Archive for the ‘canal’ tag
This is another WuZhen photo, one that is not about tourists or a celebration of a restoration of China’s architectural past. This is just a simple scene, one that is played out in many locations in many countries in today’s modern world, a scene behind the scene so-to-speak. l get to see this scene often, a scene in which a woman is crouched beside water, usually water that is far from clean, in an attempt to clean either herself or some articles of clothing. Regardless of what is being washed, the image is there based on real events happening in a real world.
Symbolically, woman is associated with water, birth waters, cleansing waters, dank and dark waters. Somehow out of the clouded dirty water, something is born, dirt is washed away and whiteness emerges. Archetypal images – images that point beyond the facts contained within the images, point to something that goes beyond one person’s understanding and points to a collective awareness. But what is this archetype? Is it the mother who nurtures, to mother who eats her young, the life force that gives rise to libido in men, the receptacle who takes a man with her and sucks out his seed? Because “she” is an archetype, “she” is all of these things and more.
Walking through my life, the archetype is in the dark background out of my conscious reach. As I walk through my life, I find I bump into aspects of her which have been activated by my life experiences. And these appearances are personal to me though they cause a lot of discomfort. These disturbances are not appearances of the archetype, but appearances of my personal complexes. I can never behold the fullness of the archetype, only the “activated” bits that can only be identified as complexes.
There remains so much to say on this topic. Perhaps I will find some of the words to help myself better understand this. I will come back again with another image and more thoughts to explore this territory.
Today’s photo could be considered “flawed” because of the over exposure at the top. But, it serves a purpose for me because of the excessive light from the sun. Light. Consciousness. Having taught developmental psychology for a number of years, I can’t help but think of that journey of development from the pre-natal waters in darkness, to the bloom of full adulthood when one is standing tall in the light, tall and proud. It is a long journey that is all uphill. But, like this photo, once one has crested the bridge of life, it is necessary to descend, to move back toward the darkness, towards death where human consciousness is no longer.
I want this post to focus on the high point of the bridge. If one looks into the water, into the reflections of consciousness in the body of the collective and personal unconscious, one sees what is not evident above the water, above the bridge. One sees that the self that walks this bridge, must go over the sun, go over the father in order to become a full adult. It’s about becoming the authority over one’s self rather than allowing one’s self to be the subject of the authority of others, especially one’s personal father, or the collective father represented in one’s community, one’s country, one’s religion.
“Also associated with the father imago is the issue of authority. By whose authority do we live our lives, make our decisions, practice our professions, conduct our journeys? Authority as concept is neutral; in praxis it is always valenced. Any authority, no matter how benign an well-intentioned, can exclude its opposite and over time become oppressive. No child can ever wholly evolve into his or her own truth without finding an authentic inner authority. For this reason, the individuation process obliges some form of overthrow of the external authority, whether modeled by the personal parent, the broader culture, or the resident tribal deity.” (Hollis, Mythologems, p. 47)
As one grows up, one discovers self as a separate being. One also discovers that one is helpless at first and must depend upon the Mother and the Father. The original power of these two figures are grounded as archetypes into our very soul. The Mother as nurturer and as the source of life. The Father as authority and the energy of life. The task of growing up leads us to overthrow their authority. Rather than to have one’s father’s voice echo in one’s head and heart guiding all of one’s decisions, one must become the authority. One shifts from being the child to the adult, from being the “subject” to the ruler. One shifts from being a member of a church to being at one with deity, to finding that there is no separation between self and deity.
It’s a long journey, not an easy one. It is a journey that leaves one alone in so many ways. Individuation. And when one has completed the journey, one returns to being at one with others seeing that there is no real separation between self and other as all are part of the whole.
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.
This is a look at yet another canal in Changzhou. An interesting thing about this particular canal was the presence of floating gardens, aquaculture at a small and practical level for a few brave individuals on a little used canal – a peek at China in the past. It’s not an accident that all peeks at the past involve water. Humans congregated around water, lived and died and fought over water. And we are born out of water.
When one emerges out of the womb, one is not a conscious being, but the promise of consciousness is implicit. As a parent, I have watched my own children discover themselves, others and the world. Now that they are adults with children of their own, I can still see them continuing to grow consciously. A culture is much the same. Becoming aware of tribe, others and the world which contains them. Though the culture of China has a very long history, much longer than most cultures, it appears to me that the level of consciousness is not as “evolved” as the level of consciousness of the western world. But that said, I am not a good judge as I stand within my own culture as I make this evaluation. I am limited by my personal and collective filters.
As I read James Hollis’ book, Mythologems, I am finding it a very comfortable read. One of the things that this reading is doing for me is the fact that it is providing me a bit more structure in my posts here. In the past, there was less flow, in my opinion.
As well as flow, Hollis’ words are encouraging me to look closer at my images, to see what is to be found in these images besides a copy of the objective world. Photography allows me to do both, record visual data as well as portray something “more.”
Tucked between modern high rises that line one of the many canals in Changzhou, are little homes that have been cobbled together. These canal-side dwellings evoke a different time and place, one that finds its way into many of the folk art expressions in China, a scene that is both nostalgic and poetic. – Or, is this scene just another set of dilapidated residences housing those who can’t pay for a better place while hoping the authorities don’t tear down their squatter quarters that can be viewed as a blight on the edges of a modern city? It’s all imagination regardless of which version of the image you hold.
“The German word for imagination is Einbildungskraft, the power of creating a picture. The picture may come as an intentional act of mind, as these sentences are, or a gasp of aesthetic or horrified phenomenological experience which is embodied as image. The phenomenological appearance of such an utterance, such as image, is a de facto manifestation of something powerful about our nature. We are imaginal creatures; through images the world is embodied for us, and we can in turn embody the world and make it conscious. Such an act seems, in its generative, nominative and constitutive power – all godlike to me.” (Hollis, Mythologems, p. 31)
Powerful words, “we … embody the world and make it conscious.” For me, this is the key as I try to bring more light into the process of self-discovery.
This will be the last of the Changzhou, China photos in this series of posts. I have chosen this photo of the canal along Jinling Lu heading towards the centre of the city. From my apartment to the city centre was a walk of seven kilometres, something I was willing to do as it allowed me to see so much. Often I would take different routes to the city centre. As you can see, Changzhou has a very modern face as well as the scenes of deconstruction.
It is only to be expected that the collective consciousness and unconsciousness is found in the individual. A close study of one’s environment can reveal aspects of self that have been lost to conscious awareness. Individually, we move forward. Each of us is unique and as we struggle to become more aware of ourselves and our communities and the world at large, we do so in relation to others.
We exist in relation though we only ‘know,’ somewhat, ourselves. We are in relation to the land, water, sky and the elements. That relation has its own history that shows in our phobias as well as in our passions. We are in relation to community and family. Again, our lived history as well as the history of siblings, parents and other extended family members which are still in the collective memory of the family and the community. Both polarities of positive and negative are alive within the community as well as within ourselves.
We move through this towards a better sense of self always aware that the crystal clear picture of self we project is reflected in such a way as to let us know that this picture is hazy at best as there will always be so much that will remain unconscious with enough of these unconscious contents at the edges hinting that all isn’t as it seems.
This is a follow-up to the last post, another photo of the canal surrounding Tiger Hill Park in Suzhou, China. This time, the scene includes people. As I mentioned earlier, I am in the process of preparing photos for a book on China, one that focuses on one city, Changzhou, a city not to distant from Suzhou. Perhaps when I have finished the book or two based on Changzhou, I will attempt to write about other places in China that I have visited, places such as Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an, Suzhou, Nanjing, Nanning, Haikou, Sanya and Chongqing. Two years in China has resulted in changes within, something I didn’t expect.
Like anyone else heading to China to teach English, I say it as a way to save my pension cheques and make retired life in the future just a little more secure economically. I saw the venture as a way to see the world on someone else’s dime. I had paid my dues as a teacher for thirty some years and now, I thought it was time to be rewarded. Both motives, that of saving money and having others pay for my being a tourist were realised. However, China was much, much more than that.
In China, all the rules were off. What I had learned as common sense in societal behaviours was not applicable. I quickly understood that I basically knew nothing that was helpful. The only good thing for me was my natural tendency towards being a quiet person. Not knowing the language reinforced my quietness. Yet the strangeness was intriguing enough for me to wander outside of my safe apartment in order to listen, to watch and to study the world around me at that time. It was almost as if I had again engaged in hero’s journey.
As an experienced teacher, I had little difficulty in teaching. In fact, it was as if I was a superhero in the classroom. I was loved and could do no wrong. Other teachers came to watch me teach and soon wanted to establish friendships that would benefit them with extra English language contact as well as perhaps helping them to make their own teaching situations better for them and their students. It didn’t take long for me to begin to see myself as a superhero type of person in China. There are dangers when one develops a mana personality. Recognizing the dangers, I looked within and saw the trap I was setting for myself if I bought into an inflated ego.
Every step toward greater consciousness creates a kind of Promethean guilt. Through self-knowledge, the gods are, as it were, robbed of their fire; that is, something that was the property of the unconscious powers is torn out of its natural context and subordinated to the whims of the conscious mind. The one who has “stolen” the new knowledge becomes alienated from others. The pain of this loneliness is the vengeance of the gods, for never again can one return to the fold. (Sharp, Digesting Jung, 2001, p. 120)
The is no superhero here, no special person “chosen” by the gods. There is only a person who has become yet more different than before, more of an individual, a person that finds himself or herself more alone than ever. If I was to hold to the role being cast for me in China, I would lose both my sense of self, I would find myself more and more isolated as well. I refused to believe in the myth that placed me in the role of teacher superhero. I laughed at my moments of hubris. And, I began to learn liking my warts, the faults that made me one just like everyone else.
This photo was taken in Suzhou, China, at the edges of a large park area called Tiger Hill. The canal surrounds the whole park area. While travelling the length of the canal, many side canals branched off to head to other parts of the city making their way eventually to the main canal. These particular boats are for tourist, most of whom are Chinese. It is a beautiful scene; the ride was serene and peaceful. For a few moments, one entered a different world, an unreal world. For a few moments one lives an illusion.
For me as for many others, water is symbolic of the unconscious. I think that this might have to do with our pre-emergent existence within an amniotic sac in which water was home. And the ultimate source of that water was “mother.” Now, as an adult, water has a sense of power and mystery that both entices and terrifies. It is the great unknown.
Having dared a number of small journeys into the inner world in the guise of a hero, I, like so many others, have emerged a different person. Like many others who have taken these journeys, I have come to the conclusion that I am connected to something larger, yet I remain small in comparison. I feel more humbled than enlarged. A few who have dared these small journeys have emerged larger. I worry about them.
In choosing this photo, this morning, I went through my bookshelves in search of something suitable to “fit.” I didn’t really know what I was looking for. But on looking at the books, my eyes stopped at a book by David Tacey called Remaking Men. Picking up the book, I opened the book and immediately found this passage:
Jung insists that individuation is above all, a dialogue with the unconscious psyche. The ego needs to maintain its essential connection with social reality as it attempts to ‘have it out’ with the unconscious forces. As the ego makes its ‘descent’ for the sake of renewal, it must resist the ‘inertia’ of the unconscious, and the forces that would paralyse it, and maintain its human integrity at all costs. A tell-tale sign of failure is the tendency to inflate one’s insignificance … (Tacey, Remaking Men, 1997, p. 19)
It is too easy to get caught up with archetype and shadow and allow the self to become inflated. In my opinion, all who stand tall, too tall, in their self-assigned roles as shamanic figures, as leaders and guides, are lost a bit or more in their own unconsciousness. I often wonder if it wouldn’t be best to become a hermit and live a life of silence in some remote place. But then again, even this is a conceit. And so, I resist all of this and remain a flawed and confused person living as best I can in a flawed and confused world.
This is the third in a series of photos from the Middle Kingdom, China. Not too far from my apartment in Changzhou, behind the university, a canal makes its way through the north end of the city connecting to larger canals that connect to others until it finally joins the ancient canal that joined southern China to northern China. Because of the poor air quality, high humidity and early morning chill, a mist often shrouds the open spaces lending an air of mystery to the land for outside eyes.
It is easy to look upon these scenes and think of myths, to be caught in the possibilities of the improbable.
… images of myth, when drawn from the depths, stir and touch us even when we don’t know why, because they are intimate, even activate, the mysterious depths we embody as well. Myth then resonates because it intimates what we already carry in our nature but can only dimly perceive by cognition. (James Hollis, Tracking the Gods, 1995, p. 8)