Joseph Campbell, the renown Explainer-of-Myths, has made the comment, “The mystic is swimming in the same water that the psychotic is drowning in.” Both the Mystic and the Psychotic let go of a constricting way of seeing and thinking about things. For the Psychotic this brings about a disconnection from reality that leaves him unmoored, but for the Mystic this same disconnection enables him to dive into, and to some extent, comprehend the depths of reality.
In the television version of “Fargo” a psychotic hitman by the name of Loran Malvo overhears meek, mild and frustrated Lester Nygard say that he wishes someone would kill the home-town guy who has bullied him all of his life. Malvo sits down next to Lester and asks, “Is this what you want? Is this what you really want?” Lester is taken off-guard by the question and, fueled by a lifelong but unexpressed fury, reveals his heart’s pain when he says, “Yes.” Lester is stunned later when he learns that the long-term bully has been killed, and even more stunned when he recalls that brief conversation with the stranger Loran Malvo, and realizes that by letting loose into the world the dark wish of his heart, a murder has taken place! As we proceed through the film we come to understand that Loran is a true sociopath; a psychotic unimpeded by any confining sense of morality. As we watch him calmly shed blood throughout the film one gets the sense that he is living in some kind of alternate reality from our own, a reality not governed by respect for the life of others. What is confusing is that he is, to us, clearly crazy, and yet his killing is so calmly and unhesitatingly performed that the viewer comes to wonder if maybe we, the viewers, are the crazy ones, and we are left with the thought, “Who are we?”
A moment of mystical insight can happen at any time. In fact, I had one the other day while in a drive-through line at McDonald’s. When I pulled up close enough to the car in front of me I saw this sticker on the bumper: “My other car is a broom.” When I looked at the sweet, Southern old-lady driver who reached out to accept her order, I thought, “Who knew?!” Indeed, we all have manifold aspects to ourselves, maybe a bit of a mystic, maybe even a bit of a Malvo. But usually one of them emerges as the dominant self, that basic “me” who interacts with the world and people and Life. The mystery is in the struggle for who will emerge.
A Monarch butterfly lays an egg on the underside of a milkweed leaf. After approximately 5 days the larva emerges, eats its egg-case and proceeds on a 14-day eating binge of its environment. It then spins a chrysalis, a cocoon, within which it pupates for approximately 14 days. From the outside no activity is detected, but inside the cocoon the struggle to become goes on unceasingly, resulting in the once-caterpillar emerging 14 days later as a gorgeous Monarch butterfly. For many of us, we also do not know who we really are until we emerge from the chrysalis of our troubles, and what comes out depends upon how those troubles were handled. Until the moment of emergence we have been many things… a larva, a caterpillar, a pupae… but when we emerge we need to ask ourselves: Am I a Mystic, or a Malvo?