by James Bonnet
The purpose of great stories, then, is to guide us to our full potential. Now let’s talk about the nature of story — why the old great story takes the form it does and why its secrets have to be concealed.
The ego that would be guided through these passages presents the creative unconscious self with some pretty thorny problems, the principal one being it simply doesn’t want to go through them. We have an incredibly strong, built-in resistance to change. In most cases, we would much rather hold on to some pleasant (or even unpleasant) current situation than give up everything and venture into the unknown. Real life is a serious and deadly game. It involves taking significant risks and facing unpleasant realities and truths.
Someone once asked a Buddha about these truths and the Buddha showed him a bowl of worms and said: “If you would understand these truths, then you would have to eat this bowl of worms.”
The man shuddered with disgust and walked away. The point of the story being, of course, that the truths we have to face in life are sometimes like eating a bowl of worms. They can be that unpleasant.
Two days after I was thinking of using that little story in the seminars I was preparing, I had this dream: I was riding in the back of a convertible. We were approaching a crossroads and there was something there which I didn’t want to see, so I covered my face with my hands and said: “No, no. I don’t want to look.” But then, to my credit, I peeked through my fingers, anyway, and this is what I saw.
There was a dinky little RV sitting at the crossroads. On the side of the RV, where the utilities are usually plugged in, there were four very organic looking holes. And while I was watching, a dozen or so very fat six-foot worms came sliding out of these holes onto the ground.
I woke up in a cold sweat. And it took several hours before I realized what the dream meant. The journey I was about to commence (i.e. taking the knowledge of story I had discovered to market) wasn’t going to be a pleasant one. I could see that in the dream because I don’t like traveling in RV’s, especially this type, which was really just a pick-up truck with a small aluminum camper on it. And, furthermore, the worms I was going to have to swallow on this journey weren’t itty bitty little worms like in the Buddha’s bowl, they were big fat ones that were six feet long. It’s not the kind of thing you look forward to.
So we are reluctant to make these passages and we have to be lured or pushed into the process. The strategy that the creative unconscious uses to lure us is the same ingenious strategy nature always uses when it teaches. It covers its medicine with a sugar coat. It hides all of the secret wisdom and purpose of story in an irresistible package with a sugar coat. The sugar coat in story is, of course, the entertainment dimensions. And the recipient doesn’t even know what’s happening — like a mother secretly hiding vitamin pills in her child’s Twinkie.
You can see this strategy very clearly in children’s games, and for this reason they are very much like a great story. Games are fun to play and that’s why children love to experience them, but they have an important and secret underlying purpose, i.e. to exercise the physical body, develop social skills, etc. In other words, they have an important purpose which the child is not aware of and a sugar coat. The sugar coat lures the child into the experience and he or she becomes better prepared for life while having fun. If you take the fun out of the game, the child loses interest. If you take the entertainment out of the story, the same thing happens. We lose interest.
Sex is another obvious example of nature’s use of this strategy. We are lured into the experience by a seductive sugar coat (the promise of romance and pleasure), but the real, underlying purpose has to do with procreation and the continuation of the species.
Motherhood is another example. Women are lured into the experience by some very pleasant maternal instincts, then find out about morning sickness and teenagers later on, when it’s too late to change their minds.
In all of these examples you will find a sugar coat (i.e. the promise of fun, fulfillment, or pleasure) that lures the person into an experience that has an important but hidden underlying purpose. In short, when nature wants something to happen, it doesn’t rely on our having good judgment or common sense. It uses the promise of fun and pleasure to get the job done without any hassle.
The movie Fatal Attraction can give you a hint of how this process might work in a modern film. We were lured into the theater by the promise of a great entertainment — a safe terror. That was the word-of-mouth on this picture. “You’ve got to see this movie. It is so scary.” That was the sugar coat. Then we came out of the theater with some very unsettling feelings about having affairs, as if there was a hidden message warning us of danger.