Archive for the ‘good’ tag
Yes, this is what I looked like the summer I got married. I was a flower child, not a hippie (distinctions lost somewhere in the mists of time). As I look at this image which has not stood the test of time, I see a person so much different from the person I am today. Yet, at the same time, I see so much that is still the same. I remember having my French-Canadian grandmother see me looking similar to this (beard was a bit longer) and her response: “Mon Dieu! C’est Jésus Christ!” In a way, she wasn’t all that far off as I was trying desperately at that time to be as Christ-like as possible.
The attempt to be a holy person, a saint if possible was a response, my response to a history of abuse that had been the gift from my parents and others to help form the character that I live with today. Out of the physical, emotional and sexual abuse I transformed into a decent father, husband and grandfather. I took the modelling as what not to do in the roles of parent, spouse and grandparent. But of course, like all “wannabe” saints, I found myself to be as un-saint-like as possible. Today, I accept the fact that I am not a saint, nor will I ever be a saint.
No I am not a saint. But still, the urge to avoid darkness and evil remains strong within me. If I think about it, the words of this blog site are all spoken in an attempt to bring light into the darkness. It would have been easy, too easy for me to have given up in my youth, given in to darkness. I could have travelled many different paths to the present. Each path would have not yielded me the love and family that the path I chose through the dark and trackless wilderness in which I had found myself as a young man. One of my brothers chose death, a fate I had often thought would have been best for me. In truth, the only choice I found myself confronted with was always death or light. The options for addictions, for crime, for any other path refused to present itself to me. Darkness or light – which would I choose?
And like all good saint “wannabes” I chose and continue to choose the light.
This is a scene that I love to see over and over again when I go for a walk in Hong Mei Gong Yuan in ChangZhou. With the sun out and being in a “sunny” mood, it is easy to buy into the illusion created in the park, an illusion of a time and place that has existed only in the heart of the people, a place dreamed about and wished for as the people went about living in a world that never matched the illusion. But still, the illusion is taken as a reality of a golden era from the past and celebrated as “heritage.”
Ever curious, I wondered how this illusion would look from the other side. I know that there must be balance which has to lie somewhere between the two versions of reality. I think of myself when all is right in my world and the sun is shining and all of my needs have been met. At that point in time, there are no blemishes, no ugliness in the world. People smile and embrace me and I smile and embrace back. Yet, when I am in a depression, the world is dark and colour is almost non-existent. I am alone and the world looks a forbidding place that is ready to destroy me, to swallow me up.
When somewhere in the middle, I see both beauty and ugliness. The world is a shifting mass of conflicting colours and ideas. It is impossible to find right or wrong, the perfect good or the perfect evil. Yet, evil is present. But somehow, even in the evil there is goodness. And in the good, shadows are present. I think here of the world today where the Arab world is viewed with many different lenses with some seeing it as a dark pit of evil while others see it as the hope for a new world. I also think of America which is also viewed with so many different lenses which cast it in the role of demon and of angel. The truth is, somewhere in between.
Though knowing this, I am guilty of wanting perfection, wanting to be an angel of truth, deathly afraid of being a demon in disguise. Perhaps the greatest fear is being a nobody trapped in between, invisible to my self and others.
It looks as though this is a dead tree, but appearances are often deceiving. What is visible in this photo are simply some of the wounds the tree has received as part of “living” a full life as a tree. Nature teaches me a lot. For example, I see wounds such as this, leaves eaten off of smaller plants, road kill of animals small and big – life is not “fair” in any sense of the word. Life simply happens. And along the way as one goes through life catching diseases, suffering falls, scrapes and broken bones, life has a way of coming to an end. The who cycle of birth and death repeated over and over again in plant, animal and even at a larger level is simple a process that has no moral or ethical “good” or “evil” side.
I wonder why we humans have a tendency to ascribe the pains and joys of living to good and evil and to the gods. Life is life. In saying this, I don’t want to discount good and evil, for they are there. But as I said in my last post, they are both faces of gods, of the One God when it comes down to final definitions. I mentioned in one of my responses to comments made here about the story of Job as found in the Bible. I want to follow up on that reference with some words of Jung’s.
“Without wishing it, we humans are placed in situations in which the great “principles” entangle us in something, and God leaves it to us to find a way out. Sometimes a clear path is opened with his help, but when it really comes to the point one has the feeling of having been abandoned by every good spirit. In critical situations the hero always mislays his weapon, and at such moment, as before death, we are confronted with the nakedness of this fact. And one does not know how one got there. A thousand twists of fate all of a sudden land you in such a situation. This is symbolically represented by Jacob’s fight with the angel at the ford. Here a man can do nothing but stand his ground. It is a situation that challenges him to react as a whole man. Then it may turn out that he can no longer keep to the letter of the moral law. That is where his most personal ethics begin: in grim confrontation with the Absolute, in striking out on a path condemned by current morality and the guardians of the law. And yet he may feel that he has never been truer to his innermost nature and vocation, and hence never nearer to the Absolute, because he alone and the Omniscient have seen the actual situation as it were from inside . . . (Jung, CW 10, par 869)
So who can judge us as we wrestle with good and evil, for we do wrestle with both? Who can know the intention, the situation, the purpose of such encounters with good and evil? It becomes a difficult enough, if not often impossible, to judge. It is enough o simply bear one’s wounds and continue being present in the situation called life.
While at the family reunion taking photos to be part of the official record of the event, I took time for a few extra photos such as this one and the one from the last post. As usual, a sunset scene fills a spiritual need for me and reminds me that I am but a small part of something so much larger. And for me, this spiritual resonance alerts me to something beyond what I can hold within my limited consciousness, something I can only approach and often only obliquely.
It must be my age, but I think often of good and evil. The problem is that I only think I know what good and evil are. I am hearing a lot of frantic voices foretelling the end of the world and of rewards and or punishments for those who have either lived good lives or else lived lives filled with sin. Some people I know believe in a Rapture in which they feel the chosen good people will be taken directly to heaven while the rest of the world will have one final chance to choose goodness over evil. Others are adamant that on December 21st the world is coming to an end as predicted by the Mayan calendar (actually not predicted, but that is another story). Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, wars, famine and flood – all these things are waved as proofs of the coming end when and where good shall triumph while evil perishes. But what is this good and evil?
“When someone speaks of good or evil, it is of what he calls good or evil, or what he feels as good or evil.” (Jung, CW 10, par 858)
This jumps out at me as I hear about American and Canadians fighting for good with God on their (our) side as they fight the evil Taliban. I also see how problematical all of this is when I hear of the radical Islamic groups fighting for Allah against the evil American empire. Good and evil are held as different things by different people. What I might see as evil, another might see as an act of bravery and holiness, an act that will gain immediate entrance into some version of heaven.
“Principles, when reduced to their ultimates, are simply aspects of God. Good and evil are principles of our ethical judgments, but, reduced to their ontological roots, they are “beginnings,” aspects of God, names for God. Wherever, therefore, in an excess of affect, in an emotionally excessive situation, I come up against a paradoxical fact or happening, I am in the last resort encountering an aspect of God, which I cannot judge logically and cannot conquer because it is stronger than me – because, in other words, it has a numinous quality . . .” (Jung, CW 10, par 864)
During the days I spent in British Columbia visiting my mother and step-father, I managed to take a number of photos, not all of them with the SoFoBoMo project in mind, including this Iris which I found on one of my walks. This iris caught my eye because of the “glow” that was gifted to it by the sun.
The translucence of the petals reassure me that the sun is present and present me with what feels like a state of grace, of holiness in the light. Yet at the same time, there is a sense of fragility. Being in a state of grace in the light is momentary. Too much light and one becomes washed out, lifeless. With the passage of time, a short time in the larger scheme of things, one wilts and returns to the earth from which one emerged. Too little light and a sickness descends upon the soul and the outer body looses its colour and vibrancy – one becomes a living ghost.
I have decided to place two photos in today’s post, one that glorifies the sun and one that thrives in relative darkness. This mushroom, like all mushrooms, thrives in dark and damp spaces and places.
Both the dark and the light are in balance. Those in tune with the universe already know this. There is no inherent goodness in light or inherent evil in darkness. We need both aspects for survival as individual humans. As we look inside our own selves, it should come as no surprise that the evil and darkness that we fear on the outside is also within. And the pure light and saintliness that we crave, that we see in rare others, is also within.
The kingdom of heaven is within. This we have often heard yet hardly dare believe. But, so is the kingdom of hell. Strange how we so easily accept this last statement.