Archive for the ‘empathy’ tag
I’ve chosen a different photo today, one that is decidedly more messy, more full of life. When I first came to China in August of 2006, I took a stroll down this street. The left side was much like the right side, jam-packed with small shops and apartments that hugged a narrow street, a stark contrast to the city area in which I live which has wide streets with boulevards filled with grass, roses and sculpted bushes. My first taste of street food was on this street in a little tarp-covered stall that sold noodle and dumpling soup to construction workers for the most part. It still remains, at least in this small section, a messy place bursting with life.
Understanding all of this “life” that I encounter in China is problematic for me, and probably everyone else as well. How can I really be expected to understand a foreign culture, let alone my own culture when I struggle with understanding myself. It is a rare person who can say with honesty that he or she truly understands him or her “self.”
“Understanding oneself is difficult enough; understanding others is their responsibility, if they are inclined to do so and have a mind for it. What one can know of another is just the tip of an iceberg; the far greater part of anyone’s personal identity is beyond the ken of an outsider. For that matter, those who have worked on themselves enough to be comfortable with who they are – as opposed to those arrogant souls who are simply narcissistic – do not need, nor do the ask, to be understood by others. I am what I am; take it or leave it..
The appropriate attitude for a long-term relationship is not understanding, but acceptance. Each accepts the other, to the extent one can, and makes no issue of the rest. This is not easy. It means accepting not only the loved one’s persona, but also his or her shadow and other complexes. It certainly requires empathy, but it also involves a mutual acknowledgement that one is responsible only for oneself.” (Sharp, Jungian Psychology Unplugged, pp 74-75)
What I am learning to apply to my relationship with those I hold closest to me in my life, I am learning to use here in China as I build relationships with a country, a swirling mass of conflicting cultures, and the few individuals who see me and are willing to allow me into their orbit of relationships whether as friend, colleague, teacher or simply “laowai.”
I am bringing another photo from a file I have set up called “anima.” I took this photo about eight years ago while travelling through the Canadian Rocky Mountains. For those interested, this particular site overlooks Canmore, Alberta. As with a few other “anima” photos I have presented here, I am continuing with the use of “blue” in order to evoke the Great Mother, Gaia.
If Gaia was able to take human form, then I would see her as standing on the heights looking down at all that she created with a sense of sadness. There is little doubt that “man” has run wild in his dominion over her creations. Consciously we know that every act we perform effects the whole in some manner. There is no escaping this fact. Yet we bury our heads in hopes that if we “don’t know” that somehow we won’t be held accountable, that somehow what we do will slip by without affecting the whole, without being noticed. This is where we get into our biggest troubles – the disconnect with our own soul, our own spirit.
So what do we do? What can we do?
“All that Jung offers, and it may be as much as can be offered, is the suggestion that the individual stay in conscious dialogue with that inner power which is the source of the world’s religions. Perhaps the only hope in the end is the inner dialogue carried out on behalf of the emergence of the safer myth. Jung valued the individual’s contribution to its emergence as the greatest contribution one could make to humanity. More, Jung implies that fidelity to this inner voice is fidelity to a power whose ultimate intent is personal vitality, the integration of the individual’s multiplicity through the balance of inner opposites, and a progressive empathy for the world beyond.” (Dourley, A Strategy For a Loss of Faith, pp 136-137)
So this, then, is my task – do the work of journeying towards wholeness, living the journey, and sharing this journey here. There is more, but for now, it is enough.