Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Defending Fairy Tales from the National Rifle Association

A version of this photo-essay was published in the Concord Monito

Strangled by Dark Emotions
Photo of honeysuckle vine along the Merrimack
CC Jean Stimmell: 4/16/16

Defending Fairy Tales from the National Rifle Association

Katy Burns alerted us in last Sunday’s Monitor Forum about how the NRA has started rewriting Grimm’s’ Fairy Tales to give them “happy endings.” The NRA revisions promote the notion that if only victims, like Little Red Riding Hood, were packing a gun, they could have triumphed over evil.

Rewriting Grimm’s’ Fairy Tales is wrong on so many levels.  To start with, the NRA is defiling a classic work of literature, praised by the likes of W. H Auden as one of the founding works of Western culture. And ethically and spiritually, it feels to me like blasphemy to replace the timeless wisdom of fairy tales with the naked assertion that might-makes-right.

I will admit that, on the surface, fairy tales – like the NRA – do indeed simplify the world by separating it totally into black and white. They are populated with people who are one-dimensional: either completely good or bad. The NRA has created “happy endings” by taking this one-dimensional thinking to a whole new level: Just shoot the bad guy and the problem is solved.

However this upends the deeper meaning of fairy tales which, in the final analysis, bear witness to how rash action and violence don’t solve problems but create bigger ones. For example, remember what happened when President Bush quickly declared victory after his military invasion of Iraq, announcing to the world: “Mission Accomplished!”

Fairy Tales have a different mission. They externalize the bad guys, the evil ones, not to blow them away but to create a safe space for children and adults alike to ponder the true nature of our feelings. By having this safe place to process our dark, underlying emotions, we gain the wisdom to see that this cursed shadow we are wrestling with is often a projection of our own dark impulses – not an external enemy.

Like religion, fairy tales can awaken us to the truth that the evil we wish to banish, more often than not, resides not in the world outside but within the recesses of our own heart. They also teach us how to come to terms with the unpredictable nature of change in our lives.

Fairy tales teach children and adults alike about the uncertainty of life and dangers that are always lurking, poised to jump out and confront us at any moment. That is the nature of life: we can’t escape. Despite our multitude of material goodies and high tech gadgets, we all still grow old, get sick, and die. Shit continues to happen. Some would say now more than ever.

The role of a fairy tale is to give us hope and reassurance by reconnecting us to our childhood feelings of awe and respect for life as a miraculous process – not to be confronted with a snarling threat, as if in a Clint Eastwood movie: Go Ahead, Make my Day.

In essence, fairy tales are metaphorical and mythological: their function is to teach us that despite ever-present possibilities of impending danger and misfortune, we must keep on growing and moving forward to reap our reward. In Shakespeare’s memorable words, Out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety.


Sunday, April 10, 2016

Poseidon's Farewell

Fort Foster, Kittery Maine: 4/9/16                        CC Jean Stimmell

Rest in peace my friend
washed up by the tide
festooned with seaweed:
Poseidon's farewell

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Horned Pout Leaping to Higher Consciousness

Ice Sculpture above Jenness Pond
CC Jean Stimmell: 3/6/16
Spray from waves on Jenness Pond
create an ice sculpture
which to my inner eye
looks like a horned pout
escaping her watery world
for a higher calling.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Zen Reflections at River's Edge

Zen Reflections at River's Edge
CC Jean Stimmell: 3/4/16

On this raw, snow-flurry day, 
Mother Nature gives us hope 
that spring will soon be here 
by showcasing exquisite Zen paintings 
along the banks of the Merrimack –
not of cherry blossoms
but ice crystals.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

What Does a Petrified Turtle Symbolize?

Winter Turtle at Northwood Meadows Park
CC Jean Stimmell: 3/1/16
Talking to Turtle just as I found him – neither posed nor photoshopped –
basking on his favorite rock, though summer has long passed.

Oh Turtle, why do you stand frozen
above the ice-covered waters?

Why have not you made your seasonal return
to restore yourself in the warm, muddy depths?

What do you symbolize? What do you represent
in these perilous times of global upheaval

and climate distress?

Thursday, February 18, 2016


Trree Root Labyrinth
CC Jean Stimmell: 2/18/16
The labyrinth is one of our oldest human symbols dating back at least to 2500BCE and is most likely much older than that. Because it consistently has the same meaning across different discontiguous cultures and unrelated time periods, the labyrinth evokes the notion of Carl Jung's collective unconscious. 

Our pole beans transcending not only the growing season, but time and space

CC Jean Stimmell 2/16/16