Archive for November 23rd, 2010
At the north end of YanCheng, in the southern part of Changzhou, a series of three open arches alert one to the fact that one is about to enter a different world, perhaps a different time. I have yet to enter into this area of YanCheng as I am saving it for a Friday or Saturday in the not too distant future when sunlight promises good photography conditions.
Perhaps that is not the only reason that I delay the trip to the inner world of YanCheng. I will only know when I finally make this journey. If the open arches have any relation to the the journey, it will be one that is challenging, psychologically. When is one ever ready for the next stage? Always there is a fear of the creatures one will find that threaten the world as one knows it. What will result from meeting these demons of the inner world? How will I change? Will the change disrupt my life as I know it, the patterns that have now become comfortable?
Perhaps that is the key – life has become comfortable. I have been resting and gathering strength and courage for the next stage of the journey. The words of Hollis find resonance within me:
“Clearly, we live in a culture of great spiritual impoverishment: addictive materialism makes us slaves to surfaces; fundamentalist clamor makes us fearful and anxious; and distracting, banal ideologies diminish rather than enlarge the journey of the soul.” (Hollis, Mythologems, p. 8)
Ouch! Banality is where I have been finding myself lately. In between teaching and preparing lessons, I fill in as many of the spaces playing cards against the computer with little ambition to do much more than that. I have been thinking of buying another guitar and investing time with a return to playing music. Why? Perhaps as a diversion, as a way to fill in time and avoid doing some real work. I am not sure. And because of this, I sit and wait, holding the tension of waiting, for the pull back into the journey of soul.
Water and reflections on the edges of YanCheng in Changzhou create a soft autumn scene. When I look into the water, I sense an invitation to enter into a different world, one in which everything is turned on its head, a place where the impossible becomes possible.
I would imagine that it is because of the depths behind the reflections, especially the reflection of self and the world as we know it, that water has become symbolic of the unconscious – or at least one of the reasons for the symbolism.
“. . . myth is perhaps the most important psychological and cultural construct of our time. It is not only that the concept of myth has degenerated in popular parlance into something synonymous with falsehood. Or that myth, as it has been said, is someone else’s religion. It is that, in a culture committed to the world of matter, access to the invisible world – which myth makes possible, along with its two chief instruments, metaphor and symbol – has never been more critical in allowing some balance of the spirit.” (Hollis,Mythologems, p. 8)
As I teach here in Changzhou, I make sure that one of my first lessons include the topic of metaphor. In cross-cultural situations when learning/teaching a second language, the images that words evoke are vital to successful communication. It only makes sense then that images, both verbal and symbolic, are just as vital when trying to enter into the realm of the unconscious, the realm of the spirit and the soul. The language of metaphor and symbol are my tools for the work I do in trying to uncover the hidden and buried aspects of myself. The work is not much different that peeling away the layers of an onion wherein after the peeling of a layer, the onion is still an onion, but one is closer to the essence of the onion.
As I descend, layer upon layer, a bit more of myself is exposed to both myself and others around me. It is as if I am being stripped of artifice and masks. When the last layer is peeled away, one could conceivably say that nothing is left – or, one could say that the self has somehow expanded to include everything. In Jungian terms, this is close to what one means when we say that the self morphs into the