interpreting the name without a question mark–a little conceit which I am sure many Michels have indulged over the years–changing the meaning from “Who is like God?” to: “[subject] who is like God.”

I smile, and I reply “Yes. Quis ut deus, in the Latin, meaning “who is like God?” It’s in the Bible.”

He points at me, and smiles back, and in that moment we understand a great many things about each other, all at once, with no words spoken. And then he leaves.

I see this happen a great deal with elderly women. They pass each other by, pause, and smile at one another. What are they thinking? I have no idea. I am not an old woman, and it’s highly unlikely that I will ever be one. I also see it with nerds. And I’m not just talking people who watched Game Of Thrones. It’s the moment that happens when you ask someone “Who’s your favorite character?” and they reply with the correct answer: “Arya Stark.” You smile at one another. Perhaps you exchange words but it’s not the words that are important–its the moment when you understand that here is a person whose values align with yours. Here is a validation of your beliefs, in front of you, in the flesh.

It’s akin to the feeling when you see a familiar face in a crowd of strangers, or find a friendly gesture amid hostility (or even amid indifference). The feeling when you make a connection that you could not have anticipated, but which touches some deep chord, and shakes you to the core.

What is it that makes this moment so powerful? It doesn’t just apply to interpersonal connections. I have had moments like this with a song. Or a physical object. Or an animal. A moment of discovery. A small-scale miracle. We discover outside, in the world, something which we had previously assumed existed only in our heart–a piece of soul–and we say, I know you. I have met you before. (TITLE DROP) We are fellow travelers, you and I. The same feeling is present, according to archetypal psychology, in an Anima-figure dream–a dream wherein we meet a mysterious individual (usually a young woman but not necessarily) with whom we connect, and converse, and are haunted after waking by the idea that we know their face…from somewhere. 

And like everything strange, everything mystical, everything in the world that I can’t quite explain, I find myself asking the same question:

What does it mean?

That’s all for now, readers.

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If you’re anywhere associated with me on the internet, you will probably have seen me post this video.

Let me describe it.  It is called “The Fox,” it is a song by Ylvis, and it is a spiritual experience the likes of which you have never before encountered.  Join me as we journey through this video and uncover its secrets together.  I suggest you watch it at least once before we start. 

Ready? Good.  Let’s begin.

This video has a quiet opening. It seems as though this is deliberate, as if it is designed to shock you into enlightenment, much like a zen koan.

Fox Party

If you hadn’t seen this before, you would think it was just another music video—we open at a house party, but it quickly becomes apparent that there is something unusual taking place here…something almost otherworldly.  A Nordic-looking gentleman is staring pensively into space, eating his chips with a wistful expression.  Perhaps it is his party.  Is this Mr. Ylvis? Why is he so sad at his own zoo-themed party?  We have questions, and this video will answer none of them.  Instead, it will only stare at us knowingly, much like the elephant man.

Fox Snip 2 elephant

Then the song begins.  Right away you know this is like no other song you have ever experienced.  The lyrics are simple—one might even be tempted to say childish.  But they are uttered with such conviction that the material becomes sublime.  And once again, the elephant man only smiles, watching with the silent wisdom of a Buddha.

Fox 3 elephant

Mr. Ylvis sits on his couch and sings to himself.  Perhaps his best friend didn’t come to his birthday party? Or perhaps he is distressed by his resemblance to Chris Hemsworth.  Let us remark for a moment upon the line “And fish go blub.” Even the lowliest of creatures, the fish, are not exempt from this song.  The message is clear—all creatures are truly welcome, and each has something unique to contribute.  This thought seems to cheer Mr. Ylvis as he sadly eats popcorn, all alone on his couch.  Then he seems to plunge back into his introspection, and we come to the crux of his inner struggle, this question that burns within his heart:

Fox what does the fox say

We are instantly transported into a dark, wild forest full of fog and eerie lights.  Enthusiasts in the field of depth psychology will not require that I point out the obvious symbolism in the masked dancers and mystical atmosphere; it should be sufficient to remark their resemblance to the wild women of Bacchus and the chord they strike with the image of the anima.

Fox Forest Dance

Pressing on into this archetypal wilderness, we come upon an unexpected, but poignant sight: an elderly man reading a bedtime story to a child.  Here, clearly, is the internal struggle afflicting Mr. Ylvis—he feels trapped between two worlds, growing older and wiser, but yet still clinging to childlike wonder at the spiritual aspects of his existence.  The anima-dancers surround them, the wild, daimonic forces that are never far below the surface of any child’s psyche.

Fox Grandpa

We return to the party, where a freshly-showered, champagne-drinking singer waxes eloquent on the virtues of the fox.  As he sings, we are transported to his inner world, running wild through the underbrush along with the ‘fox,’ a clear symbol of his youthful spirituality and animal impulses.  The singer seems to realize this projection of his daimon upon this fox-shape, and refers to the creature (multiple times) as an angel.

Fox Angel

Fears of being cut off, unable to communicate, should be easily read from the next segment.  He worries that his daimon, the fox, will be unable to speak up and make itself heard by the horse, the working animal, a creature of the material word.  The brief glimpse of an electrical telegraph against a carpet of moss clearly shows the incursion of technology-driven isolation upon his inner world.

Fox Morse

Returning to the blond Mr. Ylvis in his inner landscape, night has clearly fallen.  The world is dark and dimly light.  There is something of the alien (as Otto might say) in the pulsing lights and the rapid, inhuman movements of the bacchanal.  He laughs amid this scene of wild revelry, perhaps channeling the patron of such events, the god-image of Dionysus clearly evoked in his animalistic garb.

Fox Ahae

The elderly man breaks out into animal howls.  We know now that the barriers between ego and id are breaking; the archetype of the old man, the grandfather, has broken down into the form of the fox. The child, secure in his innocent wonder, is unfazed.

Fox Howl Old

We return to our two singers, and they are united in their worship of the fox-god, literally uplifted as the sing the praise of this “ancient mystery.” They call to their canine daimon as they rise into a numinous state of connection with the divine.  As if in answer to their summons, the fox itself appears for the first time, and we briefly glimpse Mr. Ylvis on the couch, showing the first external signs of this tremendous internal conflict.  The two singers reach out to the fox, their “guardian angel,” floating in a state of spiritual rapture.

Fox Guardian Angel

The fox responds, taking on the characteristics of a human (the animal-human is such a common motif among scholars of the religious experience that to make further note here hardly seems necessary) and gives voice amid their reveling, speaking to the two in an unknown stream of syllables as the music reaches its crescendo.

Fox Fox Sing

The wild ritual peaks, and the energy falls, their voices plaintive and fading as the fox tosses its head and retreats into the dark forests from whence it came—withdrawing into the depths of the unconscious mind.  The two singers are left to wander, striding together into the light—back to the profane, everyday experience.  They bear their masks in their hands—although they must return to the world of the mundane, they are forever marked by their experience, and we know as the video ends that they will never forget their encounter with the fox, the guiding daimon of the woods.

Fox End

This video is remarkable on many levels.  It is a masterfully directed trip through the mutual experience of two men who are fortunate enough to come face-to-face with the divine.  It leaves us with many questions.  Who are these men? What does the elephant man know that we do not? What is the significance of the grandfather’s hand-knit sweater?  But these are questions whose answers can never be given.  They must be discovered by each of us, in the forest that lies within our hearts.  And that is the lesson that the Fox can teach all of us–in order to grow, to truly realize our daimon, we must seek it.  We must call to it and prove ourselves worthy.

Heed the words of the fox, my readers, for the fox is as wise as the elephant man–for his is the smile of a man who knows his daimon well.

Fox 3 elephant