Archive for August, 2010
This is part of the scene I see when I look out of the window of the apartment in Changzhou. The rain has washed leaves and the bamboo and wood of the gazebo in a yard within the housing compound. Two and a half years ago I watched as the gazebo was repainted after a winter of pollution had caused the gazebo to look old and frayed. It doesn’t take much to be revitalised.
I ask myself how I can distinguish between being revitalized and being artificial. I can see how so many, at times myself included, work hard to present a face that glistens attractively to their neighbours and any passing strangers. Huge expenses go into landscaping and giving their home a new look. Yet, more often than not, the expense doesn’t yield rewards that satisfy. One is left feeling empty, cheated. And so a new cycle begins as furniture is rearranged into new patterns or again replaced; an new look is studied in the latest popular magazines; or perhaps a new house in built in the latest housing development – all in the hopes of somehow finding meaning in the shine of newness.
I wondered about this as I looked at this scene. The colours and the air of peace that I saw here, are they just another example of face that is so much a part of the Chinese psyche? Or, is this a place for the owner of this scene to escape the outer world and find himself within?
I took this photo at the Toronto airport. Normally, I don’t include photos of anyone in my family as this blog is about my journey. That said, the journey to China is a shared journey with my wife. We are both working at the same university. You can see that I have altered the colour and intensity of the light so as to highlight as well as hide. And as in the past, this immediately creates an aura around my wife. When this happens, she takes on the role of anima for me in the image, a less-than and more-than aspect of my inner self.
The flight was normal with nothing to separate it from the many other flights that have been taken over the years. As I write this, I am in my apartment in Changzhou after having returned from a walk to a relatively nearby shopping store. I didn’t carry the camera as I was carrying my grocery backpack. The walk back from the store was done in the rain. I will be going walking again later this afternoon taking the camera with me even if it is raining.
There is no doubt that being a stranger in a strange land lends itself to looking at the world with different eyes. Probably more important that the actual outer world, is the opportunity to allow that outer world to present images that connect in ways that often get blocked in one’s home environment. I wonder if you will see different aspects of my journey as it takes place in this strange land?
Though this is a photo of my wife, the image substitutes objective reality with one that is more imaginal. And this is what being a stranger in a strange land is all about.
I took this photo with my old camera a few weeks ago, an eagle flying over the hills bordering Lake Diefenbaker in Saskatchewan. I thought it was an appropriate time to post the photo as I am on plane on my way to Shanghai, China and my return to Changzhou where I will resume my retirement career as a university History prof, my third year at this university.
For some reason, I have a strong resonance with eagles. I don’t identify with them, but see them as symbols of something higher, something of a guide, perhaps in terms of showing me the way through the realm of spirit. I have to admit that another life form serves as a guide for me – frogs. Frogs are at home in the swamplands, the realm of matter, the realm of soul. Part of my ancestral heritage would say that these two are my totems. I wonder . . .
I have set this blog post to appear while I am in the plane and on my way to Shanghai; that is one of the good things about WordPress, being able to ensure that my posts continue to be published even while I am busy with other things that would otherwise cause a significant break. I am not sure if this need to ensure the posts keep coming is more about being considerate of you, the readers of my blog, or if it is simply about a need for myself to write, to let my words float free like this eagle.
This is a life guard station along the lake shore in the Beaches area of Toronto. The golden colours acted like a magnet as I walked along the shore with camera in hand. Of course I had already taken a few photos of the moon and the moonlight shimmering on the water. This time I saw something more and quickly found a fence post upon which I rested the camera in hopes of getting a decent shot. I am satisfied with the result.
It is easy to see the small structure as a beacon of light in the darkness. Somehow, this struct me as being an image of the masculine trapped in the darkness looking towards the moon, the feminine, trying to find a way to bridge the distance. And in saying that something more emerges and I see the golden structure for what it is, a beacon that gives one hope in the darkness, a beacon not so unlike a church that says one can be saved from the chaos of darkness.
With the photo taken, I rushed off to rejoin the others with whom I had taken the evening walk.
A long walk along the shore of Lake Ontario yesterday yielded this scene that I decided was to be today’s photo. It is simply a marker of where I am and what I am doing. The walk was made with five of us covering several kilometres of shoreline before heading back to my son’s home in the heart of Toronto. I can see why my son, born and raised on the Canadian prairie, has fallen in love with the city and has found a place in one of the older districts only two blocks from the lake. He has nature and the vibrancy of the best of city life. He is motivated and energised as never before.
We talked quite a bit during the long walk and again later in the afternoon when we travelled into the centre of the city pictured above with the CN Tower and other high rise buildings for another long walk in the downtown core before walking on further into China Town and Kensington Market. As we walked and continued to talk in between the moments when I went rushing off for another photo, the connection with my own past as a city kid in Ottawa which is not too distant from Toronto, told me all I needed to know about my son’s sense of finally being at home. Unknown as to why, my son is now finding himself liking “home” even though it is a huge down-size from his large new home in Calgary. But with the feeling of being at home in the house and on the streets and in the parks – he feels that he is complete.
All the elements are there – water, earth, energy, community, sun – balance.
I took this photo last night while walking the boardwalk along the shore of Lake Ontario in Toronto. While the women (my wife and my daughter-in-law were walking the dogs I took the opportunity to see what photo opportunities presented themselves. As I walked at took random photos, I saw why my son had fallen in love with this place. As I walked and stopped for photos, I wished I had taken my tripod and had to settle for using the edges of garbage cans as a means to steady the camera. As a result, I wasn’t pleased with most of my shots, but it doesn’t take many to feel rewarded with the effort.
When I finally downloaded the results and tossed most of the pictures, I settled on four images. This particular image, one of the full moon, and two others of object, water, moon and night skies. I choose this one when I discovered that I somehow had captured two people in the image, sitting at the end of the rock wall. I hadn’t seen them when I took the photo. I had only seen the moonlight reflect on the lake water and the outline of the rocks. I discovered their presence only as I used the photo editor to sharpen up the image. As their presence emerged, I knew I had chosen correctly, that I had listened correctly to the silent and still voice within.
This image was taken with my old camera, just a few weeks ago. The colours on the rock captured my attention and so I took the photo and then left it sit until I felt a need to bring it forward here. It is something that talks to be about being grounded.
Today, I fly to Toronto where I will visit my son and his young family. My wife and I will visit for two days before boarding another plane bound for Shanghai, China. Obviously, I feel “up in the air” at this moment, not in the least grounded like this rock.
I used to think that being grounded was more about being in the outer world at the expense of the inner world. I didn’t realise that being grounded is about being balanced. This balance requires that I honour both worlds. To be grounded is to find some kind of accord between consciousness and unconsciousness, to accept both the masculine and the feminine within, to be aware of one’s light and one’s shadow. With balance, one can be more present in both worlds.
And so, I fly through the innerscapes and am at the same time, grounded in outer reality.
This year two hummingbirds have been visiting the flowers in the garden. I did manage to capture this image even though the birds are quick to depart as soon as they sense the presence of someone approaching. It’s not much different than when I am trying to deal with the inner world.
The best I can do is to suggest what it means to me, for me. Even then, words don’t quite capture what I want to say in terms of images that are fleeting and almost hardly there at all. The word numinous is the best I can do. When I use the word numinous I am speaking of something that is spiritual, mysterious and awe-inspiring. If one thinks of the feeling that washes over one in a great cathedral in the midst of light and music and performance, one has been visited by something numinous, a touch of the divine.
At those moments when I find myself catching these fleeting magical moments, I am filled with an awareness of a spiritualism deep within. How do I recognize this? Well, it has to do with something resonating, a confirmation within.
And so, I continue to use the camera to capture images. And in looking at these images following the moment when something fleetingly catches my eye, I am often amazed at what I see in these images that had been hidden in plain sight. And these images then nourish my soul just like these flowers nourish the hummingbird.
This is a photo I took of a butterfly sitting on a marigold flower in my garden – a real flower and a real butterfly. Yet, as you can see, it is not all that realistic because I used filters and editing to arrive at a different viewing point.
This is the same photo without editing other than cropping. Which one is “real?” Well, the truth is, both of them and none of them. The camera sees the scene through a lens and is limited in what is able to be captured by the sensor and the recording media. The result is an image, not the real thing in itself.
Yet, behind the image is something that is definitely real regardless of the filters through which that “something” is sensed or felt. One doesn’t even have to have the sense of sight to have and awareness of the flower. But of course, this blog post isn’t about the flower and the butterfly, it is about my “self.”
“. . . to acknowledge that whatever reality may be, it will to some extent be shaped by the lens through which we see it. When we are born we are handed multiple lenses: genetic inheritance, gender, a specific culture and the variables of our family environment, all of which constitute our sense of reality.” (Hollis, The Middle Passage, p. 9)
When it comes down to it in the final analysis, the only thing I can truly know must be filtered through my lenses. And as I grow older and perhaps a bit wiser because I have experienced bumping into the world and others, my lenses change. Some of those changes are due to ripples from my presence in life, and others are due to the ripples due to the presence of others. I have learned that I can choose the lens I want to use. And more than that, I have learned to enlarge focus and depth of field at will – or to allow focus to slip into a foggy place where it is almost impossible to be fully present in the outer world. Learning this has been followed by a realisation that it isn’t all under my conscious control. Emotions, complexes and the presence of archetypes have their way with my lens collection as well.
Of course I can always defer to the realities that come from outside, accept their versions of my reality, accept their truths. Most people seem to do this without much ado. But I find myself confused as I know that all that enters into my consciousness only enters through my filters, through my will. It is only by my choice to give up my authority over self that allows the truths of others to replace my own truths.
And so I learn to live with being responsible for myself, and accept that I can only know the world through my own lenses.
“In light of Jung’s understanding of the psyche, any claim to exhaustive possession of a saving truth constricts personal development and is currently a, if not the, major threat to human survival.” (Dourley, A Strategy for a Loss of Faith, p. 63)
Today’s photo was taken close to our village on the Canadian prairie. It is an idyllic scene that belies the fact of a planet in trouble. In a way, the photo can be seen as a fact and a proof that the planet is not really in trouble at all. Yet, what the photo doesn’t show is the odour of foul waste that is being contained in this water, the village sewage lagoon. That said, it is too easy for us as humans to be misdirected away from what the “self” being fully present would discover.
The danger is in accepting anything as truth, as the truth. I was spending a few days with my brother who is often a reader here. He works in law enforcement, a place where there is an established right and wrong, a world of black and white. Of course since he has been working in this field for a long time and is nearing retirement, he has discovered that there are rare instances of black and white. In spite of what is said and written by the organization reality tells both him and the administration that truth is relative.
We all learn this as we experience life. However, in spite of what we experience and what we intuitively know, we have a hard time when it comes to “religion.” We are only too willing to deny “self” and accept a scripted black and white vision of both world and soul. We are taught that doubt is merely blackness oozing into the soul rendering the soul in jeopardy. Only blind acceptance without question to the “WORD” is acceptable. We follow this WORD and its priesthood into all manner of dark corners, doing all manner of dark deeds while at the same time being wracked with guilt for what we do and say as it contradicts the screams of our inner self and the agonies suffered by our soul. The guilt is forced back by renewed efforts to be pure. We inflict our own penances by becoming zealots, by marching in the vanguard to chase the heresies of competing WORDS which we are led to believe are really faces of evil. We deny and deny, even while our actions provide evidence to our senses of the wrongness. We send armies, join these very armies in order to wage war against the faces of evil.
And we embrace the mantra, “The truth and nothing but the truth.”