Siouxland Observer


Friday, December 26, 2014

“Bear There” Blues

"...make no mistake: It's a major loss. Those moments and nooks in your life that permit you to be your messiest, stupidest, most heedless self?They're quickly disappearing if not already gone"—Frank Bruni, The New York Times.

All around, gray sand.  Across to the west, and beyond.  Sand covered the soccer fields, the baseball diamonds and the parking lots.

And it wasn't just Nebraska.  Gray sand had climbed the banks of Iowa and spilled onto Interstate Highway 29.  Road crews had pushed it back and took it away, but just to the edge of the road.  Townsfolk followed it like a carpet down to the river’s shore.

The flood of 2011 hit hard.  Dakota Dunes, South Dakota was flooded too; as was South Sioux City, Nebraska, and Sioux City, Iowa.  Many other communities along the river were hit hard also, but locally the river swelled up and took much of its land back after years of flood control.

Out on the “Dakota Dunes,” for example, where teenagers once drove dune buggies around in the endless sand, the river flooded just as it had for centuries; the fancy homes and cul-de-sacs, built on the shifting sands, now vacated (the residents forced to find lodging elsewhere).

The flood had followed record snowfall in the Rocky Mountains, according to news reports, and along with the near-record spring rainfall in central and eastern Montana, engineers at major dams along the Missouri were forced to release water in order to prevent overflow.  It was a nightmare, and folks are still trying to recover. 

But ... this is not just about a flood.  It is about a teddy bear caught in the floodwaters, flushed downriver and found buried in the sand.  It’s about a man who wanted to write a book, but had no children.  Could he watch another's child to learn about kids and write his story?  No, probably not.  For men everywhere, it is often best to avoid children; even parents these days risk life and limb if they tamper too much with the new rules. 

“Once upon a time,” he outlined, “a divorcée (or perhaps a bachelor, a single man, grump or something), walked along the river to look at the sand.  The river had returned to normal, but the man’s lady (an ex-wife, bad-tempered person or something) remained in the car.  The man took his daughter (or perhaps a niece), and together they found the teddy bear buried in the sand.

“Oh look,” his niece said, “there’s a bear there!”

And so there was. 

Thus Bear There” was carefully dung out of the sand, brushed off and put in the trunk of the car.  There it stayed for months and months, and every time someone opened the trunk, “Bear There” was brushed off, bopped gently on the nose, brushed off again. bopped on the nose again and gingerly placed back in the trunk. 

Eventually Bear There was brought into the house.  (A true story)

The book might get written, but behavioral observations are, sadly, problematic for a lot of men.

Of course, public reaction to any injustice against a child is always justified, but how so?  There are a lot people in the media, in law enforcement, in our neighborhoods, hospitals and schools on a Crusade.  Just look at all the reports of authorities overreacting to the behavior of parents, and others, that just a few short years ago would have sparked compassion and understanding (not lawsuits and jail time).  In Omaha, for example, a man working with children decided to comfort an upset little girl.  He put her on his lap and found himself accused of sexual assault.  The charges were later dropped, but being stupid was not.

In Belle, West Virginia, a man was arrested by state troopers and charged with child neglect, causing serious risk of injury.  He had run briefly into a pharmacy, but unfortunately, had left his keys locked in his car.  An employee at Rite-Aid called police to report the man had left the baby in the car for about 15 to 20 minutes.  It was not reported if the locksmith (a person the man had been searching for, no doubt, and called from somewhere), was told what had happened when he arrived too late to help.   
To be fair, it’s not just men.  A woman, who ran into a store after her child soiled her clothes, was arrested for purchasing the 4-year-old a clean shirt.  As reported in the Orange County Register, the arresting officer said: ‘"Like with any other crime…we take into account all the elements of a crime, and then all the totality of the circumstances…."’ 

If the car had been parked in the shade, for example (the officer said), it might have been different.  But she was harried, and not thinking properly. Darn!  The 39-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of felony child endangerment, booked into Orange County Jail, and held in lieu of $100,000 bail.

Another example comes from Facebook; and while not involving children, certainly shows how being unguarded anywhere can be problematic. Rhonda Lee, a black female meteorologist, found herself fired from an ABC affiliate in Shreveport, La., after she responded to a remark posted by a viewer on the station’s Facebook page.  Her response was measured, professional and insightful.  But she was fired anyway.  Read what she wrote at the Maynard Institute website.  It's laughable. 

What is happening?

It is impossible to cover every injustice here, but one that stands out is the terrible scapegoating of parents, caregivers and others taking care of babies.  I recently learned, for example, of a young family who lost custody of their baby, reportedly because of bruises.  There were other issues, perhaps, but.they struggled to keep their family together.  Should it have happened?  The Carroll County prosecutor believed abuse occurred. But it truth, today, parents are punished for behavior that wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow 20 or 30 years ago.  A football player raises a switch to his boy?  Does anyone remember the dads of yesteryear?

If there is real wrong perpetrated against innocents, fry that person.  But reason must overcome emotional, kneejerk reactions.  Even in Iowa, the concern has been noted.  A judge here, for example, recently blasted a doctor for misdiagnosing Shaken Baby Syndrome, a crime everyone is quick to condemn others for, even with little or no understanding of the issue.

According to the Associated Press, in an article published in the Omaha World-Herald, December 26, 2014, a doctor at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics mishandled an investigation regarding an injured baby.  Prosecutors failed to prove that a former Davenport, Iowa, resident abused his 3-week-old child, whose injuries to the brain and bones may have been caused by other medical conditions, District Judge John Telleen ruled.

“’Frankly, I have some serious doubt whether a crime was even committed here,’” said Telleen from the bench in October after overseeing the trial, finding the defendant not guilty of child endangerment charges. 

This is a welcomed surprise, and especially coming from Iowa City, Iowa, where even far-left conservatives are eaten for breakfast (it's an art form there).

Frontline, on PBS, has aired an exceptional report on Shaken Baby Syndrome.  This report is a must for anyone who takes care of children, and especially babies.  It first aired June 28, 2011.  There is a second story included on this Frontline program, but it is the first story that reports on pediatric forensic science.  The investigation offers real depth and understanding on an emotionally charged subject.  It explores the death of a baby, and a falsely accused caregiver, but it is also applicable to "would-be" abusers.  The video is not complete.  It will continue (in a new window) for those wishing to see the complete investigative report. Please watch this.

Sunday, December 21, 2014


In a studio apartment a guardian stands on the other side of a partition.  Behind the partition a man is sleeping.  His bedroom is not a bedroom though, for it can only be “secured” by a door curtain (and there is no curtain).  Thus awakened, the man gets up to greet the stranger.  They shake hands.  The man, now wide awake, walks over to his desktop computer and sits down.  The guardian walks over too, but he is no longer friendly.  Instead, he has become a jihadist; he leans in for a beheading.

Awakened (this time for real), the man chides himself for being so foolish.  He must be more careful.  How can a stranger be guarding against nightmares?  The nightmare that awoke him in the first place?

The "guardian" was guarding against that dream; the dream that forced the sleeper to the edge of his bed (a flimsy air mattress no less) screaming in a long, loud continuous scream.  That was the first time he woke up "for real."  It was just after finishing his research on the  black forest (this reporter).  In the dream the reporter cum dreamer cum writer discovered anew that perhaps there was more to Europe’s old-growth forests than clockworks and cautionary tales.  “In the Forest" missed part of the story.  

Sigmund Freud would not have believed in "ghosts" (or at least from research gleaned in this writing).  Freud is famous, or infamous, depending on the person, for his research into dreams and symbolism.  To best understand the problem, “Dreams in Folklore,” a small book with its roots in Freud's base symbolism, sees procreation in everything.

When he read a folk dream, sent him by Professor Ernst Oppenheim, Freud saw base symbolism everywhere.  The dream was about a man fearful a thief might steal his money.  “Now he dreams on further,” Freud said, “(about) how he goes right out and comes to the place where he wants to dig up the earth so he can put the big pot in the hole.  But when he looks for a tool to dig with he finds nix roundabout…”

“Nix” means “zilch," which, of course, implies a lack of ability–or a repressed Oedipus complex, perhaps.  But there is more to Freud than this simple, easy understanding.  He believed dreams could only be understood by empirical observation, and took detailed notes, just as a scientist would.  

Askay and Farquhar, in their book, “Apprehending the Inaccessible: Freudian Psychoanalysis and Existential Phenomenology,” said Freud adamantly rejected the belief that consciousness, in and of itself, was “mental life.”

Freud argued that this kind of understanding assumed "a priori" consciousness (knowledge hardwired in the womb before life experience).  Thus, Freud would probably not see a visit by a spirit in a dream (or in the forest), or anywhere, as having to do with anything independent of the dreamer's life experience.  He would search for the Shakespearian play seen by the dreamer.  Simply, the brain could not be “hardwired” with anything outside its own experience.

Carl Jung had a problem with this.  A YouTube video shared here explores his belief, of not only "a priori" existence, but of a the scientific nature of this understanding.  He even talks about the afterlife, but it is the first half of the video he really explores his understanding of  "a priori" knowledge, which is linked to understanding the collective unconscious. 

In “Memories, Dreams, Reflection,” this is made clear.  Jung believed there are forces at work that can harm us, independent of corporeal existence.  He talks of a fantasy where Philemon (an unconscious entity he knew and named) helped him realize “there is something in me which can say things that I do not know and do not intend, things which may be directed against me. … where the existence of an unconscious psyche is admitted, the contents of projection can be received into instinctive forms which predate consciousness.”

The “dream-image,” as Jung called it (say, of a dreamer aware of his screaming), could be archetypal: A conscious realization of an "unconscious" reality, where in the dream, say, of someone with long, gray hair, caressing a body, lying in repose, did not come from personal experience, but from beyond a dreamer's personal experience.

The dream that opened this post, manifested itself in an awareness to the dreamer (in the dream itself), and this reporter sensed the image as archetypal (outside personal experience); only when the hair touched the dreamer's face in the dream, did "psyche," as Jung called a priori knowledge, allow this reporter sight independent of the body lying in repose. 

It was here the screaming started, and it filled the studio.  This reporter often wears earplugs because of a noisy space heater, and it was unclear if the screaming was in the dream, or real, but it woke the sleeper.  It was after returning to sleep the guardian appeared.

Jung believed, according to "Depth Insights," that  “A dream…is a product of the total psyche. Hence, we may expect to find in dreams everything that has ever been of significance in the life of humanity.” 

A famous example of the differences between Jung and Freud highlights the problem of "a priori" knowledge in dreams. Doug Dillion reported a strange meeting between the two men.  Jung’s ideas of psyche, or even a collective unconscious, can not be proven empirically and, according to Dillion, Freud ignored him. Suddenly a loud noise erupted from a bookcase next to the two men (making them both jump).  This was seen by Jung as proof he knew what he was talking about.

Psychology students everywhere, and especially those who believe in God, often find joy in this story.  Freud was a frump, and Jung believed in the possibility of the divine, or at least its archetypal reality.  But Freud, ever the scientist, went about looking for the source of the eruption, and wrote Jung in a letter April 16, 1909 (published in the appendix of “Memories, Dreams, Reflection”) explaining what had happened.  

Freud, after hearing the noise again, independent of the emotional encounters with his wayward protégé, concluded: since it happened again, it was, in fact, nothing. "(The eruption experienced by us both, when we were together, has been heard again, but) never in connection with my thoughts and never when I was considering you or your special problem," Freud wrote in the letter.  " (Not now, either, I  add by way of challenge.)  The phenomenon was soon deprived of all significance for me by something else.  My credulity….”

In his life, Freud went out of his way to show how people dreamed dreams only from personal experience.  “The Interpretation of Dreams,” for example, tracks (in great detail), the empirical link of dreams, and their source.

The “dream-day,” for example (Freud’s belief there are always experiential links in our dreams), could easily explain the jihadist in the second dream (I had seen news of a beheading earlier in the day). 

But Freud went deeper. 

Something that happened during the “dream-day,”Freud said,  could trigger a dream thought from an earlier experience in a person’s life. But the endless controversy in what became Freud’s base understanding clouded his hard, detailed work in mapping, empirically the source of the dreams themselves.

“It may happen,” he said in 'The Interpretation of Dreams,' “that a piece of material occurs in the content of a dream which in the waking state we do not recognize as forming a part of our knowledge or experience.  We remember, of course, having dreamt the thing in question, but we cannot remember whether or when we experienced it in real life.  We are thus left in doubt as to the source which has been drawn upon by the dream and are tempted to believe that dreams have a power of independent production.”

They do not, according to Freud:

“Dreams can select their material from any part of the dreamer’s life," he said, "provided only that there is a train of thought linking the experience of the dream-day (the ‘recent’ impressions) with the earlier ones."  
When I researched the black forest, and the old-growth forests in general, the earliest stories (and especially in Krapf's book) seemed more cautionary, than frightening.  Put in context, even some of the more frightening tales seemed to serve as a warning, or a signpost.  There where tales, however, of people being so frightened that their hair turned gray, and this could explain the gray hair in the dream.  But it seemed more real than that, and even ancient.  It was unbelievable.

On YouTube, and in numerous books, the thoughts about ghosts, spirits and the unknown in the ancient, old-growth forests, and especially the “Black Forest,” are everywhere. 

Meryl Streep, who will be playing the Witch in the fairy-tale-based movie, “Into the Woods,” was recently asked in an interview how she liked playing a heightened character like the Witch.

“’…The first scene,’ Steep told Rebecca Keegan, of The Los Angeles Times, ‘when I climbed up to Rapunzel and I give her blackberries and then I come down and I see that she’s seeing this dreadful man … all I’m doing is trying to keep her safe.  That was something that … didn’t feel heightened or weird.’” 

Streep also said: “’…you can’t play an archetype.’”

Are realities "out there," (psyche, for example), that have everything to do with corporeal beings and our experience throughout history (and perhaps beyond)?  Jung says yes; Freud says no.  Simply, the greatest minds will continue to search until humankind can no longer search for anything. 

It's worth noting, however, that the hair was gray, and very very long. Perhaps it was a reminder; an uplifting dream (incognito, of course), about the water, the trees and the forest creatures of the silva nigra today, tomorrow and forever.  Simply, there is more to Europe’s old-growth forests than clockworks and cautionary tales.

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