Archive for the ‘cloud forest’ tag
As I walked through the Reserva Santa Elena on the mountain within Monteverde National Park, I found a number of different plants and a few birds. This fiddlehead was much larger than those I have found in the wilds of Québec, Ontario and Saskatchewan. In Canada, the fiddleheads were delicate things that promised a good meal if gathered in sufficient quantities, a special delicacy to be enjoyed at rare moments. This fiddlehead was huge. At first glance, it appeared to be branches unfolding on a tree.
In search of the symbolism behind the spiral and the fern, I came across this:
‘The spiral can be symbol of creation, however it is also a potent symbol of dissolution into chaos. The spiral spins both ways. Downward spirals represent the forces of entropy that are constantly working to instigate chaotic collapse.
Inevitably, these two spirals—the generative and the destructive—turn out to be one continuous cycle. Fiddlehead ferns dry up, fold in on themselves, and collapse back into the earth.”
Walking through the cloud forest with a light rain falling, it definitely felt like I had found myself in a place of both birth and death. There was no feeling of meaninglessness. I was taken in by the pregnant fullness of the place as though I was in a cathedral.
“Jung understood the collective unconscious to be nature itself but a nature in need of its greatest creation, the ego and its consciousness, to function on behalf of humanity. (L I, p. 283; L II p. 540; CW 5, par. 95, p. 62). It is often overlooked that in equating nature with the creative unconscious and understanding consciousness as its needed offspring, Jung is effectively containing within a vastly extended psyche both the totality of what is or can be as well as the human cognitive capacity to experience what is or can be. Needless to say this containment would extend to humanity’s experience of the divine. All of this is made explicit when he writes, “Not only does the psyche exist, it is existence itself.” CW 11, par. 18, p. 12. (Dourley, The Foundational Elements of a Jungian Spirituality, 2006.)
Nature as the creative unconscious as an unconscious source of all that is; this can be understood as a face of what we know as the divine. And I, and we as humans become the conscious expression of that divine. It is only through consciousness of its parts that the whole can come to consciousness. For me, it begins to make sense that the divine also embraces polarities. All that is light and all that is darkness, the conscious and the unconscious; all that is, was and all that isn’t yet – all are embraced in the divine. My experience of the divine becomes part of the divine. Perhaps this lies at the root of my pull to search, to write and to wonder.
I am bringing another photo from time spent in the cloud forest, a place where “wetness” seemed to be the “normal” condition. A place of shadows and muted dull colours, the cloud forest could have easily been a place in which to be depressed. Yet, in walking through the forest with eyes wide open, the cloud forest was also a place for new life.
This photo shows a delicate and life-affirming green that is found throughout the cloud forest, green that symbolizes hope. I guess that this is one way of looking at the photo. Another way would simply be an itemizing of objects and the relationship of objects to each other in space. Of course in such an objective study, there would be no room for symbolism, no room for “feeling tones.”
There is no doubt in my mind that to view the world ONLY through objectivity would be to miss much of the world. There is simply too much that happens than can ever be accounted for by simple cause and effect actions. And, as one learns as one goes through life, the total of anything is always greater than the sum of its parts.
Science, the home country of objective knowledge has already discovered this though it seems to be basically ignored.
“If we want to understand anything psychologically, we must bear in mind that all knowledge is subjectively conditioned. The world is not “objective” only; it is also as we see it. This is even truer of the psyche.” (Jung CW 3, par 397)
When it comes to being human, there is no possible way that we can ever “understand” anything without drawing upon subjectivity. We cannot see the world, or anything in it bypassing our individual filters and complexes. If there is any thought of being purely objective, then let a computer do all the “thinking” and “analyzing” and then structure and limit knowledge to the bits and pieces that life becomes reduced to in the process. There is no human that can be trusted not to consciously or unconsciously permit a subjective element to become involved. In studying anything in depth, one becomes part of what is being studies whether it be a long-lost tribe, a new medical procedure or a new model for economic governing of a society.
All one can do is look within and hopefully recognise the filters, the complexes that colour our thinking processes. Then, it would be best if we then declare to anyone we engage in converse about the filter, the resultant world-view from which we base our knowledge, our understandings of the world.
There is a particular reason I love taking photographs. That reason? There is a sense of clarity for me in the fact that the photo, as a work of art, as a journalistic proof, or as a psychological statement, is uniquely mine. It isn’t something borrowed, something stolen, something to worry about in terms of copyright when I publish the photo.
Take this photo for example. It contains leaves, raindrops, traces of cobwebs and branches and berries. Likely as scene like this has been taken countless times since the invention of cameras and has been drawn countless times before and since the invention of cameras. However, this particular scene has only been photographed once. Any attempt to reproduce (copy) this scene would result in a failure as the scene itself would have changed making it impossible to reproduce.
My wife often asks why I take so many photos and many of them being of similar scenes. The only thing I can say is that I always take unique photos. Even when I take a dozen photos of an object in a short space of time, each photo is distinct as something shifts. Nothing is static. This is no different that considering one’s self.
Who and what I am at this moment is different than the self that existed only moments ago before these words were entered through the keyboard onto this page. The self that existed following the act of this writing is different from the version of self that now exists following the act of creating this blog.
This is important information to know. It lets us know that we are truly never stuck. It may appear as though we are spinning our wheels and going nowhere, but that is a fallacy. We may be repeating the same sets of behaviours but the repetitions are constantly changing as the situation and the people surrounding these behaviours are also constantly changing. Realising this, I have no worries about reading and re-reading the words of others such as C.G. Jung as each time I read their words, I hear-see-understand differently.
Teachers understand this as we are taught to teach using a spiral system for knowledge acquisition. We progressively up the levels of difficulty of basic concepts which are visited and revisited as children travel through the education system. Each time we backtrack hoping to re-connect in the process with a variety of students who had learned some of the content or processes in the past. Picking up students along the way we then continue the journey of learning a few steps forward until we again start losing students who have met their “learning wall” for that moment in time. We know that there will be another circuit in the future to re-capture and re-new as the learning journey goes forward into newer territories.
I have finished the first two books of Daryl Sharp’s trilogy called Jung Uncorked. I had thought to go on with book three which is sitting immediately in front of me for different reasons. First, I respect Daryl Sharp’s approach and knowledge as a classical Jungian analyst. Second, it is the only book left on hand here in Costa Rica for me to use. Yes, I know that I can order and download e-books by other Jungian writers, but why when this book is so close to hand? And finally, I want to see what more I can understand as Daryl resonates with the words of Jung and as I resonate with both Jung’s words and Daryl’s words.
Yet, in doing this, I tread into unclear waters in terms of writing unique words, my words. I know that almost nothing I write is original; all is framed in my prior readings, prior interactions verbally and in the glut of media that inform and entertain. That said, my words are still mine. How I present them, how I choose expressions and the motive and context of those expressions are unique, just as unique as the photos I take. So, I journey on here, a journey I share with all who read these words.
“You are alone and you are confronted with all the demons of hell. That is what people don’t know. Then they say you have an anxiety neurosis, nocturnal fears, compulsions – I don’t know what. Your soul has become lonely; it is extra ecclesiam [outside the Church] and in a state of no-salvation. And people don’t know it. They think your condition is pathological, and every doctor helps them to believe it. . . But it is neurotic talk when one says that this is a neurosis. As a matter of fact it is something quite different; it is the terrific fear of loneliness. It is the hallucination of loneliness, and it is loneliness that cannot be quenched by anything else. You can be a member of society with a thousand members, and you are still alone. That thing in you which should live is alone; nobody touches it, nobody knows it, you yourself don’t know it; but it keeps on stirring, it disturbs you, it makes you restless, and it gives you no peace.” (Jung, CW 18, par 632)
I imagine you know this feeling if you are reading this. You know that pills and therapy somehow don’t really get it fixed as there is no search for the roots, only an attempt to deal with symptoms. And the results have been an abysmal failure for the world of psychologists, psychiatrists and psychotherapists. Hillman is correct in saying that with more than a hundred years of professional practice, we have not done any good, perhaps only having succeeded in making a bad situation worse for the individuals and for the others with whom those individuals come into contact.
Midlife crisis. What to do? Get pills? Get a new car? Get involved in a series of affairs? Step up the pace and acquire even more money and things? See a shrink? Take up yoga or martial arts? Run marathons and ultra-marathons? There are innumerable strategies to keep busy in the outer world in order to avoid that inner loneliness. Who would ever think that perhaps it is by going within to meet with the shadows that we find that we aren’t alone anymore, that we can recover a sense of who we are and a sense of meaning in an otherwise meaningless world.
Is there hope? Yes there is. I have hope and I have a sense of purpose and meaning and it is through beginning to live a symbolic life that this transformation has occurred. I have become re-connected to my “self” and in the process have allowed my soul a breath of fresh air. And, like this little bird, I am ready to emerge from behind the scenery into full life again.
Two leaves from the same plant. though they are joined, they are giving every indication of growing apart. I initially took the photo because of the contrast of colours between the leaves, a splash of colour in an almost dreary green-blue sea drenched in rain and darkened by the forest and the clouds. I noted how the red-brown leaf looked so healthy while the green leaf tinged with brown looks unhealthy. That said, I know that beneath the colours, both are struggling. I have the feeling that the green one will be falling off before the brown one. Somehow, no matter how linked both are together, the partnership can’t hold together. Sometimes there are problems with togetherness.
Togetherness. “One heart and one soul.” That is the typical fantasy-thinking during courtship, and it can last even longer than the honeymoon. But as time goes on, it becomes clear that life is not always what we want it to be. (Sharp, Jung Uncorked: Book Two, 2008, pp 93-94)
Now, having put in a lot of years together, united in the task of parenting and building careers, social position, and a home; there is an expectation that one is owed for the work. And one looks to the other for payment. What is that payment? To somehow become once again that person they originally married; to do less is a betrayal. Both remember the “real person” they married and the “feelings” that were born. Here is a song by Tim McGraw that still is played frequently on the radio. In a way, this song mirrors my story.
At a crowded restaurant way cross town, he waited impatiently
When she walked in, their eyes met,
And they both stared
Right there and then,
Everyone else disappeared, but
One boy, one girl,
Two hearts beating wildly,
To put it mildly, it was love at first sight.
He smiled, she smiled, and they knew right away
This was the day they’d been waiting for all their lives.
For a moment the whole world
Revolved around one boy, and one girl
In no time at all, they were standing there in the front of a little church
Among their friends and family, repeating those sacred words.
The preacher said “son, kiss your bride”
And he raised her veil
Like the night they met,
Time just stood still, for
He was holding her hand when the doctor looked up and grinned,
One boy, one girl
Two hearts beating wildly
To put it mildly, it was love at first sight.
He smiled, she smiled, and they knew right away
This was the day they’d been waiting for all their lives,
And for a moment the whole world,
Revolved around one boy, and one girl
Yet, now both have changed. both have matured, both have had time clear some of the projected magic from their eyes. Little did they know that now that the children have grown up and have moved on to make homes of their own, that they would have to “work” to build something new in terms of relationship. Yesterday’s post left me with a question or two about the container and the contained, how both somehow became the other, and with the question of one being complicated and one being simple. I guess it goes back to the projections where the opposite nature becomes the hook. So, I turn again to Jung for more:
Since the more complicated has perhaps a greater need of being contained that the other, he feels himself outside the marriage and accordingly always plays the problematical role. The more the contained clings, the more the container feels shut out of the relationship. The contained pushes into it by her clinging, and the more she pushes, the less the container is able to respond. He therefore tends to spy out the window, no doubt unconsciously at first, but with the onset of middle age their awakens in him a more insistent longing for that unity and undividedness which is especially necessary to him on account of his dissociated nature. At this juncture things are apt to occur that bring the conflict to a head. (Jung, CW 17, par 333)
The container needs to be contained. The contained must learn to become a container. Both must become whole, conscious of their nature, conscious of their need and to be willing to allow life to be lived differently in their relationship. I am a container and need to be contained. And, I am contained.
Sitting here at the keyboard, I am reminded of the words of a villa neighbour, an American single male in midlife, one of many such men here in Costa Rica who has one central goal remaining, to find a good woman to spend the rest of his life with, to find a good woman to take care of him, to be his container.
A bench found on the mountain path through the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve appears as though it hasn’t been used in quite a long time. As I walked the mountain paths over a distance of perhaps eight kilometres, there were three benches placed for those who felt they needed a time out from the strenuous trek going up and down the path as it wound around the mountain.
I will admit to doing a bit of touch up to the photo, a reduction of contrast as well as reducing colour saturation in order to come closer to the feeling and reality of the scene as I remember it. Sometimes the camera lies when it records a scene, giving more contrast or richer colours in one instance or removing contrast, shadows or the richness of colours.
What the eyes see is not always what the lens sees. What one person sees is not the same as what another person sees either. And, as I learn as the years pass, what I have seen at one point in time changes over time, not because the scene has changed, but because I have changed. This is true about seeing people as much as it is about seeing things.
Since this is my experience, I wonder about the experience of others. For example, I know that my children saw me as someone quite large in life. Yet, over the years, that vision has been replaced as those children grew into adults. Now, I am a much smaller person in physical size. As well as the way I am seen by my children, there is the question as to how I am seen by my partner, the woman I married almost forty years ago. There is no doubt in my mind that over the years I have become more of a stranger that a constant familiar presence. In my mind, both of these examples can be seen in a positive light. My children now look at me from the position of being adults, my wife now sees me as a complex and real person while living her own complexity. For all of us, the lens has changed.
I return to the subject of relationships, that as found between men and women, relationships that could be characterised as marriages. Typically, a relationship has one partner be the container and the other partner being the contained. This works well until midlife when the rules change:
Middle life is the moment of greatest unfolding, when a man still gives himself to his work with his whole strength and his whole will. But in this very moment evening is born, and the second half of life begins. Passion now changes her face and is called duty; “I want” becomes the inexorable “I must,” and the turnings of the pathway that once brought surprise and discovery become dulled by custom. (Jung, CW 17, par. 331)
At this moment, this entry into midlife, the lens through which we view and understand the world has also changed. And, with the change of the lens, what had been familiar and comfortable now becomes less comfortable. Above, I mentioned that in each marriage one is the container and the other is the contained. Well, that is true to a certain extent, but in reality both partners become both.
It is an almost regular occurrence for a woman to be wholly contained spiritually in her husband, and for a husband to be wholly contained, emotionally, in his wife. One could describe this as the problem of the “contained” and the “container.” (Jung, CW 17, par 331)
Both are containers, both are contained. I could easily see how this becomes a problem, especially as the lens changes in midlife. I will draw more on Jung to clarify this business of container and contained. But as I draw on his words, it is important to realise that references to the male and the female can easily be switched. Gender has no ownership to a specific relationship that of being either container or contained.
The one who is contained feels himself to be living entirely within the confines of the marriage; his attitude to the marriage partner is undivided; outside the marriage there exist no essential obligations and no binding interests. . . . The great advantage lies in his own undividedness, and this is a factor not to be underrated in the psychic economy. (Jung, CW 17, par 332)
Yikes! This is as close to a personal portrait as I could ever find in terms of relationship and containment within my marriage. The problem for any marriage with this is the building up of need in terms of dependence. Fears, not based on anything in the outer world, but based on one’s shadow, cause one to cling to the other, the container unreasonably. That fear manifests in a heightened sense of insecurity, fear that at any moment the reciprocal love of the partner who is the container will disappear and with the disappearance of that love, the disappearance of the partner. It’s as though one begins grieving long before an ending. But what about the container?
The container, on the other hand, who in accordance with his tendency to dissociation has an especial need to unify himself in undivided love for another, will be left far behind in this effort, which is naturally very difficult for him, by the simpler personality. While he is seeking in the latter all the subtleties and complexities that would complement and correspond to his own facets, he is disturbing the other’s simplicity. . . . And soon enough his partner, who in accordance with her simpler nature expects simple answers from him, will give him plenty to do by constellating his complexities with her everlasting insistence on simple answers. Willynilly, he must withdraw into himself before the suasions of simplicity. . . . The simpler nature works on the more complicated like a roon that is too small, that does not allow him enough space. The complicated nature, on the other hand, gives the simpler one too many rooms with too much space, so that she never knows where she really belongs. So it comes about quite naturally that the more complicatexd contains the simpler. (Jung, CW 17, par 333)
There is so much here, so much to say, so much to chew on. I guess I will have to return to this theme again in the next post so that I can say what I need to say. I want to find out more about container and contained about simple and complicated …
I thought that this was a tree until I looked with greater care – it was a fern plant that was as large as many trees in the cloud forest of Monteverde. It was impressive to say the least, a true picture of the force of nature. Somehow, something small became huge, became more than expected. For myself, this is encouraging for it points to the possibility that I will become more than expected regardless of my now being well into the second half of life.
“The unborn work in the psyche of the artist is a force of nature that achieves its end either with tyrannical might or with the subtle cunning of nature herself, quite regardless of the personal fate of the man who is its vehicle. The creative urge lives and grows in him like a tree in the earth from which it draws its nourishment. We would do well, therefore, to think of the creative process as a living thing implanted in the human psyche.” (Jung, CW 17, par 115)
So, does that make the artist a victim? I don’t accept that idea in the least. Am I an artist? In my opinion, yes I am an artist. Do I feel that I am a vehicle for some “unborn work?” Without question I accept this as a truism with regards to my “self.” For some time I thought that it was music that was my art, my gift; then it was the images I would make with paint, water colours or charcoal; and then it was photography. But predating all of this was the notion that it was with words that I was to bring forward some “work.” I knew it wasn’t a matter of choice, but of some compulsion. Jung here shows some of the wellsprings of that compulsion. Yet for me, the wellsprings go deeper, born out of my “raison d’être.” I have a need to poke into life, to examine life and my presence in that life, to question everything in search of what lies beneath. Thanks to JF for sending me a document containing these words:
“The urge to know the things of life, to doubt them and reason about them, became for Plato a daemonic grace, a “force” of human nature that grabs hold of one, not a mere “technique” that one is free to choose or not, not a mere slave to be kicked about at whim. For Plato the rationality in whose name Socrates accepted the sentence of death was not its own ground but the sublimest for of participation in a divine “giveness.” (Heisig, “The Mystique of the Nonrational and a New Spirituality”)
Powerful words that echo Jung’s words while pointing to that sense of deeper and bigger that I keep talking about. Again the lack of choice, of freedom is mentioned. I want to challenge this as I do see a way out of the compulsion – a messy out in which the “host” decided to quit, saying no to life and the divine madness. There are enough examples of artists going mad and ending it all rather than continue being the vessel through which work as yet unborn could emerge.
For me, it has been lying within, waiting for the right time. I sense that my life is more about being tempered and made ready to do the work. I sense that in this process I am to become a part of the process, not simply a victim. When? What is this work? Good questions which, as of yet, have no acceptable answers. And in thinking about all of this, I wonder if this isn’t more about delusions of grandeur, pathetic attempts at manufacturing some mystical meaning for my life. But even this must wait to be proven true or untrue.
Here is another photo from the cloud forest near Santa Elena, Costa Rica that has a sense of darkness, a sense of hidden spaces and places. Looking closely there is little doubt that this is a beautiful place, but one that is also filled with suffering and sorrow, filled with darkness. I guess I could say that it is an honest photo of what life is really about, what life should really be about.
This is a different scene from that of the sunny beaches and palm trees, where the birds bask in bright light. Living in the sunny zone, I have come to realise that it isn’t all happiness here. All around me there is incredible dysfunction. My neighbours have hookers and johns for friends. As a result, we are getting to know these people, including the hookers and johns, better. Beneath their tragic lives I glimpse something beautiful but broken. Why do so many with wealth and privilege come to such desperate straits? What have they lost along the way of their lives?
More importantly for me is the question, “Why am I not as happy as I should be?” I have everything that I need and want. I don’t lack for financial security. I have the freedom of movement and expression and a good home in a safe country. I have healthy and secure children with their own homes and young families. I have it all. Yet, I don’t.
Instinct cannot be freed without freeing the mind, just as the mind divorced from instinct is condemned to futility. Not that the tie between mind and instinct is necessarily a harmonious one. On the contrary it is full of conflict and means suffering. Therefore the principle aim of psychotherapy is not to transport the patient to an impossible state of happiness, but to help him acquire steadfastness and philosophical patience in face of suffering. Life demands for its completion and fulfilment a balance between joy and sorrow. (Jung, CW 16, par 185)
What? Happiness is impossible? Two days ago while sitting and waiting for a bus to travel from Puntarenas to Playa Jacó at a small outdoor restaurant, I was listening to that old song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” The mad quest for happiness is causing more grief that joy. Maybe it is okay not to be happy. Maybe it is okay to not be in full flight from the shadows within that seek to destroy the satisfaction and complacency of midlife and later. Again, it call comes down to balance. Even resorting to psychotherapy and analysis won’t result in life as a state of bliss – perpetual bliss or happiness is not a state of psychological health as it isn’t a state of balance.
This photo was taken in the Reserva Santa Elena, part of the Monteverde National Park. While I was walking through a series of trails on the mountain, I came across a number of small waterfalls with this being the largest of the group. I have to admit that I love listening to waterfalls and gurgling streams in a forest. There is something primal about it, something that descends to the core, something that lets me know that what I call my consciousness is naught but a thin, flimsy surface of a vastness that is incomprehensible to my conscious ego.
I often use the words consciousness and unconsciousness, but I don’t know if I ever truly define these words in a satisfactory manner. I have decided to return to C.G. Jung’s words in order to bring a bit more clarity to the terms as it Jung’s work that has informed my meagre levels of understanding.
“Consciousness does not create itself – it wells up from unknown depths. In childhood it awakens gradually, and all through life it wakes each morning out of the depths of sleep from an unconscious condition. It is like a child that is born daily out of the primordial womb of the unconscious. . . . It is not only influenced by the unconscious but continually emerges out of it in the form of spontaneous ideas and sudden flashes of thought.” (Jung, CW 11, par 935)
This does make sense to me. It fits with much of what I taught students while teaching developmental psychology. In infancy there is no separation between self and other, no realisation that “self” exists. All is sensory data and no more. The task of infancy and childhood is differentiation between self and other, the establishment of boundaries. One of those boundaries that I didn’t consider then was that between consciousness and unconsciousness. Somehow, I missed that dynamic – the unconscious was something I wasn’t paying any attention to at all, in fact, I didn’t admit its existence as I was much too focused on the dynamics of self and other, the self and the collective, the self and the environment. For me, it was only about consciousness, a consciousness that I confused with knowledge about things, processes and people. It was only after the unconscious tripped me up that I became aware of the straight jacket that I had wrapped around myself with the outer world.
“Everything of which I know, but of which I am not at the moment thinking; everything of which I was once conscious but now have forgotten; everything perceived by my senses, but not noted by my conscious mind; everything which, involuntarily and without paying attention to it, I feel, think, remember, want, and do; all the future things that are taking shape in me and will sometime come to consciousness: all this is the content of the unconscious.” (Jung, CW 8, par 382)
Yes, all of this is part of the unconscious, the personal unconscious. All of this informs, guides, pushes and pulls each of us through the days. Beneath and surrounding this layer of the unconscious is something bigger, something more, something deeper.