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Essay No.64

Natalia J. Garland

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Q - What does wave of consciousness mean to you?

A - Linguistically, wave of consciousness is just a play on words. It is my adaptation of the stream of consciousness concept that originated with William James around 1890.

For my own purposes, consciousness means that I am always in a process of forming thoughts and experiencing feelings. I am filtering, analyzing, and interpreting information from the world I live in. At the same time, I am recalling memories, gaining insight, and transforming all this into a better future for myself and others.

The significance of the term wave is in its imagery. Ocean waves are ever flowing, overlapping, changing: there are no two alike. For me, a wave represents a flow of intellectual and emotional cohesiveness combined with artistic development. It is an inner experience made manifest and, therefore, accessible to others.

I think we are all capable of these waves of consciousness, these unfolding moments in life when we see things clearly and can communicate what we think and feel. Waves are brought forth to the shore from a deep ocean of being. I think therapy is like a sailboat that takes us, both therapist and patient, out into that ocean and makes mental health an adventure.

Q - Which do you like better: being a social worker or writing about social work?

A - That would be an impossible choice because the two have been intimately connected for me. I was a creative person before I became a social worker, but my profession gave me a better perspective on and expression of my self. Without my social worker's identity, my writing skills would never have exceeded the level of a dejected poet.

The therapy session and the act of writing are similar experiences for me. I like the intensity and revelation. There is, however, the difficulty of having enough time to do both well. Ideally, as I get older, I would like to spend more time writing.

Q - What is your favorite book?

A - I really loved the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, written by Harper Lee in 1960. It is about a widowed working parent, and his two children. Besides the typical struggles of growing up, the children are also trying to understand racial inequality and the legal system (an unfair judge and denial of a jury of peers for a black defendant). The children's father and the black defendant also have their own struggle: to assert true manhood under very different circumstances.

Q - How would you describe your writing?

A - Regarding my essays, I would go back to the image of the waves. Each essay is separate, a whole unto itself, but the essays also have to be taken all together as one unit of meaning. They all come from the same ocean of existence, and I try to keep them rolling in every month.

Q - Who influenced you when you were growing up?

A - To be honest, the first thing that comes to my mind is both the art and the letters of Vincent van Gogh. He was a Post-Impressionist painter who wrote numerous letters to his brother. He was Dutch, but lived much of his life in France.

Van Gogh's life had an enormous impact on me. He was spiritual and passionate, original, capable of expressing himself in words and in painting. He devoted his energy to art, but he longed for a normal family life which he was never able to manage. His is a story of great creativity but personal failure, and a story of how mainstream society can treat artists as misfits. Van Gogh gave all he had to give, and got nothing in return. His paintings show how much he loved and needed people. I think his life taught me about the tension between dedication to something higher than self and personal survival.

By the way, now that I am older, I do not have the same attraction to Van Gogh's paintings. I prefer the softer palette of Monet, the grace of the old Dutch and Italian masters, and the abstraction of Native American art.

Q - Were you a precocious child?

A - No, I wasn't. As a youngster I made of range of grades within the C-B-A categories, in that order. But I was a good reader and that opened up worlds for me. I had an ability to think. Thinking was enjoyable. My mind was logical, analytical, methodical. In school my thinking had a tendency to roam and meander, and I did not always pay attention in the classroom. Looking back, I can see that was the creative side of me at work. For better or worse, the inner workings of my own mind were often more interesting than the classroom instruction.

Q - If you could live in another time, what would it be?

A - I am intrigued by the time when Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish. People were following Jesus around and I can imagine, if I were living then, that I would have gone out to see what was happening. Jesus had compassion on the people, healed the sick, and then fed them all and had food left over. I think that must have been an exciting day: to see Jesus, to have the possibility of healing, and to be provided with free food. Jesus took care of all kinds of problems on that day.

Q - Do you have any regrets in your life?

A - My regrets are the good things I could have done and did not do, and the kind words I could have spoken and did not speak. In that respect, I used to be a shoulda-coulda-woulda person. Nowadays, I try to be a carpe diem person. I am only just beginning to come out of my shell. (Written 06/21/04)

Until we meet again..............stay sane.

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Copyright 2004 Natalia J. Garland