Archive for the ‘authenticity’ tag
This image was taken at Jaco Bay in Costa Rica in January 2010. While in Costa Rica, sunset photos became a frequent activity with an occasional photo pf myself making it into some of the photos. I chose this photo in order to continue on with the theme of naturalism, being whole in one’s own skin. As I write, I do understand that many in the world do not see the naked body as a moral issue as it is understood in the North American collective. Naturalists exist in both Canada and the U.S.A. and have gathered together at private campsites, private resorts or isolated beaches. North American society grudgingly gives in to these isolated pockets while maintaining as much pressure as they can to push the fundamentalist, Victorian ideology/morality as far as they can in terms of public freedoms. Strange for me how the focus in on having citizens keep their clothes on rather than real issues of sexual exploitation and violence.
I am a naturalist in a quiet and private manner. Of course that means that I pick and choose times for liberation from my clothing, at least finding sleep as a time, space and place for being natural. Interesting to me that I honour this with the belief that in doing so, I allow the portal to the dream world to be as transparent as possible with the idea that in putting my body fully at ease, I am more receptive to whatever is attempting to be heard.
In doing my research for this post (and yesterday’s, I cam across a few interesting thoughts that I would like to bring forward here. The first is from Walt Whitman, taken from his work, Specimen Days. I have just quoted a few of the words from this section (133) called A Sun-bath – Nakedness:
“Never before did I get so close to Nature; never before did she come so close to me… Nature was naked, and I was also… Sweet, sane, still Nakedness in Nature! – ah if poor, sick, prurient humanity in cities might really know you once more! Is not nakedness indecent? No, not inherently. It is your thought, your sophistication, your fear, your respectability, that is indecent. There come moods when these clothes of ours are not only too irksome to wear, but are themselves indecent.” (Whitman, Specimen Days, “A Sun-Bath – Nakedness,” 1892
Another one of my early influences on a number of different levels was Henry David Thoreau who wrote a three part essay called walking (available now in various ebook formats from the Gutenberg project) written in 1861 from which he offers his thoughts on being “natural”:
“We cannot adequately appreciate this aspect of nature if we approach it with any taint of human pretense. It will elude us if we allow artifacts like clothing to intervene between ourselves and this Other. To apprehend it, we cannot be naked enough.” (Thoreau, Walking, 1861)
I know that I have found peace in nature, especially when clothing is set aside for a brief time. I have found this peace in lakes and in gentle pools along various rivers, walking through a Yucatan estuary, on protected areas along seashores, in isolated fields and meadows and while walking down remote trails in the wilderness. This is not about social activity or about sexual gratification. This is about being honest with oneself, stripping away yet one more mask and exposing all the flaws so that they can be accepted as natural aspects of self rather than as deficits.
On the way to the main university campus (I teach on a second campus) I came across this little guy sitting on a branch. I had quite a chase before finally getting a decent photo. He seemed to “know” when the camera was pointed at him, even though I was using a telephoto lens which meant I didn’t get very close at all. He definitely was skittish about having his photo taken. Shortly after taking his photo, I went to the FAO leader’s office where I signed a contract for another year of teaching at the university. This will be the fourth such contract. Interesting as this was not what my intentions were when I began the side journey into teaching in China. I had originally thought of a one-year contract with the option of moving on to other countries. Now, it is four years in one school in one city in one country.
Having a base in China, I definitely been more comfortable with my travels to other places in China as well as other countries in Asia. The stability of place allows me a sense of a safety net. I feel free to wander knowing that I have a place not-too-distant in which to return for revitalization. What is most surprising is the fact that I found this place of safety far from my foundational home in Canada. It is as though I went on a journey of discovery and found a distant port to act as a halfway house for my self.
This is a good analogy of what I experienced as I dared to journey within, leaving the known world for the shadowy world within. Though I didn’t really want to take the journey, preferring instead to remain in the stuck patterns of familiarity, my sanity forced me to take the risk. In the process of discovering new places within, I was able to build rest stops from which I could make smaller round trips into the unknown. Now, the inner world is not so terrifying. I know that I have carved a path back to ego that lets me know that I am remaining somewhat sane as I change.
My wings take me just as swiftly to a safe place, not much different than this little fellow.
I continually am amazed at what is captured by the camera lens. Sometimes, okay make that often, the image captured isn’t even seen. The camera lens appears to capture more than the image seen by my eyes. It makes me think that I walk around with blinders on and filters that limit what is seen.
Yesterday while on a tour of a local Chinese village with one of my colleagues who comes from the village, I managed to take quite a few photos in the central park, an old Ming/Qing aristocrat’s home and of artisans and their work using traditional Chinese materials and methods. This is a detail from one of the inner courtyard doors that led to a sitting room. The wood was old, original from the period. I would think that the painting on the door was retouched as I can’t imagine it being able to survive sun and pollution for such a long period of time. Regardless, I had to get in close in order to capture the faint images which was barely discernible.
I took the original photo and tried to peer deeper into it using editing software. I was interested in finding out what the camera had captured. This is the result. Is this a false image? I would have to say that it isn’t what my eyes saw. However, it is legitimate and authentic in terms of content. Colour? It is hard to say.
What I can say is that there is so much we don’t see, especially about ourselves and others, stuff that is there, stuff that is authentic. I know that I am blind to certain aspects of myself that others can see. I know that others are blind to certain aspects of myself that I am aware of, things that I am puzzled about because I don’t attempt to hide these aspects of myself from others. And, there is a universe of shadow stuff that neither myself or others note. I can claim to know who is the authentic “me.” Others can also claim to know the authentic “Robert.” Both would be right, but neither have the full picture.
The pictures seem to contradict each other creating a conflict, a tension. Which is real? This is a tension we face everyday as we search for the truth about ourselves, about others, and about the world around us.
I love the architecture of old China. Here just one block off the main downtown street in Changzhou, one of the last older sections is being removed so that modern China can rise in its place. This is a story that has been happening for thousands of years in China and all over the world. We build, we tear down, we build again. Purists claim that we are losing the authentic and real China in the process. Really? Which version of China over the thousands of years of history would be the real China? I could ask the same about any country. Of course the answer will always be, the “real” China is the one in which one is standing at that moment in time. The “real” anywhere is that which “is,” not that which “was.”
This building on the foundations of what “was” is what happens every time a bit of light uncovers some of the shadow contents within. As I withdraw projections I have placed on others, those I love and those who serve as hooks for my other shadow contents, I become a changed man, a new man. Does this constant changing make me any less authentic? Is the only authentic Robert, the one who existed with little awareness of the depths of “self?” I don’t think so. Each change is simply a change, Robert is always Robert though the person seen by others might see a changed Robert, wishing for the old Robert to re-appear. This can’t happen. I can’t undo the fact that light has allowed me to see my self more clearly, revealed things about me to which I was blind. But, I can control what others see. This is one reason for carefully rebuilding one’s persona.
“The development of a collectively suitable persona always involves a compromise between what we know about ourselves to be and what is expected of us, such as a degree of courtesy and innocuous behavior. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with that. In Greek, the word persona meant a mask worn by actors to indicate the role they played. On this level, it is an asset in mixing with other people. It is also useful as a protective covering. Close friends may know us for what we are; the rest of the world knows only what we choose to show them. Indeed, without an outer layer of some kind, we are simply too vulnerable. Only the foolish and naive attempt to move through life without a persona.” (Sharp, Jungian Psychology Unplugged, p. 42)
Protecting oneself, yes, that is important. I think it is also about respecting others and where they are in their own development of self. I do have a a different opinion when it comes to what Daryl Sharp says about “close friends.” I don’t think that anyone can know me as I know me. Some of what I “know” is always going to remain behind a veil. It is simply enough that I know. There is nothing to gain in terms of relationships to expose all. As well, I don’t know if I have the words to share this knowing with others. I may be aware of these things of my “self” but must live with my “complexes” that moderate my exposing of these contents, even to the closest person in my life.
Another point I would like to make is that others know things about myself to which I am blind. Should I be told about them, I would likely protest that I am not like that, that I never said those things, or showed those attitudes. I still have blind spots and my complexes do come out to play without my permission or awareness. As much as I would like to think I control everything about my presentation of “self” to the world, my ego consciousness is limited in terms of the overall “self” that lays under the persona and ego.
Like Changzhou, China, I continue to build on the foundations of who I was. Tomorrow, I will be yet a different man with a different face. But each day, the Real Robert stands here, an authentic man even though each day will transform who that Real Robert is – this is what individuation is all about.
This clay pot is in very sad shape. I admit that when I placed it in the flower garden that it was already in some stress with bits and pieces missing. I didn’t set it in the garden alone. Beside it is another clay pot that is losing its integrity. Though far from perfect or even useful in the traditional sense, I leave them in place as though they belong. To me, they have a certain dignity, an authenticity that can’t be matched with things that appear to be perfect.
One of my readers brought up the idea of wabi sabi to describe a state of transience. I did a bit of reading on wabi sabi and found that it holds the belief that stuff must be trimmed away in order to find the essence, a purity. It is about simplicity. There is no doubt that this clay pot is being reduced to a simplified state and that it takes on an aesthetic beauty in doing so. So how does this “fit” in with Jungian psychology. Well, I have to admit that I found no ties in doing an Internet search. However, what I did find suggests that there is enough to warrant being looked at a bit more closely.
The word “wabi-sabi” is a combination of two Japanese terms. “Wabi,” literally means poverty. However, it has a positive connotation because the word does not refer to lack of material wealth as much as it implies freedom from dependence on worldly possessions. Wabi is simple minimalism that has divested the material in order to directly relate with nature. “Sabi” translates to “solitude” or “loneliness,” such as the reflective moods induced by traditional Japanese art. (Wabi-sabi and Its Influences, SocyBerty)
In a way, this is what happens when one goes through the process of individuation, one simplifies. The search for “self” is a work that is lonely and one that requires one to take time for solitude. As I listen to what this tells me, I think of the fourth stage of live in Hinduism where a person gives up all connections and possessions in preparation of the final work leading to a holiness that leads to Nirvana. I also think of monks and nuns simplifying and denying themselves stuff with St. John of the Cross being one of the most famous of examples.
As we peel off the layers of persona and expose the essence of who we are. As we make this journey during which we shed masks our load becomes lighter and our inner beauty is allowed to shine through. It is when we are authentic and transparent that we sense the more numinous aspect of self, that which we ascribe to an outer god. Individuation is about separating from the collective and allowing the fullness of the individual to emerge. And in the process, the self then sees its true connection to the whole. Could this be yet another face of the Eastern concept of wabi sabi?
This is a Yellow-Crowned Euphonia, a bird I have never seen before. I managed to get its photo yesterday morning when I took a solitary walk in mid-morning. There is no doubt that this bird’s colours seemed to animate the otherwise flat intense light of the morning’s walk. It was a walk that produced a few surprises in terms of photographs and in terms of good thinking time.
I have been spending a bit of time thinking about anima, about soul. I am finding that as I do so, I invite her presence and in return, my life becomes more animated, my life has more colour, more passion and more joie de vivre. Is it simply the switch from the cold of the Canadian Prairies? Is it simply the intense heat of the sun here in Costa Rica? Likely it is neither of these and both of these.
My partner has noted the difference in my way of being, has commented on how I have somehow left the darkness and lack of ambition and passion that I was experiencing on the prairies. Instead of waking up lethargic at 8:00 am as I did in my Canadian home, here I am up somewhere between 4:30 and 5:30 every morning. The difference shows up in many ways, especially in my increase in enthusiasm to do things. I have become more animated. These are sure signs that I am taking care of my soul. Now for a few words from Daryl Sharp on the topic:
Jung had a number of descriptions and definitions of the anima, such as soul-image and archetype of life itself, but in this essay he focuses on her as the “projection-making factor” in a man’s psyche. She saves a man from being a stick-in-the-mud, prods him to adventure and the taking of risks, alternately enlivens and maddens him. And everything she does to him inside is reflected and amplified, through projection, in his activities and relationships in the outside world. (Sharp, Jung Uncorked: Book Two, 2008, p. 12)
Now, if you have noticed, I have been taking risks here in terms of transparency and authenticity. I guess I could blame the influence of anima for this. It is as if I am being submersed into a cauldron where the heat is being turned up so that the transformation process pace speeds up – literally and figuratively. Are the manifestations showing up here influencing my relationships with the outside world that meets with me on this blog site? Are the manifestations showing up in the physical space where I am now found influencing my relationships? I can answer the last question without hesitation – yes! It is too early to say whether or not these changes are welcomed or acceptable in the “other,” but that is for time to work out one way or another. But for this space? I honestly don’t know. Only you can answer that question, and only in terms of yourself. I look forward to your responses.