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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Poor Puer Bill

Shocking, stunning, unbelievable: Bill Clinton doesn't like turning 60! He liked it better when he was the youngest one in the room, the prodigous youngster who wowed everybody with his preternatural brilliance. Why is even the most casual observer of this man's reckless life not even remotely surprised by Clinton's confessed preference to avoid graduating into anything resembling adult masculinity? Boy Bill has devoted his life to sustaining and promulgating being the boy wonder who makes good at the last minute; hence we aren't dumbfounded that he has even managed to impress G.H.W. Bush, whose wife Barbara, in fact, says she has come to call him "son." With adulation like this, would someone kindly tell me: What's the motivation to be a grown up? The Swiss psychologist Carl Jung devoted a great deal of inquiry to the role of archetypes in the lives of individuals. Archetypes are the primordial patterns that connect the individual and idiosyncratic to the collective and transpersonal. Jung was especially interested in the archetype of the Puer Aeternis, or the "eternal child." When this mythic force is predominant in an individual's psyche, he or she appears ever youthful and charming, full of enthusiasms and grand ideals, always soaring. The darker side of the Puer lies in the problems they have in trying to stay grounded or make a long term commitment to work and relationships. In the words of Jungian Marie-Louise von Franz:
In Jungian psychology the term puer aeternus is commonly used to describe a certain type of man - charming, affectionate, creative and ever in pursuit of his dreams. These are the men who remain adolescent well into their adult years, generally full of life yet strangely draining to those around them. We have worked with them, loved them and watched them wave good-bye.
Thus we find our former president, the fellow (of course) from Hope: unitiated into adulthood by any responsible male and naturally buoyed by the flattery of women for whom he (of course) feels contempt; this aging Peter Pan questing to be America's golden boy, bemoaning the beginning of his seventh decade. Even the wake-up call of a life-threatening cardiac crisis cannot quite shake boy Clinton from the tree of paradise, beneath which so many wave with admiration bordering on awe. And, if it is true that a long-term couple tends to polarize psychologically when neither partner is willing to be authentic, we shouldn't be surprised to find Hillary manifesting so many counter-puer qualities in her own tortured persona: taciturn, joyless, authoritarian, moody, resentful, contracted, utterly incapable of spontaneity or originality. These two deserve the closest possible scrutiny in the months to come, for clearly their master plan envisions a triumphant return to the corridors of executive power — because they deserve the White House, it goes without saying. "They were careless people," wrote Fitzgerald of Clinton progenitors Daisy and Tom Buchanan. "...[T]hey smashed up things and then retreated into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made." Will America's compulsive fascination with the Clinton sociopaths make us want to clean up after them one more time? Stay tuned.