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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


I'm an insomniac.

In truth, I'm not sure when one becomes entitled to use that label--how many wakeful nights qualify you?

Certainly this last one was wakeful. I woke around 1:30 and felt my mind drawn into the vortex of concern. By 2:30 I knew it was hopeless. I donned the sweats I'd left on the chair against this likelihood, and took myself downstairs to read. I cranked on the heat in the living-room, poured myself a scotch, opened up Asimov's Guide to the Old Testament, and got highlighting.

With my mind drawn to issues other than my own life, fatigue and befuddlement set in. But I could tell there was still a sharp edge in it. I returned to bed at around 4:00 to wait out the time till the 5:30 alarm. Then: up and at 'em!

It's not unrelated to my post yesterday about Pluto and Saturn. One of the points that caught my attention while I was typing notes from Howard Sasportas's The Gods of Change was a reference to Abraham Maslow's concept of "the Jonah complex". This was the term he gave to the fear of one's own destiny or calling--the principal obstacle to self-actualization. Sasportas continues:

Why should we fear our own greatness? One reason is a fear of responsibility. If we fully acknowledged our potential talents, we would have to shoulder the burden of doing something to develop them. Another reason for denying our full potentiality might be the fear of the power it would give us. We wouldn't be able to be "little" anymore. Would we use our power wisely, or would we mishandle it? Or maybe we are afraid that if we were truly in touch with living our greatness, other people would be envious and resentful of our achievements. Transiting Pluto, in making us more aware of what is buried in us, may ask that we confront these fears in order to grow into the self that we truly are.

Jonah (whose name means "dove"), ordered by Yahweh to prophesy to Nineveh (capital of Assyria), tries to dodge the task, catching a boat to Tarshish. A violent storm comes up, and the sailors, casting lots to discover the cause, find out that it is Jonah. Jonah confesses that this is the case, and that the sea will calm if he is thrown overboard. Jonah would rather die than face his mission. The sailors, in desperation, take his advice and chuck him over. He is swallowed by a "great fish" and remains in its belly for three days before being vomited ashore, safe and sound.

I'm not sure what I think of the Jonah complex, but I know it relates to me, because I felt a cold finger move into my core when I read about it.

One decision I came to was to read some Maslow. I ordered a book by him yesterday.

Fear of one's own greatness. Hmm...how about megaphobia? Yes: I offer that term to psychology--as well as a basket of symptoms.

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