Archive for the ‘Canada’ tag
Here I present a photo taken in my yard where I have placed a Canadian flag on the garden shed. I was quite pleased with the image as it puts the flag in the shade and looks out from a dim shadowy place as though reaching out to the sun as late afternoon begins to fade into evening. I have to admit that I took this photo last year. Somehow or other, I never got around to putting up any Canada Day decorations. The yard looks as it does any other summer day.
Am I less patriotic? I admit that this might be the case now that I have been to many countries and live for the most part in China, I am finding myself less attached to place in terms of a geo-political place. The world of governments is not doing much to make it easy to be proud of country. That said, I do love my country and know that it is my “home” in terms of cultural roots.
This photo was taken in Toronto, Ontario, Canada earlier this month. This young woman caught my eye for a brief moment, just long enough for the camera to grab this one image. I can see a carefully crafted look in her hair style and her wardrobe, a statement of her uniqueness, her individuality in a world of apparent conformity. But upon a closer look, especially at her eyes, the lie is evident. She is lost, buying into a counter-culture statement as she rejects one collective for another. It is all about masks.
Masks conceal, somewhat, the individual from the group. That concealment is often about fear, about subterfuge, about hiding one’s self from the collective in an attempt to protect one’s self. We don’t want to expose our personal weaknesses.
However, somewhere along the way, we buy into the disguises, the masks and start to believe that we are the masks that we wear. We deny the inner so vehemently that we become convinced that it doesn’t exist, that what you see is what you get. And so the disguises become more elaborate, more “unique.”
A person invests tremendous amounts of energy into maintaining the fiction of the disguise. My disguise for so many years was that of “Teacher.” Being a teacher became more than an occupation, a way to feed my growing family; it became a way to see myself in the community. I knew that beneath the teacher layer was something messy and dark that would isolate me from community if it ever emerged. The work of building a concrete bunker around my inner self became a dedicated task. Eventually, the work continued unconsciously and I lost sight of my “self” and embraced the identity I had crafted, that of “teacher.”
The crafting of a persona of a teacher, or of almost any role, is necessary in community for a variety of reasons, almost all of them good reasons. The persona is just an interactive side of the self which we use to enable connection with others. The persona is not supposed to be about denying our inner self. One needs to remember that beneath the persona, a fuller person exists. It took a midlife crisis for me to remember the person beneath the persona.
I am still a teacher even though I have officially retired, a caretaker and nurturer. I still use this persona as a way to meet others in this world. But now I know that this is just one part of who I am. There is little conflict between the various personae that I use in my connections with others as I know I am none of the assorted cast of characters that I call upon in various situations, groups and cultures. I have finally learned that the real individual lies beneath the surface and that the surface is just that, a surface.
I saw this young woman twice in one day in two different locations in the small city of Niagara Falls. In many ways, I saw her more as a lost child than as a woman. But, that says more me than it does about this young woman. Who is she? Why is she self-isolating in a very public place? There was a lot of care in preparing the “look” that she carried.
What is she looking for? For me, I had thoughts that she wants to be seen yet works hard to craft a disguise so as to not really be seen. Looking more closely, that disguise is more revealing than she would probably would want. That is the problem with masks, the choice of masks tells a lot about the chooser, about the person wearing the mask. In choosing a mask, one selects almost intuitively, or even unconsciously. That almost sounds illogical as it is evident that there was a lot of care, conscious intent, evident in the mask being worn and lived at this moment. One must look at the prompts for a certain colour, for a certain pose, for a uniform of sorts that helps others build an identity for the externalized person of this young woman. Underneath the layers, the careful actions one meets with a shadow and a ego-defying fuzziness – one meets the personal unconscious.
And in looking closer, I lose sight of the drama and the theatre of the young woman and tap into a different drama, that which belongs to me, a drama of anima, a face f my own soul. Why did this particular carrier of the feminine catch my attention when there were thousands of other women both young and old that moved in and out of my range of vision and perception? There isn’t a sexual attraction that would have me possess and penetrate and incorporate this young woman. Though she is evidently a woman, my response is that of woman-yet-to-be, the young feminine who is lost and waiting to be recognized . . .
What is anima trying to tell me? What is being abandoned by me that seeks to have me reclaim and nourish and help flourish?
And to return to the young woman in the photo, I realise that she is real and that she has her own story to tell, one that exists outside of who I am and my momentary presence in the background of her story, perhaps not even noticed. She is a real person regardless of being a hook for my projections and as such, I need to let go of my projections and look within so that I can own my own story.
This scene was found in Kensington Market just on the edge of Chinatown, Toronto. The area is a popular destination for those wanting to escape too much “normal” life, wanting to safely peek at the edges of a different world, a world that is strangely attractive. One enters Kensington fully aware that it is a show for the most part.
The people are wearing disguises, playing a great game of pretend, both viewers and actors. Small cafés are strategically placed to allow one to watch the flow of both actors and viewers who are unknowingly now part of the play. Little do any of them realise that this is the same play that happens when one returns to the life one lives outside of the colour of Kensington.
Looking deeper behind the edges of scenes on the streets and behind the brightly painted doors, there is a discernible unease and tension between the acting and the shadowy, messy stuff of the inner world. It is almost as if the acting was more an act of desperation to externalize the turbulence.
We are drawn to the shadow, to the collective unconscious which is a magnet for our personal unconscious. Feeling safe behind our disguises, we enter into the street theatre knowing that “home” is just moments away.
I have returned to Canada with the first stop at my son’s home where I became reacquainted with my youngest grandchild, a boy who is a year and a half old. When I left Canada ten months ago, we left as friends. Now, I am a stranger, an older male somehow in his home. The tear of his face is a tear of fear, a fear of the unknown stranger. And the first reaction to that fear is to take comfort in the mother or the father. After a few hours of quiet presence, we have become friends again and that is good. Unfortunately, however, the little guy has a cough and cold so the fun was muted from time to time.
While travelling, taking photos, writing and doings some teaching, sometimes it is easy to forget the connections that tie us back to a particular place and time. The journey of individuation is one that requires us to constantly remember that we are also part of a whole and not totally separate beings. The idea is differentiation, not dissociation. And this is a lesson I constantly relearn from my children and grandchildren
I am continuing to draw on the photographs taken at Angkor Wat. Though built by man, this is a place that can best be described as a place of the gods and spirits of a time long past. But of course, these gods and spirits didn’t exist, nor did they make Angkor Wat their home. Angkor Wat was a place built by man, for a man, for his throne and his tomb. It was built as a Hindu temple with the thought that all would associate this man with the Hindu god, Vishnu. Temples such as Angkor Wat are vivid expressions of a human living and acting out of the unconscious. The self becomes consumed by a larger, darker thing, the collective unconscious.
“The world of gods and spirits is truly ‘nothing but’ the collective unconscious inside me.” (Jung, CW 12, par. 857)
There is a wonder within me about those men who managed to have their societies accept them as more than human, as beings who are the gods revealed as men. Many modern men have no problem believing in the gods (or a singular god); nor do modern men have a problem positioning themselves as superlative beings in comparison to the people of their country and generation in order to accept the public acclaim and rewards of being godlings. Riches, fame and adoration are theirs and the ordinary man who sits under the skin of these modern day godlings have been usurped by the collective shadow. There is no way that they could have ascended to the thrones as godlings without the willingness of the collective to have them as holders of their projections, their need to have the gods revealed.
One has to live in the dark, with a low level of consciousness, to both give their power to another and for that other to hold that power. When consciousness begins to grow and the projections of collective and personal unconsciousness begin to be withdrawn, there is a sense of dis-ease with the reality that had grown out of living unconsciously. We see this today in Arab world. Projections are being withdrawn and personal power is being reclaimed. Yet, this is just the first steps. Will those who are reclaiming their personal power give it up to a new godling, even if that godling is an idea?
I want to draw on the situation in my own country, Canada. It seems to be a quiet place where there appears to be fewer projections running unchecked. A democratic form of government enables personal power to be exercised with some regularity. Yet, all is not what it appears on the outside. The leader of government has unfortunately begun to believe that he is above those whom he leads. What is more disquieting is the fact that many have given up their power of thought and discrimination and now believe all that he says without question. Canada is not a big country in terms of people, nor does it have significant power in the affairs of a global society. Thankfully, the majority of Canadians haven’t given up their power to this new face of the collective unconscious, at least not yet.
My point in making these comments isn’t to make a political statement about Canada and its leader, or about the Arab world and the unrest there as people rise and say they have had enough of living in a shadow world of the collective unconscious. The point I am trying to highlight is that Angkor Wat, the Great Wall, the Pyramids, the Taj Mahal and any other man-made marvel; as well as the religions and governance systems that feed on people giving up personal authority, exist because of unconsciousness, projected collective unconsciousness.
Withdrawing the projections, one must become responsible, self responsible. In this state of being, there is no “other” to blame, to carry the scapegoat, to carry the shadow. One must own it all. When this happens, tyranny cannot exist within the community, for no one will follow.
This small church, St. Antoine de Padoue Church, is located in Saskatchewan, in what is now a National Park called Batoche. There is a history lesson in the story of this church, but that story is not for this blog. Just an aside, the church is still in use for occasional services for the Métis community that lives in the area. I took my brother here for a visit in order to see if there was any connections to be made. Though we are Métis, the tiny rural community and church didn’t provide any threads of connection. I should have known that quest was doomed to fail as I was again looking outward for connection, for validation, for salvation. To be honest, I must own my story and my own quest and not place it on a community or a “faith.”
“By identifying the unconscious as the source of every God or Goddess who ever, in whatever guise, addressed mankind, Jung challenges humanity to take heed of this side of itself, to gain a heightened awareness of the direction from which it is approached by the deities and to enhance its appreciation of the continued power. Put briefly, Jung is saying that since mankind cannot divest itself of its relation to Gods and Goddesses, it wold therefore be in its best interests to face that side of itself from which they come, in the hope of teasing from them a myth which would be safe for its collective survival and enrichment.” (Dourley, The Illness That We Are, pp 75-76)
It’s tempting to cling to one of the new and revised holistic “faiths” as it would mean that I could have a rest from owning the roots of my own spiritualism. But, for whatever reason, each of these new containers of “hope” leave me resisting. I am left saddened and worried. I ache for the loss that is lived by all those who migrate to new faiths, loosing their old faiths as much as I ache for those still unconscious of their own worth as they worship a God that is more and more distant, Gods who promise a holocaust for the human race. I ache for those who almost gleefully grab the latest books proclaiming the end of the world. If only they could discover the beauty within themselves, the gods and goddesses within themselves.
The problems with the WordPress™ service in China has forced me to find a different host for the blog series that I have maintained for the past two years. I hope my readers will follow me here and bare with me until such time as I either return to the WordPress™ site or establish my own domain name site. With that said, I want to continue on with the posts.
Today’s photo was taken in Toronto in late August just the day before I boarded the plane for China. This is the modern version of a cathedral for the religion of commerce in the service of the god, Mammon. Mammon as a god, is a god outside of the human psyche, a god located in power, in money, in things, in stuff. The route to this god is in pursuit of money and power, and the worship of money and power. And, like any other “religion,” it can only lead to an emptiness, a realisation that one’s individual humanity and spirit has been betrayed and one has lost all meaning.
“What one could almost call a systematic blindness is simply the effect of the prejudice that God is outside of man.” (Jung, Psychology and Religion, par. 100)
Somehow, as I struggle with meaning, for my own “raison d’être,” I find myself shedding stuff, needing less. Perhaps it is simply more about aging than about individuation and I delude myself into thinking that becoming more conscious leaves one less “needful” of the stuff of Mammon. Perhaps . . .
UPDATE: As is obvious, a new home has been found, my own domain “rglongpre.ca” . . .
I took this photo about a week before I left Canada for China. The scene is in a historical reconstruction of a Métis settlement in north-central Saskatchewan, a tiny Catholic community. In the past this community was the site of a battle between those trying desperately to hold on to an older vision versus the modern (at that time) power that wanted these old ways buried. Today, this site is a tourist stop. One can see evidence from the past which speaks of what was. Yet, not matter how much nostalgia might press, one can never reverse time to return to the way it was.
As a diversion from thinking too much, I am reading a novel called “The Alchemyst,” by Michael Scott. It is a book borrowed from my local library back in Canada, an ebook. Just over half way through the book I came across these words that I immediately knew should become part of my next post, this one. ”Once begun, change cannot be reversed.” Of course, I immediately thought of this line from a “Jungian” point of view. And, I thought of my “changes.” As a youth, the earliest memories are of a “belief” in God and how I was going to be a “Soldier of Christ.” I didn’t live in a “religious” family; somehow, the spiritual drive was evident early and most in my family thought I was going to be a priest. But, I saw too much that didn’t fit with spirituality in the “church” as I experienced it, and moved away. I visited other churches of other faiths hoping somehow that I would see what I wanted and needed. What I found was that I was all on my own. At seventeen years of age, I came to believe that Neitzsche’s “Zarathustra” had it right, that God was dead. Music had replaced religion for me. It sometimes echoed my pain, my longing, my questions.
God – John Lennon
God is a concept,
By which we can measure,
I’ll say it again,
God is a concept,
By which we can measure,
I don’t believe in magic,
I don’t believe in I-ching,
I don’t believe in bible,
I don’t believe in tarot,
I don’t believe in Hitler,
I don’t believe in Jesus,
I don’t believe in Kennedy,
I don’t believe in Buddha,
I don’t believe in mantra,
I don’t believe in Gita,
I don’t believe in yoga,
I don’t believe in kings,
I don’t believe in Elvis,
I don’t believe in Zimmerman,
I don’t believe in Beatles,
I just believe in me,
Yoko and me,
And that’s reality.
The dream is over,
What can I say?
The dream is over,
I was dreamweaver,
But now I’m reborn,
I was the walrus,
But now I’m John,
And so dear friends,
You just have to carry on,
The dream is over.
I can’t go back, even to the days of the music and John Lennon. Yet, in the past was something that I found, something that still exists, a state of “grace.” It was and is a gift that somehow wasn’t limited to a time or place or creed. It was and is something that I found and continue to find, within my “self.”
“In Jung’s view, the psychological experience of unconscious compensation, which demonstrably moves toward wholeness, is comparable to the experience of God; indeed, he argues that the two are virtually indistinguishable. The experience of this wholeness or psychic integration Jung came to equate with the concept of grace . . .” (Dourley, The Illness That We Are, p. 13)
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.