Earlier that day during their tour of Canyon de Chelly, the one person Jerome had told Christophe he wanted him to meet was Frank. Frank Morgan and Christophe Le Mouël meet again at breakfast. The bubbles of light, known to photographers by their technical term ‘circles of confusion,’ seem to be sharing in the mirth, a happy accident at that moment of laughter. Photo © 2014 Diane Joy Schmidt www.dianejoyschmidt.com
Judge’s comment “Thoughtful, analytical commentary on current events that educate and edify readers.”
Serendipity and the Power of Daydreams
I knew I was angry and instead I decided to be creative as a kind of escape. We were going on a long drive up to Chinle, Arizona, where Frank was to deliver a training to Navajo health care professionals just before New Year’s. It was 11 a.m. when we started out from Albuquerque, and I started daydreaming that the car we were in was a floating ship and horses and flying coyotes and birds were accompanying us on our journey – and sure enough, I forgot very quickly about our argument and fell asleep.
Later when I woke up I couldn’t stop taking photos of the fantastic blue sky dotted with improbable puffs of cloud that we seemed to be flying and floating through as we gained elevation into the evergreens and snow and headed up toward Ganado and I thought – this is enough to sustain me, this beauty.
It wasn’t so hard to daydream, I found out. How fun! Why didn’t I ever think of this before? I’d always felt it was my duty to be as aware as I could as a photographer, seeing what was going on around me, although now and then coincidences would crop up in my photos.
As we approached Chinle, passing the turn-off for Pinon about four p.m., I asked Frank if he’d heard from Jerome Bernstein lately. Jerome is a prominent Jungian psychologist from Santa Fe who seeks parallels with Navajo understandings. He is the author of Living in the Borderland: The Evolution of Consciousness and the Challenge of Healing Trauma. We’ll be staying at the Holiday Inn in Chinle near Canyon de Chelly, where three years earlier Frank had participated in a Jungian conference that Jerome had organized.
We’re having dinner now in the hotel restaurant, it’s about seven p.m. and I keep thinking Jerome is going to walk through the door. Then, Jerome walks through the door. It’s a Sunday, it’s Dec. 28, it’s 12 degrees outside, and here is Jerome, walking in with his two canes—“like a deer dancer,” he says, beaming. Jerome looks like Christopher Lloyd but with a gentler laugh. He has a great halo of white hair surrounding an otherwise bald pate. He has a friend in tow, who he introduces as Christophe, a French quantum mechanics theorist who is also a Jungian.
Christophe wanted to hear stories. They’d gone for a jeep tour in Canyon de Chelly that afternoon but were disappointed the tour guide didn’t know the stories. So, Frank tells him the creation story about the Twins going to meet their Father the Sun – the short version, which goes on for at least an hour. I ask Christophe, what are you looking for? He says “I wants to go beyond my quantum mechanics view through my dreams,” and that he wants to hear others, that they may have the answer for him.
I say, “Look right here, you have an answer, you saw something very magical, very serendipitous. What are the odds that in the dead of winter you will run into someone Jerome knows here? We’re over 300 miles from Santa Fe. The last time the three of us, Jerome and Frank and I, have been here was in spring of 2011, almost three years ago.” The quantum mechanics physicist says, “The odds actually are not too difficult to calculate.”
“But what are the odds,” I say, “that you will visit New Mexico this one week of the year, come on this trip, and run in to a Navajo friend of Jerome’s, who also doesn’t live here either, and hasn’t been up here for a year or more, but who had to arrive here tonight, and is not only a storyteller, but is willing to tell you the creation stories that you wanted to hear.” He laughs and says, “When you put it that way the odds are not so easy to calculate.”
Christophe then wants to know, is there another world beyond the Fourth World the Navajo say we are in now? Frank says, “They say there are seven.”
For each of us this unexpected meeting was a meaningful surprise. I know that Jungians and quantum mechanics theorists are especially interested in synchronicity. I imagine that Jerome and Christophe will be discussing what it means and work on putting it into a context that rubs up against Western knowledge.
For me, it’s nothing I can put into words. I can only tell the story. But this surprising experience, this out of the ordinary surprise, has renewed my faith in the magical, spiritual nature of things.
There is a reality that does transcend the normal, the everyday.
We know we are worried that mankind will not survive all this crap we have created in the world and that the world is now putting us through. Some believe that if we are faithful, and true, that somehow we will survive some sort of transition.
I say that I usually think that is just wishful thinking, and not being ‘real’ about fixing the world’s problems. Jerome then says, “Well what is real?”
Indeed. Maybe in these moments when we pray, or meditate, or daydream, or otherwise find a way to take ourselves out of an angry or negative or humdrum frame of mind, we really are creating something better in the universe. I think I will daydream more about flying animals surrounding the space bubble vehicle that I travel across this earth in, my personal merkabah.
Up to here, as published in the Gallup Independent – next section included in NMJewishelink.com and with photos:
A few connections we later made
I had asked Frank what this coincidental meeting meant to him, as a Navajo. At the time, he said, with something of the same amazement I was feeling, “I can’t explain it.” However, some days later back in Albuquerque he said, “We always, the elders say, that our thoughts and feelings have powers of creation. The four of us, there was this need that we all had, that we thought about, and then we met. When I got to the hotel and saw the sign for the restaurant on the stone building, Garcia’s, I remembered Jerome and all those Jungian analysts, and I had a certain feeling that their spirits were there, and then I thought–it’s probably just a memory. So, it’s not coincidence after all, we all in our minds got there first.”
One question in my mind is, did we create or foresee the event or both? How malleable is time and space and how much can our consciousness affect what is to be? Jerome later said that earlier that day in the canyon he had actually told Christophe he wished Frank was there to tell him the stories. Also, sometimes there is unseen help at work. Jerome was bringing Christophe to meet a medicine man the next day who knew he would be bringing an important guest.
I learned later also that Christophe Le Mouël is the executive director of the C.G. Jung Institute of Los Angeles, and I later wrote and asked him to tell me something of himself. He wrote back that “I left France (and physics) eight years ago to follow an American woman I met in Paris and we now are parents of 1-year old twin boys. My passion is the connection of psyche and matter and I have published a few papers on this topic. This is how Jerome and I got to know each other.”
And, he was in New Mexico during the holidays visiting his wife’s family. He had felt very close to his wife’s grandmother, Ruth Seligman, and had written about her in a paper “A Necklace of Numbers,”* for a Jungian journal. In the paper he wrote about this closeness he felt to this remarkable woman, in part because she too had come from Europe to America – sent ahead of her parents, she escaped Nazi Germany and came as a young woman of 17 to Albuquerque. Christophe writes in the journal article that, in a dream, Ruth Seligman gives him a precious gift, a “necklace of numbers” that has great meaning and that configures greatly in his integration into American life.
*Christophe Le Mouël (2014) The Necklace of Numbers,
Psychological Perspectives: A Quarterly Journal of Jungian Thought, 57:4, 357-383
First print version Spiritual Perspectives, Gallup Independent 1/3/2015.
Expanded print edition February, 2015, and online nmjewisheLink, 2/9/15
Also posted on Albuquerque Judaism Examiner, Part one, January 3, 2015 http://www.examiner.com/article/serendipity-and-the-power-of-daydreams and, “Part two,” http://www.examiner.com/article/serendipity-and-the-power-of-daydreams-part-two 2/3/2015