Archive for the ‘hope’ tag
I have always been drawn to feathery scenes involving nature, a face of nature that is gentle in comparison to the pounding waves of a rough surf. There is a sense of peacefulness, a sense of sleeping and dreaming. But the image also points to death as well as rebirth; both co-exist.
I am currently upset with some of the politics of the world, especially the politics of my home country where soul seems to have died leaving a vacuum, a long pause in limbo before there is a renewal of soul. I was grateful to find these words in James Hollis’ book which helped me frame the current situation in the world.
“Where once a peasant could look forward to the towers of the medieval cathedral embodying sacred authority, or the castle expressing secular authority, now the powers of miter and mace are exhausted, replaced by the authority of the state and populist ideologies, fads and fevers – all of which are haunted by a mythological vacuum. The beatific vision is converted to an early retirement on the Sun Coast, the Madonna of Chartres is replaced by the Madonna of MTV, and salvation is found through Halcion, angel dust and the form of crack cocaine called Ecstasy.” (Hollis, Tracking the Gods, p. 25)
One could easily now suggest that the power of mace that was replaced by the state has now been replaced by the corporate entity and the economy. The mitre has shifted more and more to an ever-expanding burst of churches, New Age philosophies and practices and fundamentalist and repressive theologies, as well as drugs, virtual reality and every sort of addiction and fanaticism one could ever imagine.
This is all so depressing. Thankfully this image reminds me that in the deepest part of the winter, in the bleakest part of the human psyche, there is rebirth, the renewed promise of light, of hope, of animation in which the human soul is recovered.
I took this photo a few days ago and feel that today is a good time to bring it here. The photo points to something that is larger than myself, something that I can only describe as spiritual in nature. The image pulls me to be more of a human, someone who doesn’t settle for the minimum, someone who settles into a dullness.
“We do not serve our children, our friends and partners, our society by living partial lives, and being secretly depressed and resentful. We serve the world by finding what feeds us, and, having been fed, then share our gift with others. (Hollis, What Matters Most, p. 43)
I have to admit to spending much of my life nursing a secret depression, a depression well masked so that when the dam broke that held the depression in the buried depths, it took all who knew me by surprise. But what had happened was more of a failure of the outer world to feed my soul enough so that I could continue burying the depression.
“One of the signs of the fact that the psyche moves on, whether we will it conscious or not, is the appearance of boredom, ennui, loss of energy. When we are doing what the psyche wants, the energy is there and the excitement is palpable.” (Hollis, page 44)
Yes, I was bored with my life, with myself. It was getting harder and harder to open my eyes and fully see the world that lay stretched before me. My running regime began to suffer and I became slower, less invested in continuing the work. I would crash and do as little as I could get away with in all aspects of my life. Of course, this was a gift as it forced me to admit that I was in trouble and that I needed to do something about it. Now, looking back, I am grateful for the crash as it gave me the kick in the pants to finally do something to allow me to regain my soul, to become reanimated.
With the crash and the admitting to myself that I was burying myself in darkness, I was able to see that there was light in the darkness, light such as these rays of light that pierce through the thick dark clouds.
This image of a young boy and girl was taken in the Philippines in one of the many little back country yards that surrounded fragile houses made of woven palm leaves and wood. Their playground was rough ground that was more rock than dirt. The poverty surrounding the children was heart breaking, but the attitude towards life was animated and joyful for the most part. This image of childhood is a universal image, one that has held for as long as there have been children.
But not all images hold in the human psyche unlike this image of childhood and hope. James Hollis talks about our current Western World condition in which our pictures don’t work well any more:
“. . . civilizations are often caught between “pictures,” the “understandings” that once worked but which increasingly prove ineffectual.”
“. . . and souls drifted into a profound disorientation, inadequately treated in time by the development of . . . surrogates” (Hollis, What Matters Most, p. 28)
The loss of certainty that was embedded in the understandings of religion, community, country and people due to science, natural tragedies and human warfare basically left us at a loss of certainty in our religions, in our communities and in our countries. With the loss of the foundational pictures we have been drifting from one image to another image hoping that something will hold us and give us what we need in terms of meaning and purpose and place.
“. . . in our present moment, the putative fixity of definitions of race, gender, sexual preference or orientation, Western hegemony, trust in government probity, and many other presumptive truisms have been challenged, and largely overthrown, although millions cling to the slope side of history in service to their psychological security.” (Hollis, What Matters Most, p. 28)
The most current of these challenges in the Occupy Wall Street movement that is spreading outside of the borders of nation to become a movement that is as much protest of the present as it is hope for the future. We need hope for the future, the same hope that is evident in the eyes of this young boy.
At the last minute I decided to make this a black and white image. In the process, with the green of the background leaves now lost to deep grays, I found what had been hidden by the noise of colour. This was a scene I found in HongMei Park in ChangZhou, China just a week ago. Well, it is a version of the scene, one that perhaps is less factual with the colour removed. However, what remains is deeper, more attuned to an inner universe. For me, it has taken on a numinous quality as if I am dreaming with my eyes-wide-open.
It’s strange how noisy the world is for me though I need to wear hearing aids. And the noise isn’t necessarily measured in decibels. The noise is as much internal as it is external. It makes it hard for me to focus and to sit still with myself, within myself. Now, as I write these words, I do notice that I am writing them in silence. No television, radio or mp3 player is turned on – silence reigns as I sit alone for a few hours in the apartment at the keyboard. However, that silence is a fiction in terms of what I am sensing, a loud and constant chatter from the depths, personal depths and collective depths. I sit here alone at the keyboard yet feel the crowds jostling leaving little space for me. The crowd doesn’t go in one direction, rather it is busy going nowhere, busy just being there and moving.
Yes, like a dream. These are the opening sensations of the dream images that flood out of the photo. There is more.
I feel myself as the only anchor in a fuzzy, indistinct world, clutching a child, a new life. I know that the child is the essence of who I am, my own promise. I don’t back down from the challenge, the dare to be present and take the new version, the transformed nascent self into my arms with a promise to go forward rather than disappear into the shadows with so many others.
Where does this come from? Feeling the darkness, the shadows of a larger world as though a threat? I have sat with this question and have wondered. I know that I am resonating with events outside of my self, events that beyond the scope of an individual. I see democracy threatened, security threatened, human sanctity threatened all over the planet as the power of darkness takes so many human lives in Mexico, Egypt, Syria, Libya, Bahrain, China and Japan; a darkness that threatens places where one should least expect threats such as Canada, America, and Europe. It seems that humans are caught in an agitation of unconsciousness, the collective unconscious. This is what the photo signifies for me.
Blossoms that were found in HongMei GongYuan, made for an pleasant and peaceful afternoon a few days ago. Though the park was crowded more than usual, there was an air of tranquility that I hadn’t expected. For a change, I felt almost at home surrounded by the thousands who had decided to spend the QingMing Festival in the park. I knew that these were special moments which would soon be followed by less peaceful moments. In a way, this image helps me know that there is something to ground me through periods of darkness.
Today, in my class, I went through the process of having the students choose a new song with which they would improve their listening skills as they decode the foreign words of English using just their ears. There were a number of choices including the song they chose below. This song made it into the list because of a mention of Josh Groban’s name in an early episode of “Glee” which I have also been using as a source of authentic English-speaking voices.
“You’re Still You – Josh Groban”
Through the darkness
I can see your light
And you will always shine
And I can feel your heart in mine
Your face I’ve memorized
I idolize just you
I look up to
Everything you are
In my eyes you do no wrong
I’ve loved you for so long
And after all is said and done
You’re still you
You’re still you
You walk past me
I can feel your pain
Time changes everything
One truth always stays the same
You’re still you
You’re still you
I look up to
Everything you are
In my eyes you do no wrong
And I believe in you
Although you never asked me to
I will remember you
And what life put you through
And in this cruel and lonely world
I found one love
You’re still you
You’re still you
This is the first time I have listened to the words of the song. It is as though I am singing the song myself; singing to my wife, singing to my children, singing to my country. and singing to my soul. Something to hold onto in the storms to come.
This is Dòu Dòu (nickname) who was born a week ago to a colleague of mine. On Saturday, I visited the mother who was my co-teacher for two years, her husband and their new baby boy and was received as the honorary Canadian grandfather. I don’t usually make people in my life subjects in the photos I present here because of the “contamination” of proximity which perhaps interferes with the numinous nature of the image. The image isn’t about the little baby boy, it is about something deeper.
The world has shifted during the past week. An earthquake, a tsunami, deaths in Libya, Egypt and too many places and a polarizing of attitudes that paint ugly pictures of humans. Out of all of the stories coming out of North Africa and Japan, one story stood out, that of a birth amid the wreckage left in the wake of the tsunami and earthquake in Japan. One birth and likely more that 10,000 deaths.
As I look at Dòu Dòu’s eyes, I see so much, almost all of which is all projection. But, that is what a photo needs to be able to accomplish, not just the recording of a singular fact. The ability to evoke more is what makes an image “numinous.” Here, Dòu Dòu has a few traces of milk on his lips, open eyes and a look of sadness as though his spirit knows what has been happening to the world in his first few days of life.
What has been happening? Death and destruction, a story as old as the story of mankind. But lost in the death and destruction is another story, that of rebirth, new life, new hope, new journeys. No one says it is simple or that it will be a journey without pain. Somehow, each life journey will need to navigate through the death and destruction of change and carve an individual path of meaning.
Today’s image was taken at Hong Mei Park here in ChangZhou, China. The plum blossom is one of the symbols of the Chinese New Year, a symbol of new life. As one site notes about these plum blossoms: “The plum blossoms burst forth at the end of winter on seemingly lifeless branches. They stand for courage and hope.” As I walked through the park, fittingly named Red Plum Park (Hong Mei Gong Yuan), the thousands of plum trees were in various stages of coming to life with red, pink and white blossoms. The park was busy with people and their cameras. For me, the visual symbol of China is a scene which features leafless branches alive with vivid red plum blossoms. I have this scene displayed on my living room wall, the only art work I have bought in China. The walk through the park was enjoyable because of the blossoms and also because of the hint of warmth to come. I left the park knowing that in a few more weeks, when warmer weather arrives, I will return to take more photos and to relax and sit still with the warmth and the scenes.
It’s interesting to see how I am responding to the symbols of hope and courage. There is a lightness of spirit, a lifting of shadows with the approach of spring. I see this lightening of spirit happening to those in my life as well as to the world at large. What is happening around the globe, whether in Egypt or Libya or Wisconscin, U.S.A., is a surge of hope and demonstrations of courage. The darkness hasn’t disappeared, but the flames have been rekindled to lift depression.
I’m not sure exactly what the tree symbolises for me, but I do know that it has a central place in our home for the season. Somehow, I sense that the tree is a symbol of life, of connectedness with the spirit of the earth. In ancient Egypt, the tree, or rather the branches of a tree, was symbolic of life resurrection. Traditions with a tree or its branches date back long before Christ and Christmas, at the time of the winter solstice. Yesterday was the winter solstice and today, I hope to honour that event with this photo.
The angel is easier to understand as it is a messenger. It is fitting that this messenger sits on a tree that symbolises resurrection, the promise of a new life at this darkest time of year.
In our lives, we need angels to appear bearing messages to our spirits and souls. In the darkness that assails us, particularly at midlife, we need that ray of light to instill hope.
At this dark time of year when the sun spends less time warming the earth and our souls, I cherish the angel on my tree and all the lights that tell me that the darkness will pass and I will once more walk unfettered on my journey.
Yes, a second post today. I felt that I had to explain why the change in type of photo being put on this blog site.
As you may have noticed, I have been playing with some of my photos. This is a scene from rural Saskatchewan, just one of countless abandonned buildings and farmyards, places of the last pioneers to the new world. As with a few other recent photos, I’ve been playing with colour and light so as to create images that are “not quite black and white.” It’s a theme I want to explore more for its psychological as well as its photographic meaning. In a way, this almost absence of colour makes me think of how one perceives the world when in a fugue, in a depression. In another way, it makes me think of how we bounce between black and white thinking and thinking that leaves room for “other” possibilities. This might be a theme that will become my next SoFoBoMo book, the 2010 SoFoBoMo project. But, since that is a long ways away, until June and July of next year, I will allow myself the luxury of changing my mind should other ideas move to the realm of “need to do” rather than being just a neat idea.
Why “almost” black and white? In my own way, just the hint of colour is a sign of life beyond the darkness, that even in the unconscious, there is positive life, things that can be brought out from the darkness and shadows with which to allow one more respect for self.
I didn’t want to just have the images be “grey” as that is more about defeat than about hope. In a book I read over a month ago, The Cellist of Sarajevo, one of the characters of the book, Dagan, wanders the streets of war-torn Sarajevo. One of his descriptions still haunts me,
Everything around him is a particular shade of grey. He’s not sure where it came from, if it was always there and the ware has simply stripped away the colour that hid it, of if this grey is the colour of war. Either way, it gives the whole street a bleak feeling. (Galloway, Steven, The Cellist of Sarajevo, 2008, page 40)
This is one of my old photos, originally taken using black and white film in 1979. I saved this photo simply because I was entranced with the reflection in the small puddle. It makes me think of those things we can never see directly, numinous things, magical things, aspects of the unconscious that are willing to be exposed at the edges of vision should we be primed and ready for them.
I am beginning to emerge from the heavy shadows that weigh down the head and hurt the eyes. As the weight lifts, I am able to see a bit more the things around me. As the shadows withdraw I am able to open a book with a hope that I might read with some understanding. And, as the world emerges, I begin again to look forward to yet another opportunity to make a difference.