The Song of the Harp.

There is a story of a man who hit his head and when he woke up he could play the piano. Did he awaken a latent gift? Or did he put out of action something suppressing? Either way the music was in him all along.

It’s important because mostly what we learn in life is not to. My own father’s silent message was, ‘achieve, but don’t ever go beyond me.’ This is an attitude that is endemic in the West, me first, only. Its patriarchal splashback that has a very particular impact on children.

This is symbolised in the story of Jack and the Beanstalk by the devouring Giant with a taste for his wife’s tastiest boy-pie but more importantly the things he has, the appropriated qualities of the natural child symbolised by the singing harp and the golden egg laying duck, that need to be redeemed/stolen.

The devouring giant is a corporate fascist possessed by the archetype of Saturn who, importantly, eats his own children…

and voters..

Of course he does it for their own good…

to teach them about life

a conundrum as unlikely and impossible as the Church, Darwin and Freud all singing from the same hymn sheet on the theme of human Wickedness and Strife, but nevertheless true.

”The assumption of innate sociality is at direct odds with the fairly universal civilised belief that a child’s impulses need to be curbed in order to make him social. There are those that believe reasoning is better than the hickory stick but the assumption that every child has an antisocial nature, in need of manipulation to become socially acceptable, is germane to both points of veiw”. J. Liedloff.

This basic assumption conjours the Devouring Giant from the collective imagination, it sets in place a style of fathering that is idealised for want of substance. In the name of teaching him about life he slowly consumes the child’s vitality instead, his spirit of adventure, his self-confidence and worth.

If our fundamental belief systems frame humanity as disobedient and full of anti-social willyness, then how are we to turn out? Children invariably live up to their parent’s expectations, particularly the darker, unspoken, semi-conscious ones. Our survival instincts compel us to soak up every scrap of information about ourselves even if it is to our detriment.

Up until I was forty I used to say about myself that I hadn’t an artistic bone in my body. I used to say it to the extent that I began to puzzle over it before finding that it was entiely untrue  though it took a great upheaval, a huge crisis, to break through decades of restraint and having to hive off my talents to be loved and accepted.

I know of several instances where an anorexic child has been freed only once the parents had become conscious of their own covert campaign against the child growing up. The refusal to eat is actually a form of compliance to the deeper message ‘don’t grow.’

A satire that documents the consequences for us of such unlived creativity is portrayed by the robot character, ‘Bender’ from the cartoon hit series, ‘Futurama’.

Bender was rejected from the assembly line for his imperfections. He has no creativity micro-chip and therefore no imagination. This impacts his whole self construct which manifests under stressful circumstances as a partially autonomous identity, the somewhat creepy ‘Titanius Anglesmith Fancyman of Cornwood’.

The robotic Narcissist, plagued by the feeling of being defective from birth, adapts with impeccable instinct to a lifestyle devoid of his own destiny whilst just about managing not to be eaten by it.

Bender is a modern rendering of the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz who didn’t have a heart. In the story of Jack and the Beanstalk this is more specifically amplified as the sentient harp, the Principle of Relatedness, the profound creative depths of the child that the envious Giant appropriates, that he requires the child to forgo for the sake of approval. The inner aridity this then creates is represented by the mean poverty endured by Jack and his mother at the beginning.

The liberating effect of the singing harp is further amplified in the fairytale, ‘The Song of the Harp’, where, likewise, a sentient harp is imprisoned by a devouring male figure, The Old Man, Saturn.

When the Harp is liberated..

”the sick children who had been thrust away in dark cellars, came running forth whole and well, healed by the song, sinking into every heart, waking all to fresh new life. ” Rachel Penn.

Not only is the inner child redeemed but also the adult sense of lack and incompleteness ..

‘The black-haired woman who sat on the farther side of the fountain; the sting had gone from her heart; peace unspeakable had swept it away and between her eyes and the flowers and the swaying crowd of people something bright was falling which slowly blotted out from the mind of each one there the memory of their many deeds of shame, and all their sin.” ibid.

The other treasure that Jack has to redeem in order to be free of the tyrant is a duck which lays golden eggs.

Dissonance in a family makes it difficult to digest experience, to contain contradiction, to reflect upon one’s situation because reality is too split to support it. You can’t learn. When kids go through divorces the first thing that suffers is their grades.

Though the demanding Giant is the scarier of the two with all his threatens of death by incissor..

‘fee fi fo fum I smell the blood of an englishman. Be he alive or be he dead I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.’ bad tempered Giant.

The Mother Giant is as crazy making and colludes with her husband by witholding the transformational duck whose alchemical powers of turning farmyard scraps into golden eggs allows a child to grow from shitty situations, to change his point of veiw, to reconstrue events in new light that changes the meaning of events themselves.

Mother Giant prevents this from happening by the dissonance in her relationship with her spouse. His taste for boy pie notwithstanding, his official scariness is underpined by a covert and tantrumming brat that his seemingly submissive wife steers like Matron.

All this hidden stuff means Jack can’t entertain life’s disappointments without them tearing him apart because he can’t turn them into lessons without the help of the alchemical duck who can turn even life’s swill into golden eggs. Without this capacity to embrace a whole variety of circumstances as being all grist for the mill, the kind of willingness to enter into experience that is more trust than courage, Jack will be at the mercy of the Giant. He has to take it or die trying.

So eventually the two treaures are bought to earth. But it is a curious and particular detail that makes sure Jack is then able to enjoy the fruits of his daring. What finishes the Giant off is not simply that he chops the beanstalk down..

‘Luckily, because of all the chores he’d done over the years, he’d become quite good at chopping and it didn’t take long for him to chop through enough of the beanstalk that it began to teeter’.  leanne Guenter

You do your chores in co-operation with natural law, out of the instinct for social co-operation and helping one another and it is by the effect of these efforts that the giant is killed.