Archive for the ‘Cambodia’ tag
One of the worst decisions I made on the IndoChina tour was to take the speed boat from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh. It was a rough ride with the long boat so crowded that the seven hour trip was definitely something I would have rather avoided. That said, I did get to meet a few interesting people and engage in a couple of good conversations as well as capture a few shoreline photos such as this one which I took near the end of the trip. So, in retrospect, perhaps the ride was worth it.
Stilt houses have a purpose, they keep the house above water during the rainy season when the river overflows its banks. This flooding is not seen as a bad thing, but as a good thing as it brings rich nutrients to the land that feeds people, food that serves as a foundation for the community and country. What a difference in opinion would exist if people along the banks of the river didn’t build stilt houses, but decided instead to ignore the cycles and power of nature.
The same happens to us as people with regards to our unconscious. We try to deny the unconscious and build our homes, our belief systems of self, around the notion that there is only the observable outer world, an objective world. The more we barricade ourselves into this way of being, the more we suffer the onslaughts of the unconscious in our dreams and in being tripped up by all that is illogical in our behaviour and that of the people with whom we come into contact. We see nature as a commodity and sometime as an enemy as we wrestle with control.
If only we could somehow look at our realities through a different lens, what we see as forces that turn us into victims could become opportunities for personal growth, for being human in harmony with the visible and invisible worlds in which we live.
I searched for a while for today’s photo and decided that this photo taken in February in Angkor Wat deserved to brought forward for you, my readers. I chose the photo before any thoughts as to what today’s post was to be about as I was unsure about the direction of this post. As I come closer to returning to Canada for the summer, I find that I am disrupted from normal routines. I haven’t taken my camera out for a walk in weeks and my sleep patterns are changing as the weather warms up. I find it harder to focus, even to read. It is as though some alien force has clamped an energy suppressant shield over me.
I think some of this is due to the frustration I feel in trying to access Internet and write up posts. At times, the good times, I can simply turn on a browser and log into this page and write to my hearts content, taking time to search for the right photo and browse though a book or two to find words that resonate. Recently that freedom has all but vanished. I use a program called Freegate to try and get passed the Firewall used to limit the access both into and out of China’s web spaces. If there is a small opening in the wall, I can sneak in to catch up on a bit of reading and posting using social media such as Twitter or Facebook, media which shortens the distance between family and friends left behind. However, I can’t post blogs using Freegate as my host site in Canada doesn’t allow proxy access to do so.
Yet adding to the Internet issues is the perennial issue of end of course documentation so that the university can release grades and move on to a new term. At least Internet isn’t an issue in doing this work. However, it is a dull, dispiriting kind of work that drains the energy levels and leaves one lethargic.
I realise that this post is not much more than a rant, and that, thankfully is not typical for my way of being here. Now, if I could only get this tree off my back and renew my presence in both face-to-face life and here in my sacred container, Through A Jungian Lens.
On the Tonle Sap River in Cambodia near Kampong Chhnang, I came across these children who live on the river. These children are a proof that there is a beauty and vitality and hope for life. These children are the product of the human instinct for survival as a species and a deeper instinct for the preservation of the self as an immortal being. One doesn’t think of any of this when one meets the other with whom mating and giving birth and child-rearing becomes a life-consuming task.
Many reasons are given for marrying in our modern times – love, wealth, power, duty, loneliness – but whatever the initial impulse the two entering into a marriage begin to change because of the marriage, because of the intimate contact with an other person. Two people choose to be together in a contractual arrangement that is best described as a marriage. Yet, it isn’t too long before both parties of the contract have changed. Intimacy evokes a response as much as dropping a stone into a still pond affects change in an environment.
“Many marriages simply evolve beyond the implicit terms of the invisible contract. Whatever complexes or programmed ideas of self and Other may have inspired the marriage the psyche has moved to another place. It is not so much that people fall out o love, but that the original controlling ideas have waned in favor of others – or the complex has decided that the Other cannot meet the expectations of the original agenda. (Hollis, The Eden Project, p 44)
Imagine if the two in a marriage became stuck in the initial human psychological developmental stage (it happens). Two who become forever adolescent; two who never move past that initial Magical Other; the result is tragic from the view of individuation as individuals, and perhaps even more tragic if these become parents who are so fixated on each other that the children are basically orphans in a psychological sense.
The binds and blindfolds of the Magical Other deny the growth of self. One is frozen in place and in time. One never does find the person behind the projections. And, one never does find the depths of one’s self.
One of the stops I made as I toured through Cambodia was at these three floating schools; a kindergarten, an elementary and a secondary school. These schools were found just a few hundred metres from the northern end of Tonle Sap Lake, an area that floods during the rainy season. I got there before classes began in the early morning in order to catch the light and avoid the heat of the day. I checked in with the kindergarten classes and got a few interesting photos which I then showed the students which only made them more willing to be photographed. This was followed by a visit to a classroom of older students in the elementary school. In the late afternoon while returning from a visit to a floating village on the lake, I stopped off at the high school to catch some boys playing soccer (football) and talk to some other high school students before they headed home for the day. There is little doubt that I find a lot of pleasure in meeting students and talking with them, I seem to be at home when with young people, listening to them and having them listen, with interest and respect to what I have to say to them.
Young people are willing to trust a guide, a teacher as they prepare themselves for a life of adulthood. The teacher-student relationship is precious for both the teacher and the student. But, one can’t take the relationship for granted. The moment the teacher becomes puffed up with his or her importance, students retreat from listening and respecting the teacher. There is a shift from student to resistance fighter. The key relationship activity of authentic presence that recognizes the other (both teacher and student) has been sabotaged and the resultant loss leads to grieving on the students’ part. And, also to a delayed sense of loss and grieving on the teacher’s part.
A lifetime in the classroom has taught me a lot about relationships with young people – but not so much with peers. I lack confidence and have built a fairly impenetrable fortress around my psyche with “friendly” personae to suit the adult audience. I am on edge trying hard to please, to keep the focus on the other rather than have anyone see my “self” in any depth. I hide behind a mirror while giving the egos of those I meet positive strokes. People in general don’t know me though they think I am a quiet and kind man who smiles easily and listens without trying to monopolize the conversations. I was a good school principal in terms of ethical behaviour and in caring for the students and being there for them. I wasn’t all that good with the teachers though because as more than one teacher and support staff mentioned over the years, I wasn’t tough enough. I didn’t want to be tougher, couldn’t be tougher – I didn’t want to open the pandora’s box that contained my shadow as I feared I would become too tough and do more hurt than healing. Now, six years later, I am again teaching and enjoying it.
I still haven’t given up on adults hoping that somewhere along the way, some adult will want to listen to me, to engage with me authentically sharing ideas, dreams and visions.
Yes, these are bats hanging in a tree, large fruit bats. The photo was taken in a park called Royal Independence Gardens, across the street from the Royal Residence in the middle of Siem Reap. I really don’t know much about bats in general and fruit bats in particular. I do know that I don’t have a fear of bats nor believe in vampires. What I do know is the fact of their being predominantly active in early evening and during the night, and that they are flying animals.
As I did a bit of basic research for this post, I wasn’t surprised to find that the bat has a dark as well as a light symbolic meaning. Since it is a creature of the night, for me, there is a sense of the bat being a go between between consciousness and the unconscious, a dream-world totem. At one cyberspace site, the bat is described:
“She is the Guardian of the Night and represents longevity, double nature, peace and wisdom. Bat is the totem of the shaman, teaching people to go into the night of inner darkness and emerge reborn while reminding them that eyes are only one way of seeing clearly.” (http://www.suite101.com/content/bat-a-powerful-pagan-symbol-a50822)
Wiki has a similar message to tell about the bat:
“Bats symbolize death and rebirth. Sometimes, they are known as the “Guardian of the Night.” It is largely misunderstood and so therefore many of its symbolic meanings are inappropriately fear-based. The bat is a symbol of rebirth and death because it is a creature that lives in the belly of the Mother (Earth). From the womb-like caves it emerges every evening at dusk. And so – from the womb it is reborn every evening.” (http://symbolism.wikia.com/wiki/Bat)
Transformation, rebirth, wisdom – these are ideas that seem to fit. I spent quite a bit of time under the trees watching and capturing images of these bats. There were literally thousands of these bats. I have to admit that I was entranced, wandering, listening, watching and recording. Then, I was returned to earth, to my body because of the bats. As I wandered under the trees, I was showered with bat urine. Returned to daytime reality in Siem Reap, I was reminded that I must be present in both worlds, the world of day and the world of night.
A break from the architectural and people photos taken during the tour of IndoChina that I have been posting here as of late. I did take nature photos during the trip as nature is a vital part of my personal journey. This particular butterfly was found in Siem Reap, Cambodia on an unscheduled walk that had no objective other than just being there.
After having just spent the day before visiting Angkor Wat and the morning on the water in the floating village, it was time for unplanned discoveries without a driver or guide. Since I have a good ability in building mental maps that avoid me getting lost in strange cities, I had no fear in wandering in search of whatever the day and place would present to me as a gift. It might seem like aimless activity, but I have learned that though I might not be consciously aware of these kind of journeys or excursions into the unknown, there is purpose and direction. It might be a foreign country and a strange city, but in the big picture, there is no foreignness as all are connected unconsciously, all are part of the whole.
When I found this butterfly, I was thankful that he stayed put long enough for me to get a few good photos of him. Then just moments later, I was surprised by thousands of fruit bats hanging from trees in the central park of Siem Reap. Within moments of each other, I was presented with a flying creature of the day as well as flying creatures of the night. It immediately made me think of my self making journeys consciously and unconsciously.
I often fly in my dreams with a body that defies logic, gravity and physics. I fly through mountains and water as well as in the sky. Everywhere I journey in these dreams is home. The land, the water, the sky . . .
Ta Promh has gifted me with more photos than I can ever use, as well as a life experience that I will never forget as long as I remain a conscious being. In this photo, a tree rises from the ruins of Ta Promh. The seed that became this tree belonged to the world of possibility. The possibility of life is the greatest mystery. Mystery is one way that I sense the spiritual, the existence of something that humans have given the name, God. As I look at this expression of mystery, I see two faces, one of creation and one of destruction, one of light and one of shadow.
“When we speak of “the gods” we are speaking metaphorically, as befits any approach to the mysterium tremendum, the great mystery. The gods are our personifications, please recall, the constructs of our limited intellects, which point toward the energies which run the cosmos and course through our being. So if one is “depressed,” then our being is not consonant with the intention of the gods. The gods may very well take us anywhere they damn well wish, of course, including depression as a steady state. But when we examine the psychodynamics, that is, the dynamics of the soul, we discern that depression is the expression of an energy transcendent to the ego’s choices, albeit felt as an oppression.” (Hollis, Mythologems, p. 104)
What is is that resonates for me and others in the presence of mysterium tremendum? Well it is that aspect of self that is the soul. I know the soul is there. here and in all that is me. I am a biological being, but the body is just the container, not the essence of who I am. Whatever it is that is the self is more that the body. Yet, the body has its role, its purpose in the life of the soul. As I come to realise this, I begin to understand better my purpose.
This understanding isn’t an intellectual understanding. My mind resists the fuzziness of soul, of this mysterium tremendum. My mind wants it all to be straightforward, provable to mind analytical mind, verifiable by my physical senses. As I resist the shadow and run into obstacles, my mind is taught a lesson and is reminded that I need to attend to ALL that floods my consciousness, even the stuff that only appears at the edge of consciousness, the numinous stuff. I resist too hard and find out that I don’t really have all the self-control that I think I have. The message is clear. I am not in this alone and I am part of a whole.
A second photo from the series taken at Ta Promh, a group of buildings and temples near Angkor Wat, shoes how trees have wrapped themselves around doors, walls and windows of one of the temple structures. I took the photo in the late afternoon, a time when light coats everything with a sheen of gold. Though the scene is one of abandonment and decay, there remains a strong sense of what was in place in the times before abandonment. There is a feel of almost holiness as if this was a once-upon-a-time favoured place of the gods.
As I look at the photo, I almost sense a heaviness, a depression. Yes, this is a holy place, but the intent of ego which was responsible for building the temple has been overthrown. The gods have responded to the ego and not in the expected manner. As Hollis would explain it, “the ego’s agenda is overthrown” (Hollis, Mythologems, p. 109). What is it that overthrows the intentions of ego, the plans of men and women? Listen to Carl Jung’s thoughts on this matter:
“I know of the existence of God-images in general and in particular. I know it is a matter of a universal experience and, in so far as I am no exception, I know that I have such experience also, which I call God. It is the experience of my will over against another and very often stronger will, crossing my path often with seemingly disastrous results, putting strange ideas into my head and maneuvering my fate sometimes into most undesirable corners or giving it unexpected favorable twists, outside my knowledge and intention.” (Jung, Letters, vol. 2, pp 522-523)
God then is a personal god, one with which one battles. One knows that this god is present and has a presence that transcends all that one knows. Yet this personal god with whom one wrestles is also bigger than just a personal god for one person. This transcendent otherness is also engaging others and in found in places and within images. One knows this presence through some aspect of self and consciousness that is found only on the edges, a numinosity.
This image holds that sense of numinosity for me. This was a place for the gods, and curiously the photo “glows” pointing back to the gods that have transcended the time and place. And what is left becomes a temple that points to a God transcended, not a god tamed by man, contained by man’s stonework.
Going to Angkor Wat is an experience that gets extended with other temples in the relatively nearby area. This photo was taken at Ta Promh, a temple complex that didn’t get the care over the centuries that most of the temple sites enjoyed. As a result nature has reclaimed so much of the site and salvaging some of the site is a challenge.
When I saw these roots almost devouring the walls of the temple, I couldn’t help but think of the temple as the self. I think back of the time when I was so focused on others that the foundations of my self was eroding. I have to admit that I didn’t think of balance in my own life. I assumed that all I had to do was to put myself fully into parenting, being a marriage partner, teaching and coaching and a community member and all would be well. Each of these things I did was something worthy and honourable. Each of these things gave meaning to life and had value to myself as well as to others. So, how was my attention to these things having my self break down?
First, I believed that it was right to be unselfish, I actually still feel the same way. Only thing was in the past, I mistook the meaning of being selfish as taking time for my own mental health, my own psychic health. In most things, this actually caused me no end of problems. Whenever anyone asked what I wanted, I always would respond with figuring out what the person wanted so that I would choose correctly. If I dithered long enough, or simply returned the choice back to the other person, the correct decision would be made based on the wants of the others. Most times I had no opinion, no desires, just the desire to please, to be of use, to affirm the choices of others. But not always.
This was the key point, for each time I had an opinion or a desire and I would defer to another person, it ate at something deep within me. Over time, my opinion stopped being solicited and that added to my sense of unimportance. I taught those around me that my opinion wasn’t needed, that only their opinions and needs were of value. With balance falling further and further away, I became easily upset and as a result angry with myself for feeling upset as it was me being selfish.
Dreams warned me of the dangers of my eroding psychic foundations, but I ignored the warnings and worked harder than ever to fill my life with family, school, sports and service. With the foundations eroding, the control I had over shutting shadow out was evaporating. I became more and more irrational. It was only because of my training in counselling as a psychotherapist that I finally recognised what was happening and took a “time out” in order to bring balance back, to repair the foundations.
I continue with bringing a photo from Angkor Wat with this post. Walking out of the back of the main temple area of Angkor Wat there is this smaller temple, or more likely one of the smaller palaces that were part of Angkor Wat. I was entranced by the solidity and ancientness of this building which has been somewhat rescued from the jungle that is native to the area. Looking through the doorway and windows, one expects to encounter shadows of an inner space. Yet, that expectation was denied as the doorway and the windows opened up to show the outer world framed by the door and windows.
Inner and outer landscapes, light and shadow. It is the contrast between dark spaces and light that indicates the presence of life. If all is dark, that is all there is. If all is white, that is all there is. I need contrast to have feeling, to be able to discriminate. Without contrast, there is nothing but a state of suspended animation – no awareness – as if one is asleep with no dreaming, no physical sensation to have one shift on the bed, no biological clock to have one wake up. One needs both darkness and light in order to be alive.
I think of many who are bored with their lives. Why the boredom? There is not a lack of material stuff in their lives, not a lack of opportunity, not a lack of time; yet, there is little satisfaction. To go to the same work, to see the same people, to hear the same stories, to take the same routes, to watch the same television programs; to do any of these things day after day without change is not much different that living in a cocoon, in suspended animation. It is only when someone or something enters the scene, disrupting the pattern that one becomes animated. Typically, that animation is a negative response, a complaint about how one’s routines have been turned upside down. The greatest curse one could give was to wish them and interesting life. An interesting life, one in which pain and pleasure are present, one in which there is mystery and a anxiety. We now treat anxiety with pills in an attempt to surround the anxiety with a narcotic numbing agent so that one can avoid pain.
I wonder at my need for an interesting life. If things go too smoothly, I become agitated and find myself resisting the invisible bonds that would have me sit quietly, not making waves, as I wait for my biological death. I want to feel alive and that means I need to feel, to think, to dream, to act, to go, to be denied, to be loved and hated. I need to speak out even if what I say is nonsense. Would it be better if I could sit still in a small town at the edges of the world, smiling and not making any waves, listening to words repeated endlessly so that the words have no meaning other than as a constant drone that persuades the brain it doesn’t need to listen anymore?
Sitting and waiting while life happens around me but not within me – that is what this photo tells me – when one sits still waiting, one has become an empty shell in spite of the fact that the body is still performing biological functions that says the body is alive. The owner, the spirit has abandoned the body; the soul has shriveled up. The gods have gone to find a new home. The lights are on, but nobody’s home. Clint Black has his way of telling us the same thing.
The lights are on, but nobody’s home – Clint Black
Move slowly to my dresser drawers
Put my blue jeans on
Find my cowboy boots, my button down
Strap my timepiece on my arm
Grab my billfold, my pocket change
Just a mindless old routine
Then it’s out the door and down the street
But it’s not really me
I still comb my hair the same
Still like the same cologne
And I still drive that pickup truck
That the same old bank still owns
But since you left, everybody says
I’m not the guy they’ve known
The lights are on, but nobody’s home
Cup of coffee in the morning
Just food for the brain
But I’ve been numb since our last goodbye
I haven’t felt a thing
But now there’s pains in my head
And pains in my chest
And I think I’m losing my hair
I’m a half a man with half a mind
To think you didn’t care
I still comb my hair the same
Still like the same cologne
And I still drive that pickup truck
That the same old bank still owns
But since you left, everybody says
I’m not the guy they’ve known
The lights are on, but nobody’s home