In what direction does the timeline take us?

I’m mainly a screenwriter, I work with scripts for film and tv in Scandinavia.  In my field we usually say that dramaturgy is “structured time”…

I want to share some thoughts based on James Hillman. He was an American author and psychologist, who died 2011. He had some unique ideas about our culture’s obsessions and the soul that I think relates to authors. He believed that it is important that there is SOUL even in the public debate. Which in today’s media climate can be perceived as an almost revolutionary idea, right?

An interesting thought Hillman had was that people do not mature, it’s just in our heads. He argues that the idea of development, or “inner growth,” has become a fixed idea in our society. How do we grow, he wondered. Like tomatoes?

I think this is a relevant question, not the least when working with character development. Do we really develop all the time? Do we always have to look forward and be so into results and perfection, both on the exterior and the interior? Maybe life is not a movement forward the way we take it for granted in the western world? Maybe time, in fact, travels in the opposite direction? Many cultures believe that’s the case. Read colleagues living in mysterious places and you will be enlightened.

Hillman tells a story in one of his books, that nicely illustrates how we draw conclusions depending on which direction we think time itself is moving. The tale is about Manolete, a famous Spanish bullfighter. He was killed by a bull during a magnificent performance. When Manolete was a kid, he was a coward hiding behind his mother’s skirt all the time. His character has been analyzed by numerous psychoanalysts. They call his behavior “compensatory.” He became a bullfighter because he was such a wimp as a child. That’s how psychoanalysis works—it is based on cause/effect connections.
Another rhetoric is based on the idea that time works the other way around, flows in the opposite direction. The future knows what every moment will bring. What if it was Manolete’s destiny to become a great bullfighter? Perhaps he was called by something greater than his poor self-esteem. Maybe his child’s soul heard a cry from the future? No wonder he was hanging around his mother then, right?

These are two completely different ways of looking at human life, one “as a matter of fact” and one more mysterious. I dedicate myself to the later because it gives life a sense of deeper meaning, whether or not it is true.  This reflects on the art of storytelling in different parts of the world.  Use it. Be inspired.

Perhaps there is something that you might call fate. We all still have to relate to what we in everyday life call reality. The daily struggle with bills, jobs, and living conditions. Some need help to bring perspective and decide to undergo therapy. I’ve also done so for a short period of time. My psychologist saw himself as part of the health care system and hoped that I would be “healthy” soon. Normal.

Hillman was thinking differently and called therapy an art form. Going to therapy is, according to him, much like working as a writer—the person in therapy articulates his own life story, to make life feel more understandable.

Who cares if the story has played out“in real life” or not?  If it is a lie or the truth? Not me.

Hillman suggests our culture suffers from a lack of functioning fiction. Our common fantasy about who we are has simply crashed on a collective level.

Every society is based on a common dream, and we spread the word as writers.  What does the West’s dream really look like? Capitalism’s dream is consumption. But does consumption create images that deepen the soul? Just like Hillman, I conclude that we must begin to defend the fiction of our lives, to feel free to fantasize both individually and collectively. We need to include the importance of not only telling the truth, but also the art of dreaming, because there is a chance the literal truth doesn’t exist; it’s just bad fiction that we take for granted.

This is relevant to me, since I’m writing a book with a Canadian man, living in Asia. Being Swedish myself, and always traveling. I hope it also makes sense to you.

Happy writing from Petra Revenue

This post is contributed as Guest post by Petra Revenue