Archive for the ‘Changzhou’ tag
I took this photo yesterday afternoon near the end of a fifteen kilometre walk from the apartment to the main park in the centre of the city. For the past four days it has been all about walking with the average of about ten kilometres each day. Today was not much different as at least another twelve kilometres were walked in the first half of the day with an additional evening walk thrown in for good measure. It is as though I am taking advantage of the pleasant weather and the time off from teaching during the week-long holiday. As a result I find myself writing this in the late evening.
I am not one who works hard on being fit. In truth, I am lazy with exercise. I would much rather read and write and meditate. Thankfully I don’t give into laziness all the time. I know that I need to take care of the body as much as I need to care of my mind and my soul. On days like today I find that a tired body does little to stimulate the mind. I become tired all over . . . a good tired. Tomorrow I will return here hopefully with something to say that others will find worth reading.
I have been trying to express how I see individuation as a process and a way of being in the world that might be a task too difficult to achieve. When walking yesterday in Hong Mei Park in Changzhou, China, I say this scene and knew that I had to take the photo as part of the way of sharing my understanding. I have seen this tree often and many others very similar in this park and the same idea over and over again throughout parks all over China. I likely have a huge collection of photos such as this. Yet, this time I took the photo for one purpose, for this blog post.
When I see this, I think of the woman who is my wife, has been my wife for forty years. If there ever was to be a symbol of how we are together, this would have to be it. We are two different people, different in almost every aspect. I am INFP and she is ESTJ. I am of the city and she is of the country. We don’t have the same interests or the same abilities for the most part. Yet, somehow it works. In spite of our differences there are things that bind us together – deeply. Regardless of where we find ourselves in the world we are seen walking together, almost always holding hands. Others who know us are aware that we everything together when it is possible. When we sleep we are still holding each other, even if only with a foot. Psychologically this level of bonding is akin to our being enmeshed – tangled in each other like these entwined trees in the park.
So I wonder if our relationship is about dysfunction? Our life together is inclusive of almost everything. We are basically seen as inseparable; I have changed in significant ways as I have come to understand some of the mystery of who she is; she has changed in significant ways in an attempt to understand this stranger she married. Yet, in spite of the enmeshed behaviours visible to the outer world, we are unique and separate beings always aware that our differences are bigger than the things we share in common. We often tread gently when confronting these differences knowing that if the differences aren’t honoured by both of us our relationship would come to an end. We have learned we can’t change the core person. We see as we get older, this core is becoming stronger if anything else. Our differences become more sharply defined. Though we have been married forty years, we don’t take anything for granted and know that this gift of relationship could fall apart. Yet that knowledge is set aside as we continue to meet each day – together.
I write here as an individual, rarely mentioning the fact and reality of my wife. The blog site is about self about an individual journey towards a better understanding of myself. The blog isn’t about my primary relationship with my wife – but it is about how individuation is critical in being able to re-approach relationship consciously. And in that, this blog is indeed about how I relate to my wife and my children and my grandchildren and with you, my readers here.
I am continuing the thread of individuation, the choice to follow a call that takes us apart from others. At least, that is how it feels. We separate and peel away the web of connections and contamination that has us wonder where we start in the messy web of relationships. We find that we have become enmeshed as though there is no separateness possible. As we begin to search for our unique self, others begin to worry knowing that somehow they are losing something vital to their own identity which is caught in the sticky webs of inter-relationships. There is a question of love and love abandoned. The choice to follow a call has ripples that flow through so many others.
Once on the path, the individual finds his or her inner spaces crowded and messy with powerful strangers as well as the ghosts of those who still live in the outer world. Following the call leads one into conflicts with these inner beings. One is forced like ancient heroes to conquer these inner beings and forces. And with these victories these presences become integrated rather than destroyed. One learns that each of these gods and goddesses, demons, beggars, warriors, prostitutes, saints and mythical animals are really just lost faces of one’s self. One returns to the waking outer world confused and disoriented and looks about him or herself at those who stand nearby, people who are both strangers and yet intimately familiar.
These outer world people are strangers for projections that were really images of the inner presences had been placed on these outer world people. With the projections withdrawn we see these same people with clear eyes, and we wonder why we had not seen them before. We begin to wonder about what had drawn us to these people and what remains that will keep us in relation to them. Some of these people are strangers in a way, but because they are our children, will remain with us in some fashion – willingly or unwillingly. Regardless, because we have changed in our own eyes, we truly change in the eyes of those others who are in orbit around us, especially those who are closest to us; the others are forced to change as well. We have stirred ripples and those ripples will challenge the old ways of being and relating.
The risk is to have others leave us because of the changes and their unwillingness to look beneath the surface. And if some do leave, there remains many who don’t. We don’t live in isolation nor will we as we become more aware of who we are. If anything we become more connected consciously. The individual stands in relation to all others in spite of distance. Consciously or unconsciously we remain part of the whole.
These are two of my students in one of my six different classes. I arrive at my classes early, a habit I developed from the first day of teaching thirty-seven years ago when I lived only steps away from my first school in a remote fishing village in northern Saskatchewan in Canada. As I wait for my students to arrive, I keep myself somewhat busy with the posting of the agenda for the day’s lesson on the board and with being visible. Unlike for students in Canada, as a foreigner (visibly foreign) I get a lot more attention, especially in the first part of the term. For many of my students I am the first foreigner that they have ever had as a teacher, or the first foreigner to whom they have had an opportunity to speak. In a way, this makes me a V.I.P. in their eyes. And as such, I often get students taking photos of me in the classroom. Just before I took this photo, the girl on the left had just taken a photo of me with her mobile phone. As she looked at the photo with her friend, she didn’t see me taking this photo.
I was left wondering, what does she see when she sees me as a teacher or in the moments when I am waiting to teach, waiting for all the students to take their places? Who does she see? The only thing I know is that I am seen and that I have caused a ripple through her life likely changing it in some manner that neither of us will ever know. Yet, regardless of that unknown, I do know that I have been present and acknowledged in that moment.
Writing this blog is not really much different than standing in font of a classroom and being a teacher. The photos I present and the thoughts that flow out of them mixed in with a somewhat vague resonance with Jungian ideas tell my readers, you a story of who I am, what I am, and even how I am. For the most part there is silence in the reading, your part, a silence that has its own communicative power. Regardless of conscious intention, once words are heard, something stirs within the unconscious and in the stirring change happens. And similarly, speaking the words knowing that someone hears them also creates ripples and ripples result in change.
As long as there is one reader for a blog, there is an I-Thou connection that works its magic. I know that there are a good number here who read this blog, silently for the most part. I am aware of your presence and am thankful for it. Your presence is visible in terms of blog statistics, a proof that I am not simply talking to myself. Of course there are those who comment and add their voice to mine in this space. It’s interesting to me how this individuation process is not a lonely process, but one that demands the participation of others.
I took a day off from blogging yesterday and spent the time doing tasks that can quickly fill one’s day. I began the day like I usually do with teaching all morning and then following lunch I went to the main university campus in order to meet with some of the Foreign Affairs staff there for a bit of administrivia. The main campus is a good forty minute walk from the north campus and I enjoyed stretching out on the walk to that campus. I took the camera along as usual but didn’t see anything I wanted a photo of, or more correctly, I did see photos but was too focused on the walking and getting to where I was going to stop to take the photos. I was like this insect, intent on a task where there was no room for wondering, imagining or being my usual distracted self.
I now have a week off from teaching classes as it is the National Holiday in China. What will I do with these precious days off? Likely not much of anything according to how I feel at the moment. But as I have learned long ago, the mood passes and I will find myself wrapped up in photographs, writing, reading, walking, and even visiting with others. In a way, I am thankful for these moments of standing outside of my objective self and watching what emerges with no expectation or agenda. What follows makes these moments valued. The stillness is more like a mindfulness than it is about defeat or depression or the blues.
With that said, I will post this, have some breakfast, go for a long walk that will end with a stop for Japanese Ramen noodle soup before returning to the apartment and sorting out the rest of my day.
It’s another one of those days, there is a brisk breeze and the sky is murky making what little sunlight that did break through feel sticky. Most of the day saw only dreary light and an insipid outline indicating that the sun was in the sky. I had an idea for the blog post, something to do with some dream fragment of this morning, or perhaps it was a small fragment of some fantasy that briefly surfaced in a moment of unconscious idleness. But over the period of a few hours when I busied myself with teaching classes and then with reading a novel and then going for a walk to buy a few vegetables, I somehow managed to sweep away the little bit of something that could have led me to some small insight, another little hint of light in the caverns of my inner darkness. It is as if my mind worked overtime to sweep away this fragment like this groundskeeper does in our courtyard.
I have to admit that my imagination has been bringing stuff forward and that I have, for some reason been brushing away the ideas, feelings and images that have been arriving. I have been busy with dreams, so busy that I have been waking up tired. In spite of all that I know, I have stubbornly refused to deal with the dreams and the images coming out of the dreams. Early morning is private time, a good time for me to be at one with myself and whatever emerges from the night dreams. Yet, for the past few days I have focused on ignoring the dreams, reading on-line newspapers for important sports updates about teams I am not in the least interested in following; or I read about the latest in political news which somehow appears no different from the latest in political news from last week, last month of longer – avoidance, that is all I can say. I am deliberately interfering the process of allowing unconscious contents to enter into my awareness.
“Consciousness is forever interfering, helping, correcting, and negating, never leaving the psychic processes to grow in peace. It would be simple enough, if only simplicity were not the most difficult of all things. To begin with, the task consists solely in observing objectively how a fragment of fantasy develops. Nothing could be simpler, and yet right there the difficulties begin. Apparently one has no fantasy fragments – or yes, there’s one, but it is too stupid! Dozens of good reasons are brought against it. One cannot concentrate on it – it is too boring – what would come of it anyway – it is ‘nothing but’ this or that, and so on. The conscious mind raises innumerable objections, in fact it often seems bent of blotting out the spontaneous fantasy activity in spite of real insight and in spite of the firm determination to allow the psychic process to go forward without interference. Occasionally there is a veritable cramp of consciousness.” (Jung, C.W. 13, paragraph 20)
So now I am wondering why I have been consciously sabotaging my process? And in wondering I am not really being honest for I have a sense that I know why I have done so. I don’t want to know what is trying to emerge. I have an idea that it will make life a little too interesting for me, turn my life again upside down. I don’t know if I am ready for more awareness. Life is just getting to be comfortable again.
Why? Well, with new understanding, new awareness I change. I don’t know if I am ready to change. As I change there are losses, as many losses as there are gains. What will I risk this next time as I transform to another version of self? How will it impact on others around me? Can they hold to more changes in me? Yes, I know that as I transform I become a fuller person, but at what cost? And so, I battle with the unconscious, resisting the appearance of the fragments from the unconscious. I know if I let them be observed objectively, change will occur. I want to be left alone in peace . . . . . maybe.
This student is a bit different from his classmates at the university. He dares take a position that is opposite of all of his peers and finds reasons for his individual opinions. This is not a typical way of relating to others here in China. Usually students find out what others will say so that they know what they will say. There is a definite hesitancy to be different.
I find that I am different in spite of what I want. I could blame it on others and a constant travelling from town to town and school to school, but that wouldn’t be fair at all. My brothers and sisters also lived the same life and are not all that different from the norm. I know that I have worked hard at trying to fit in with colleagues and the communities in which I have worked while raising a family and pursuing a career. In the process I thought that I did a decent job of fitting in.
The truth though, was different. I was accepted in spite of my differences because of my efforts. I learned to listen and keep quiet about what I thought, what I knew. I said the right things and did the right things and as a result was able to sit comfortably on the edges of these communities – always and outsider, but one that was accepted as long as I didn’t impose my differences on them. To them I was different because I was an easterner living in western Canada; I was different because I was francophone in a francophobe community; I was different because I didn’t come from a rural background and share the same histories; and., I was different because of some unknown factors that shouted to them that I was different.
But deep down, I knew that I was different in some internal fundamental way, one that had nothing to do with my family of origin or in which communities I found myself raising a family and working. I didn’t know why I was different or exactly how I was different. I just knew I was the one not like the others.
“We are not here to fit in, be well balanced, or provide exempla for others. We are here to be eccentric, different, perhaps strange, perhaps merely to add our small piece, our little chinky, chunky selves, to the great mosaic of being. As the gods intended, we are here to become more and more ourselves. We, too, must enjoy amazement at what unfolds from within us while our multiplicious selves continue to incarnate in the world, contribute, and confound”. (Hollis,What Matters Most , page 11)
It was this pull to be more and more my self that set me apart. This being set apart doesn’t mean that I have to take on the job of trying to twist myself into all kinds of shapes in order to fit in. It has taken me a long time to accept that I am different and that it is okay to be different. I have learned to forgive myself for being different, for being the odd man out. And in the process of accepting my differences I am becoming even more different, more of a contrast. And to my mind, this is now good.
It took some time to get this photo as the butterfly was loathe to sit still long enough for me to get a photo. There is no doubt that to my mind, it was elusive. But, for whatever reason, I took one last photography, mostly out of desperation as I knew it would be the last photo as I had to return to the classroom and begin teaching a classroom full of eager university students, eager because the topic of the day was money, another elusive target. The result of the last photo was only evident later when I cropped the photo – Ah ha! I had captured the essence of what I knew was this next blog post.
What had changed between my earlier attempts at photographing the butterfly and this successful attempt? Well, basically, I had given up, realised that the problem was not one I could solve. I had to turn to another approach, one that trusted the workings below my ego. I had learned the craft of photography years long past and had taken tens of thousands of photographs. My eye and the trigger finger have seemed to developed their own awareness. So, when times like this arise and I get frustrated with my ego’s attempt at controlling the shutter and the subject, I admit defeat and withdraw from the conflict. Then, unintentionally, I shoot or I don’t shoot.
This has been one of the hardest lessons for me to learn as a man – that I can’t fix everything, that I can’t control everything, that I can’t solve all the problems. The truth is, I don’t get to solve many problems other than those that I create. Problems that come out of my behaviour, my attitude or lack of knowledge can be solved with time and effort, as long as I admit that it is my behaviour, my attitude, and my own ignorance that is the cause of the problems at hand. That is the crucial starting point. But the other problems, the real big problems? No, I can’t solve them. All I can do is let them defeat me or acknowledge the problem and move on as best I can.
“Now and then it happened in my practice that a patient grew beyond himself because of unknown potentialities, and this became an experience of prime importance to me. In the meantime, I had learned that all the greatest and most important problems in life are fundamentally insoluble. They must be so, for they express the necessary polarity inherent in every self-regulating system. They can never be solved, but only outgrown. I therefore asked myself whether this outgrowing, this possibility of further psychic development, was not the normal thing, and whether getting stuck in a conflict was pathological. Everyone must possess that higher level, at least in embryonic form, and must under favourable circumstances be able to develop this potentiality.” (Jung, C.W. Volume 13, paragraph 18)
It now seems to me that I can be kinder to myself unlike patterns in the past where I would get angry at myself for being so weak, so helpless, so impotent. And, I wonder how this plays out in the bigger world. Perhaps the big problems are not to be solved, but to be outgrown, one by one, community by community. Polarity must exist – black and white, good and evil. And, when one looks deeply into each psyche, I think one will find no pure goodness, no pure evil. And in saying this, I do realise that it is also necessary to do something, to try and right wrongs, especially the wrongs we commit. To focus on the wrongs of others is simply acting outwardly, projecting one’s own darkness.
The road from here to there is not a straight line – ever!
This man is a grandfather who is often standing outside of his restaurant not too far from the apartment. I see other members of the family usually sitting inside the restaurant during the slow hours between meals when the university students are busy with classes. Obviously, he is Muslim and his restaurant offers the typical Muslim meals that are wallet friendly for university students. The main staple is noodle soup, chicken or vegetable stock, no pork.
He is who he is. Each time I see him he appears to be comfortable with himself, accepting who he is, where he is, and how he is. This seems to be a common thing here in China. It is as though there is less agitation to be someone else, somewhere else. There is a sense of peace, acceptance and even harmony. I would not describe this as “settling” for less that what one could be or should be. Rather, a calm realisation that regardless of situation, one is left with accepting who one is.
And in seeing this, sensing this in those who are around me here in China, I find that I am in the same state of being – I am comfortable with myself, with my self.
“When a man can say of his states and actions, ‘As I am, so I act,’ he can be at one with himself, even though it be difficult, and he can accept responsibility for himself, even though he struggle against it. We must recognize that nothing is more difficult to bear with than oneself. (‘You sought the heaviest burden, and found yourself,’ says Nietzsche.) Yet even this most difficult of achievements becomes possible if we can distinguish ourselves from the unconscious contents. (Jung, C.W. 7, paragraph 373)
This young woman was picking a rose from one of the many rose bushes found along the boulevard that passes the apartment where I live. The roses belong to the city and are rarely touched by the citizens. Yet, here this one young woman was selecting just one of the roses. Carefully, she chose one and then slowly walked on, lost in her solitude. I didn’t see happiness in the picking or the leaving of the scene. It made me wonder what sad story she had to tell. Of course, I will never know her story.
But in taking this photo yesterday, I wonder what I was really photographing. I have have more than enough photos to be simply recording daily life in China. It hardly needs saying anymore, but I will say it anyway, I was taking the photo in order to allow some otherwise silent part of myself to have a voice.
Usually I take such an image and allow active imagination to bring out the voices of the various aspects of the personal unconscious. But, this isn’t always necessary, in fact it might even be counterproductive if used to an excess. Sometimes all that is necessary is to acknowledge the presence (here, the face of anima) and leave it at that.
The same is true with dream work. I used to religiously record all of my dreams and then work overtime on mining these dreams. But the effort was not often rewarded with satisfactory results as far as my ego was concerned. I had thought that each dream must be pregnant with deep meaning. In many things I am a slow learner or take things too literally. After many wasted hours, I turned to Jung only to find that the effort I was putting into the process was excessive. Just being aware of the presences in a dream, being aware that the dream took place was enough. There is an interior dialogue that occurs without the mediation of the ego that is vital for psychic health.
And this is the lesson I take to my photography. Often, most often, it is enough that I have taken the photo with either intuitive intention or ego intention. Taking the photo is much the same as unconsciously picking a rose and then wandering away with the rose with no questions asked