Archive for the ‘HP Photosmart 5.1 MP camera’ tag
I chose this photo which was taken in Cuba for a number of reasons of which the first is simply because I like it. I took this photo in 2004 using an weaker digital camera from that time which was my first relatively decent digital camera; not a DSLR, but good enough to give some very good photographs regardless. A second reason for the photograph is the mixture of darkness and light and the suggestion of fire, of heated passion.
Midlife is a confusing time. With so many years devoted to making a living, raising a family and being part of a community in a socially meaningful manner; the discovery that there is something missing, a hole in the psyche, has one respond in a variety of ways. For some men, it is a denial of the emptiness as they throw themselves further into community activity, filling every possible moment with their career or with causes. For others it is a return to a mythical past filled with motorcycles or sports cars, sex, or being a fashionista. Yet others try to fill the hole with drugs, alcohol, religion, some New Age spirituality or sex. For a few, the event causes them to sit back and look at what has happened, to begin listening to the voices and studying the images that are emerging – for these, midlife is seen as an opportunity to discover self.
Sexuality is necessarily one of the roadblocks that appears in the process regardless of the response one takes to the crisis of midlife. Responses can vary from a complete absence from sexual contact with others with its wrestling with the self that comes with the denial of the sexual component of one’s being. The denial can push “natural” sexuality so far underground that it emerges in unconscious pathological behaviour. Or in an extreme response in the opposite direction, one can become obsessed with sex, so obsessed that everything and everyone becomes charged sexually and have the conscious self become overly sexually active as if one needs to constantly add another conquest, another unique experience in an endless race to satiate the demanding drive. Either of these extremes lead to a collective attitude towards sexuality that is negative. And, the unclothed body becomes the target of these polarized attitudes.
“. . . it is almost impossible to avoidseeing it through the larger moral prism of nudity. As the historian Rob Cover (2003) has noted,“nakedness across a vast array of representations in the history of western culture has been inseparable from sex and sexuality, and has been hence located adjacent to the indecent, the obscene and the immoral” (Cover, The Naked Subject,” 2003, p. 55)
Of course, I am a part of the western culture and I have had, and continue to have at some level, some negative response to the naked body. Some bodies get my imagination going and others are met with a neutral response. In terms of other people, I don’t assume that seeing the naked body is an invitation for sex, nor do I assume that the person with the naked body is obscene or immoral. What I continue to hold, somewhat, is questions about my own appearance as an obscenity or my own immorality.
If others see my body will I be judged as uglier, as lacking or as too hairy, too short, to stout? Will others compare me to other men regardless of age, compare me to some ideal that I have never met regardless of age? I think I am a bit fortunate in being close to the norm in body size and type with the exception of excessive hair all over my body. I could do with losing a bit of weight and toning my body to be more muscular and less soft. But that is not too much of a concern. What is my one body-image concern is body hair. And like many in the western world, I have a few strategies to ease my own angst when it comes to that body hair. I guess, for the most part, I have accepted my body as it is and feel relatively good about it.
But when it comes to the question of the unclothed body being an obscenity if seen by others. I don’t see others unclothed as scenes of obscenity unless there is a perceived deliberate attempt on the part of specific others to perform acts in public that are overtly sexual in nature. Even then, I often view these as sad affairs rather than evil affairs. Yet, I still have a worry that I will be seen as a dirty old man if I doff all my clothing at a beach or walk unclothed in my back yard. I worry about offending others who might accidentally see me, or cause embarrassment to those close to me because of what “others” would say. What I do affects not only myself but those in my orbit. And so, I hide as much as needed. And in the process, I feel as though something very valuable is missing, something that has a holistic healing power.
This blog site is more-or-less an exercise in self-directed therapy. Here I take down barriers to the inner core of self that I manage to find in an attempt to become more authentic in my relationships with others, and especially in relationship with my own self. With a few carefully orchestrated attempts I have included what I could best call “nude therapy” into the mix. For several months I was able to set aside time several times a week for my “nude therapy” within a small enclosure that ensured complete privacy while in Costa Rica. The experiments focused on being unclothed and allowing the sun access to my skin. There was no “social” aspects, no public exposure nor fear of public exposure. I was able to protect my ego’s fear of being seen as a dirty old man. Now that time has passed since those experiments, I am able to reflect back on the experience and evaluate the experience as being very beneficial to my well-being. Because of the experience, my book, Through a Jungian Lens: Sol and Luna, which was published a few months later, was able to reach dimensions my previous books couldn’t achieve.
And now, I am left wondering about the present and my growing desire to again experience nudity as therapy, perhaps as a partial way of being. I wonder about how much of this is perverseness and how much of this is authentic need for my soul. I don’t have the answers so I still live with the questions.
I have good again to the 2006 trip to Mexico to bring a new photo here. The trip to Cancun was a two-couple affair with the other couple choosing the location as it was to be their first such experience. They chose an “adults only” resort which meant that there was some nudity to be expected. I was quite surprised with this choice though I don’t think that they really understood what that exactly meant. Once there, they got to see little in the way of titillating scenes, nor did they engage in any “au naturel” experiences. As usual, in the privacy of my own accommodations, I was able to steal a few hours of sheltered freedom from clothing. The nudity that was present was definitely just topless young women who were proud to flash. Experiences such as this make up the bulk of most North Americans; experiences of nudity.
Two evenings past, I got to have a cup of tea with this couple who wanted to talk about last winter’s trip to Jamaica. While telling their stories, they mentioned that there was a scene where they got to see a poor Jamaican man taking a bath in the river. The wife remarked that his “willy” was big. She also talked of seeing a beggar asleep on the roadside with his “junk” hanging out. These stories were told with a disgusted tone.
Somehow or other, the conversation shifted as she then related an experience her son had while travelling in Ontario where they came upon a long beach where the family with two young children were intending to spend a few hours. However, seeing an older couple, likely in their seventies, they beat a hasty retreat to their car and continued their journey. When I asked why, the response was that it was gross for older people to go in the nude. You have to understand that this couple are basically the same age as I am, not young. I asked why and the response was all about “body” image. Only the young and beautiful should be allowed to go nude. There was no chance of having them see any other way of thinking.
I made only a few more attempts to talk about “natural” and about “positive self-concept.” In my opinion, there is a link between mental health and being able to accept ourselves for the way we are both mentally and physically. At the stage of life I now find myself, I begin to believe that taking time to be in our own skin, to experience the world “au naturel” is very therapeutic.
“Abraham Maslow, one of the founders of humanistic psychology in the 1960s, states: “I still think that nudism . . . is itself a kind of therapy.” (Joseph Sommer)
One bares one’s soul in the therapist’s or analyst’s office in order to heal the inner wounds. I begin to wonder if we also heal the soul with the baring of our bodies in nature, letting the sun, breezes and water wash over us.
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.
I am returning to the dream about which I posted yesterday evening. I am taking another older photo in order to attempt to portray the feminine in archetypal form.
Nut, Palden Lhamo, Kali, Coatlicue, Coyolxauhqui, Gaia – these are names of goddesses that are associated with the colour blue. My initial response to the dream wherein the woman that had been raped was blue, was of being in the presence of a goddess, probably because I had experienced the use of blue in terms of divinity while spending time in India. Today, the goddess Gaia comes to mind as the great Mother. In distant memory, it was Nut, a blue goddess, from whom all came into being. The universal story of a great Mother from whom issued a host of gods and goddesses is told in every culture. And for most of them as far as I can find out, the great Mother is “blue” in honour of the birth water from which all is born.
So this becomes my starting point. The archetype of all that is Feminine, all that is Mother, is in pain. And somehow, I have just experienced her pain and as a result must act. I guess you could say I have been “called” to do something that will foster the healing of the Mother. Why? The best answer I can give is that I have come to realise that the Mother is within me, just as the Father is within me. I am being called to saved my “self” and in the process do my part to heal our planet.
I have to admit that I am struggling with how I am to do this. What words do I say here? How do I serve this call? Do I even want to follow the call and disrupt my relatively comfortable life of retirement? And why me? This is a big work. I will try to outline just a few changes that need to happen as part of the process in the following words.
We have to shift from “faith” to “consciousness.” Four major religions of the world are patriarchal – Christianity in it varied forms, Islam, Judaism, and Hinduism. In the three western world religions, people are taught to follow the way without question, that belief and faith are central. The goal of salvation comes to those who basically deny the world and their brains (consciousness). Matter and Mater are extraneous as is evil. In all of these religions, the god is out there somewhere, a transcendental being/non-being who has no use for human contrariness which seems to come into existence with consciousness.
I have met the leaders of churches that have lost their faith, congregants who have lost their faith. Though faith has disappeared, their roles in their churches remain the same. Sometimes they become more dogmatic in their religious practice hoping for faith to magically re-appear. It is as if “God” has abandoned them. For many of these people, consciousness is a curse. Life was simpler and more certain when they only had faith as their guide. But midlife had its own demands, a demand for individuation where there was a need to integrate those aspects of self that had been buried deep, denied the light of consciousness.
There is a need to find a way to bring consciousness and the feminine into the lives of those living these “faiths.” This seems like a huge task and one that needs a lot of time regardless of the “necessity” for this uprising of consciousness and the feminine. But it doesn’t seem to be close to being enough. We do have issues that demand immediate attention in terms of the economic health and well being of ordinary people in conflict with capitalism possessed. This concern with economics and the profit margin is negatively impacting on the environment that is needed to maintain the very survival of our species. But perhaps the greatest need is that of how to relate with “other” so that we allow ourselves to be saner beings.
So much to say, to do . . . words fail me.
This morning photo taken at Sask Landing Provincial Park presents a view I see most days when I stand on the tee box of hole number two at my club golf course. The hills edging the lake make for great hikes with the opportunity to view wildlife and hardy flowers and an array of birds. The hills are one of the best places that I know in which I can find a sense of peace and quiet. Wandering along slopes that border a creek I get to enjoy long moments of meditative silence. Nature is healing. In a way, it is as though returning to nature is also a return to home.
It isn’t accidental that one understands and knows that nature is embodied in Gaia, mother nature, earth mother. Walking or sitting quietly, one feels the connection with Gaia up close and personal. One feels enfolded within the embrace of the mother as though she is protecting her child. The sunshine warms both mother and child. Yet, that sun, symbol of father and masculine, is distant in comparison to the earth, symbol of mother and feminine. This creates a family portrait: father sun, mother earth and human man child.
“Just as human life emerged from the primordial seas, so we emerged from umbilical waters. How we are related t those origins and how we are to comprehend ourselves and our place in the cosmos are initially construed through the mother-child encounter. Not only do we share most of our early, formative days and years with her – the more so if fathers are distant or not there at all – but her role is replicate by teachers and other caretakers who in our culture are still primarily female. Hence the major influx of information men receive about themselves, and what life is about, comes from woman.” (Hollis, Under Saturn’s Shadow, 1994, p. 30)
This isn’t the least bit surprising or something to see as a problem. It is simply a part of being human, being tied to the earth. But in admitting that, there is something that emerges that does need to be addressed, the longing of a male child for the father which calls for individuation, the pull to independence. This creates a dilemma for the male child.
“As one’s personal mother is the bearer of the archetype of life, so we experience both a collective and a uniquely personal message. the The mother complex, that is, the affectively charged idea of mother, is in us all. It is experienced as the longing for warmth, connection and nurturance. When one’s initial experience of life met these needs, or largely so, one feels that one belongs in life, that here is a place where one will be nurtured and protected. Where the primal experience of the feminine was conditional or painful, one feels deracinated, disconnected. Such and ontological wound is felt in the body, burdens the soul and is frequently projected onto the world at large.” (Hollis, Under Saturn’s Shadow, 1994, pp 30-31)
The months spent in Costa Rica was filled with meeting so many men who were longing connection and nurturance. Over and over again I heard various men tell me that all they really want from life is someone to love, a woman to share the remainder of their lives. For them, the separation from the feminine, living alone, was empty. And in an attempt to fill this void, they sought out the feminine in bars. An hour, more or less, at least provided a moment of hope that this woman might be the one to fill that void, to heal that wound.
Two White-tail deer are foraging near the lake where I go golfing, a male and a female. You can tell that it is early in the season because of the antlers that are still growing and covered with velvet on the male. Wildlife is found in abundance here on the prairies. It is a rare day when I don’t get to see Pronghorn antelope, Mule deer, White-tail deer, coyotes, fox, or countless numbers of birds. The wide open spaces filled with few people makes for a good environment for abundance in nature.
In looking at this photo I find myself comparing nature and humankind. I doubt that any of the offspring of a deer would leave home only to return and live under the authority of his or her parents as adult children. Yet, it is getting to be something that is more and more accepted in our western society. I can’t imagine an animal growing up and not becoming an adult intent on finding a mate and reproducing. It’s instinctual, not something that one has to think about.
In earlier times, humans didn’t have too much of a problem with adult children returning home, giving up their personal authority back to their parents, especially giving it back to the mother. No one expected life to be easy. In more primitive cultures, rites of passage ensured that the boy-child left the mother and became an adult, a person in his own right. Basic to the idea of moving from dependent to independence is the idea of separation. One has to leave the parents, this is not something one chooses, but something that must be forced in order to allow the youth to being a process of “psychological” separation.
We send our children to university as part of their growth into adulthood. Yet, because of our investment in our children, we find it hard to let them “fully” separate. We let them know that they are dependent upon us for their tuition and for their living expenses. It’s not that we intend any hurt, but simply that we want to protect. And, we aren’t above using guilt to keep these children tied to us psychologically.
As a result, the passage from youth to adult becomes a hit and miss process. Today, too many don’t make the passage until well into their years if at all. It becomes a singular individual process that is more difficult than participation in a formalised rite of passage. As Hollis says:
“Again, what is not provided us by our culture is left to us to do as individuals. We cannot avoid the task through ignorance, for otherwise the developmental process, becoming a man, remains undone.” (Hollis, Under Saturn’s Shadow, 1994, p. 17)
Wastelands aren’t what they seem at first appearances. This scene is duplicated innumerable times throughout the hills that can be seen from my living room window. Though the plants first appear fragile, somehow they survive winters of harsh wind and harsher temperatures and unpredictable moisture patterns. As I wander through these hills where one can see the relative flatness of the prairies stretch to the horizon almost unbroken except for tiny clusters of buildings, I am awed by the open space where people are more absent than present. It doesn’t take many people to farm the Canadian prairies. The prairies, as evidenced by this photo, is a harsh place with its moments of beauty, a face of the planet that shows that suffering is a natural part of even the physical world.
“Consciousness only comes from suffering; without some form of suffering – physical, emotional, spiritual – we are content to rest easy in the old dispensation, the old comforts, the old dependencies.” (Hollis, Under Saturn’s Shadow, 1994, p. 19)
Time spent in Costa Rica, about as different a place as one could find in comparison to the prairies, I got to see so many expats; Canadians, Europeans, and especially Americans, who were doing their best to “rest easy” in that tropical paradise. The environment told them that the world was near perfect. Yet, they weren’t happier for all of that. They were still turning to drugs, alcohol and sex to fill in the empty spaces. Of course, I am only talking about men in this instance as Hollis’ book is about men – and I am a man. It is always best for women to speak for women. And, I am talking about being an adult and the wounding and suffering of an adult male.
And what is an adult male supposed to be like? There seems to be so much variation presenting itself across the scope of humanity that it becomes difficult to find an answer to this question. Hollis supplies one partial answer:
“The essential part of being an adult means not only that one can no longer turn backward to the protection of others, but that one must learn to draw upon inner resources. No one knows he has them until he is obliged to use them. The natural world is dark and full of strange animals and demons, and the confrontation with one’s fear is a moment of decisive significance. Ritual isolation is an introduction to a central truth, that no matter how tribal our social life, we are on the journey alone and must learn to draw the strength and solace from within, or we will not achieve adulthood.” (Hollis, Under Saturn’s Shadow, 1994, p. 19)
Ouch! As I look around, I see many well into midlife who have yet to achieve this. Many are locked into dependence and have never learned the strengths that reside within. Many of those I see who live alone are still avoiding the inner world, hoping that they can drown out the strange inner voices out of fear, fear that those voices would take away what little sanity that they have. If only they could see what I see, even in the desert country – there is life in dismal places, there are flowers even in the desert.
This is a Bull Snake that I found wandering through a campground following my final experiences as an educational administrator. This isn’t a poisonous snake, but is dangerous to Rattle Snakes who are also found in the region. The public camping on one side of the lake is Rattle Snake free. The active presence of th Bull Snake keeps it that way. However, on the southern side of the lake, Rattle Snakes are found with some effort. My grandchildren get excited when they get to see one of these snakes relatively up close and personal. And, of course, I get to take photos of the snake and them.
Responses to the presence of a snake is mixed, but in the Christian world, it is decidedly more negative than positive. The association of the snake in the Garden of Eden and the loss of Paradise, is tied with the presence of evil, with another face of Satan. In that garden, the snake points the way to consciousness, to knowledge. Coming from the underworld, the world of the unconscious, the snake dares us to break the prohibitions that would keep us unconscious. I think of how this is somewhat akin to the shadow sneaking out of hiding and daring us to break some of the barriers we have built around ourselves so well that we have begun to suffocate. We get so caught up in living the myths we create for ourselves in the outer world of appearances, that we abandon the soul and the depths of who we are.
The snake is old and primitive and instinctual. Yet for all of this, it is also a symbol of transformative power. The snake sheds its skin and re-emerges fuller, longer, thicker ready to penetrate the earth, to plumb the depths of the underworld and again return to the outer world to again go through the work of growth and change. This is what happens to each of us as we attempt to deal with the personal shadow and gain more consciousness as we search for meaning, as we try to answer the burning question, “Who am I?”
For me, as a man, it is interesting that defining “self” seems to be often caught up in relationships, especially the relationship to the feminine. The pull to going within the feminine until the sense of self seems to fully disappear into a state of unconscious bliss, only to re-emerge into the light of consciousness feeling just a bit more complete. Self is not isolated and alone, it is connected through threads and threads of relationship in the outer world, as well as threads of relationship to the under world.
“It is not easy for modern man to grasp the significance of the symbols that come down to us from the past or that appear in our dreams. Nor is it easy to see how the ancient conflict between symbols of containment and liberation relates to our own predicament.” (Jung, Man and His Symbols, p. 156)
The serpent is a masculine symbol, the object which unites both logos and eros, that allows the masculine to become one with the feminine thus allowing the holy marriage between consciousness and the unconscious
“Hermes is Trickster in a different role as a messenger, a god of the crossroads, and finally the leader of souls to and from the underworld. His phallus therefore penetrtes from the known into the unknown world, seeking a spiritual message of deliverance and healing.” (Jung, Man and His Symbols, p. 155)
This is another older photo taken seven years ago with an HP Photosmart 5.1 MP camera, my third digital camera. The photo was taken at Fort Qu’Appelle where I was staying for four days as a participant in a workshop for school administrators. The time was well spent as the group I was with were open to philosophical investigation and viewing administration from a psychological point of view.
This lake is struggling to survive on the Canadian prairie not simply because of climate, but because of the things that men do unconscious of the effects of their actions on the lake. Politics, agriculture, and conflict all find a way to negatively influence environment. Looking at the lake, I came to think that this same idea of acting and living unconsciously was also found in our institutions such as school. As a school administrator, I had to be aware of all of this if there was to be forward movement that would nourish the collection of individual psyches within my school. It was this idea that I decided to bring to the collection of school administrators attending the workshop.
I introduced the idea of the Hero’s Journey to the participants using the book written by Moffett and Brown, The Hero’s Journey: How Educators Can Transform Schools and Improve Learning (1999). I had come to realise that my life as an administrator was influenced by both my personal consciousness and unconsciousnes, as well as the personal consciousness and unconsciousness of the sea of individuals both within the school and that touched the school. Embracing, or should I say, serving as enfolding foundation was a group consciousness and collective unconsciouness. Navigating through a school year was a real journey in an outer landscape. How one takes that journey decides whether or not it becomes a heroic journey.
“Today, we all face incredibly difficult, demanding times in the field of education. The forces of change and complexity pervade virtually every part of our professional lives. Like every mythic hero, we are inextricably drawn into the labyrinth; like every archetypal voyager, we must find our way out of darkness and back to a more powerful and sustaining light. Our universe, like that of heroes and heroines of legend and myth, is riddled with irony, paradox, and either/or thinking.” (Brown & Moffett, p. 14)
This is the kind of thinking that takes Jungian psychology out of the analysts’ and psychotherapists’ offices and into daily lived lives.
I took this photo years ago because it fascinated me. The tree had died but still remains standing to this day a dark and dry contrast to the life below it and the clear sky above. In a way, the photo drew me to it as if being drawn to an altar behind which stands the cross. Even in death, this tree serves a purpose. It serves the living and continues to nourish.
In most cultures, the tree has been the symbol of life. So much has been written by so many on the “tree of life” symbol that I don’t want to go into it here as this is a dead tree and must have different symbolic meaning. For me as I allow my imagination to run rampant, the dead tree symbolises something beyond life, a transition or transformation.
Okay, so how did I come up with this? Well, it has to do with when I took the photo and what was happening in my life and how this scene worked on my psyche. To me the tree symbolises a shift in consciousness much the same as the dead wood of the cross lead to a shift in consciousness for the modern world via the crucifixion of Jesus. That crucifixion wasn’t about symbolising death, it symbolises a new consciousness.
In my life at the time when this photo was take, I had entered my final year as a principal of a rural community school. I knew it was my final year both in terms of having reached the right age and having pressure from the elected board. Professionally, I was being crucified, offered up as sacrifice to external powers. I wasn’t going to be fired, but I would have ceased to be principal in that school which I had chosen to be my last school. It was a time of doubt and fear of what was to follow. Somehow, that first week of my last year, when I wandered through the valley where I found this tree, I found hope, that something more would be born with retirement. I knew that in retiring my life as a school principal was going to be over. I would become just another ghost of the past. What I needed to know was that there was life after death, the death of a career spanning thirty-one years.
It has been over five years since that photo was taken and the promises of the tree were true. Not only was there life after career, the shift in consciousness showed me that leaving a career and the phase of life to which a career belongs allowed me time and energy and the passion for the more important task, the task of this life-stage, that of nourishing my soul.