This is another one of my recent shots of canals in Changzhou. I have to admit that there is almost a spell over me when it comes to water, canals and light. I found the scene above to be particularly compelling because of the figure on the boat. Though the person’s back is to me, I can tell that it is a woman on the boat. Here in China, there doesn’t seem to be many jobs that are for “men” as compared to other places I have been. I guess a couple of revolutions along the way has paved the way for more equality in the workplace in terms of gender defined roles. That said, there still is no confusion between the social roles and value between men and women. China is very paternalistic in attitude. Now, back to the photo.
I like this photo because it hints strongly of the presence of sun, the presence of “Father.” With the sun’s reflection on the water and the walls, there is a sense of connection with this larger aspect of father.
“When one has had the gift of Father’s blessing, or Father’s example, or Father’s sacrifice, one is privileged to feel worthy, empowered in the tasks of life, and part of a circle of connective affect. When one has not experienced these gifts as mediated through a personal father or surrogate, then one feels disempowered, and may spend one’s life in search of ersatz authority, overcompensation through the power complex, or a life of unconscious disablement of own’s own powers.” (Hollis, Mythologems, p. 46)
As I read these words, so much raced through my head, perhaps too much to do justice in this small space. First, I thought of a French-Canadian tradition I experienced as a youth, a tradition of paternal blessing called “la bénédiction paternelle,” a blessing given on New Year’s Day. This tradition stopped with my grandfather. It is one that I wish had been maintained. Perhaps it still is in rural Québec. The second idea that raced through my head was that of the father’s sacrifice in terms of the sun’s sacrifice as it yields to the night thus allowing us to feel whole with room for our own darkness. First Nations’ traditions and beliefs, as with other old cultures, value sacrifice, not only the sacrifice of others including animals, but of personal sacrifice.
The lack of blessing, the lack of sacrifice hurts the soul. Having experienced these lacks in my own personal father, I am left with a great sadness for his loss of soul, his lack of connectedness. Thankfully, I was able to have other models in sight so that I could bridge the gap in order to be a better father. But that story is one for my children to tell, as I will never really know.