‘The Last Wave’: The Archetypal Tidal Wave

Cathy Pagano


 "There are times when people need stories more than they need nourishment, because the stories feed something deeper than the needs of the body." 

                                                        Charles DeLint, The Onion Girl



       The World is full of magic and mystery, if we will only believe. Life is arrayed in beauty and possibilities, if we will only see.  Our imagination interprets the world for us.  It's how we communicate with Nature and how we sense each other.  We are here to experience in full what human life has to offer: lessons of wonder and creativity, pain and suffering, love and companionship, trials and rewards, responsibilities and pleasures.  And though each of us is a unique individual, we all go through the same trials and joys of life here on Earth. That's why we need stories to help us understand our shared experiences.  Stories are born so we don't have to constantly re-invent the wheel. 

        Human Beings have always made sense of our shared experiences through this amazing form of Wisdom called Story.  Stories pass down tribal wisdom.  Stories help us compare notes with girlfriends. Stories shape the way we see and experience the world. Stories tell us how to meet the darkness. If a story is good and true, it will wake up your imagination and teach you something new about life.

        But of course, it depends on if the story speaks to that something deeper that is looking for nourishment.  Unfortunately, many of our modern movies and books don't speak to our hearts nor awaken our imaginations.  Instead they seem to put us to sleep.

        This happens when a people's stories no longer help them meet life. 

        The truth is that many of our old collective stories are worn out; losing their vitality they become stereotypes (despite the obsessive insistence of the truth of those stories by some people).  Archetypes, although eternal, need symbolic renewing from age to age.  When the old form of the story has lost its enchantment for us, it no longer serves its true function of helping us cope with life.  Our modern world is too different and so much more complex than our ancestors' worlds. The times are changing.  We need new stories!

            Especially in times of unrest and instability, we need stories to help us make sense of our lives. We are living in those times when ‘people need stories more than they need nourishment. . .’   Unfortunately, even though stories are available to us 24/7 – now available on your phone! - most of our communal stories don’t satisfy us on a deep level. We are stuffed with stories, but are we inspired by them?  Do we find the deep wisdom in them that can change our lives? And when we do find a story that inspires us, do we treat it as a pleasant fantasy or do we allow it to grow into something unique and splendidly different in our lives?  Do we make it our own?

We can also come to know ourselves through our dream stories.  We all are fascinated by our dreams.  I can vouch for that – when people hear I’m a dreamworker, they are eager to share their dreams.  But since we’ve been taught by our culture that dreams have no real meaning, most of those people don’t respect the story messages that their dreams bring them every night. We no longer remember the symbolic language of dreams and metaphors, humanity’s original language that we seem to have lost building the Tower of Babel.  When we lose our child-like ability to imagine and fully inhabit a symbolic understanding of life, we lose our capacity to digest our stories so that they ‘feed something deeper than the needs of the body’.    

We’ve also lost our separate cultural stories along the way, those ‘folk stories’ and folk wisdom that get passed down through families and cultures.  Too often, our modern ‘myths’ can’t help us create and deal with real change in our lives and our world like the old stories did for past generations.   Our educational system, as well as our modern media, so often sever this connection to our cultural stories and to the mythic imagination, leaving us in danger of losing our ancient wisdom traditions as well as our own ability to create new stories and discover new wisdom. 

But a strong connection to the Creative Imagination within us can change that.  This is our untapped gift, another lens on our world that can help us navigate the changes coming our way.  We still have our dreams, if we are willing to respect their messages.  We still have great storytellers, who study the ancient stories and birth the new ones.  The great cosmic laws of life are still at play in the world and within us, even when we don’t recognize them.

          While we all have the potential to engage this Creative Imagination, not all of us can do it in equal measure.  It is the true storytellers who have the gift to tap into these cosmic laws on an imaginal level and who pass it on to us through songs and stories that open us to cosmic truth on a heart level.  

           Peter Weir is one of those great storytellers.  He’s brought us Picnic at Hanging Rock, Gallipoli, Year of Living Dangerously, Witness, and Dead Poets Society to name just a few of his marvelous movies.

The Last Wave: An Archetypal Movie about a Change in Consciousness

         Peter Weir’s 1977 movie The Last Wave is a moody, mysterious story about personal and cultural change.  Two men from different worlds are confronted by a mystery;  they both respond to it with honesty and integrity.  This mystery seemingly centers around a mysterious death involving Australian Aborigines.  But the real mystery forces one of these men to confront a rejected part of his inner psyche, an aspect of human life which western man has worked hard to make irrelevant.  

          It is the mystery of the psychic dimensions of life, our sixth sense that opens us to unseen realities, which are considered ‘primitive’ by rational standards.  Our left-brained culture often chooses to ignore and vilify the reality of this right-brain imagination.  This story points out the fact that without both views of life, we die.

Continue at: Star of the Bards: The Last Wave