The Power of Lighthouses: Amanda Gorman & Me
Robin B. Zeiger, Ph.D.
We have never met
& yet we have still lost sight of each other,
Two lighthouses quavering in the fog.
We could not hold ourselves.
From “Lighthouse” Amanda Gorman, Call Us What We Carry.
In the past weeks, I have found myself captivated by Amanda’s Gorman’s new book of poetry, Call Us What We Carry. Ms. Gorman, poems CARRY and give testimony to our horrific world history of suffering over the past two years.
My favorite poem is “Lighthouse.” I suspect it is because the image of a lighthouse reaches deep inside of my soul and calls up very personal images of a childhood lighthouse.
My father and I would take long meandering car rides together along the lakefront of Chicago, where we would pass a wonderful lighthouse. I will share this precious memory in another blog post.
In reading and re-reading Ms. Gorman’s poetry, the poetry is not just a collection of words. Rather, I experience something visceral.
The images both beautiful and horrific, come alive and touch my senses and imagination. Suddenly we meet a necessary space and body for the almost wordless experiences of a world pandemic, climate destruction, the pain of the disenfranchised, and of politics gone awry. When our feelings and experiences are reflected for us, we can suddenly see and be seen, breathing a sigh of relief that we are not alone.
We are part of a world-wide community.
The opening lines of the poem give voice to and paint a picture of a year filled with missing and “losing sight of each other.” I think of the famous saying we all use:
We are ships passing in the night.
Later in her poem, Ms. Gorman speaks the unspeakable horror:
This year was no year….
The empty, creaking playgrounds,
Bodies laid straight as celery stalks.
I don’t know about you, my readers, but this image is much more powerful than all the news broadcasts.
In the last stanzas of her poem, Amanda writes of the guiding light that we must nurture and hold tight to our breast. This is perhaps her signature. Perhaps Amanda’s capacity to hold and carry hope is the raison d’être of The Hill We Climb.
Hope is no silent harbor, no haven still.
It’s the roaring thing that tugs us away
From the very shores we clutch.
And in her very last stanza she reminds us:
Though we have never met,
We have sensed the other all along…
No human is a stranger to us.
As a Jungian analyst and clinical psychologist, I am so deeply aware of how we need each other. It is when we are lonely that we are often lost. It is in the sharing of pain, that we often begin the journey toward healing of trauma and pain. Sometimes, we must find words. Sometimes we can only share with images. Sometimes we need a hug or the gaze.
As my 3 ½ year old granddaughter says, “We can sit eyes to eyes.”
Why do I love the image of a lighthouse?
The lighthouse stands tall and proud, shining light into the darkness. It’s small, but steady beam is just enough to guide us and escort us along the way.
This article only includes a small piece of this powerful poem. I highly recommend for you to purchase or borrow and read Amanda Gorman’s full book.
To read my article on Call Us What We Carry.
Robin B. Zeiger is a practicing Jungian psychoanalyst and a free-lance writer.
She is a member of the:
International Association of Analytical Psychology and the Israel Institute of Jungian Psychology. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.