Archive for the ‘hubris’ tag
Yes, there are signs that the winter freeze is lifting as water begins to appear on the surface of ice as temperatures dance near the freezing point. I took this photo yesterday as I took another walk through a different section of Fish Creek Provincial Park which is found within the city of Calgary. I was fortunate to have good light conditions with sunshine and clear blue skies for most of the long walk which lasted about two hours, conditions that led to taking quite a few photos.
Needless to say, the photo is symbolic of what is happening within my own psyche as I begin to “thaw out” the stuff frozen and boxed and hidden deep and far away as if buried on some asteroid or forgotten and abandoned moon. Yes, I am making reference to the dream posted here a few days ago. There is no doubt that the dream, the synchronistic events and the images I am seeing in nature are all trying to tell me something important. All of these are telling me to get off my high horse and get real, get down to earth. Like many, I have an ego that is often imposing and perhaps a bit intimidating to others. My use of words, philosophical words, psychological words or any kind of über-intellectual words are my pathetic attempt to stand above the crowd and proclaim my uniqueness. It’s all about hubris.
“Hubris is the failure to recognize the distinction between what is human and what is divine, between what is permitted to human consciousness and what remains the proper province of the gods. Hubris may arise either from flawed judgment of from inflated vanity that arrogates to itself capacities it does not posses; in either case there are deleterious consequences.” (Hollis, Tracking the Gods, p. 31)
Most of my inflation is buried deep in fantasies. I have to admit that fantasy has me being something of a superman in some form or other. In dreams I fly above the world able to fly through mountains and other objects. In fantasies I see myself in various roles of saving the world, or the country, or becoming a world famous writer or musician or photographer. I know that this is all about fantasy as I don’t work near hard enough with anything, perhaps other than with my blog writing and photography, but even then reality slaps me up the side of the head when I look at the statistics for the blog site which now bounces between 150 to 200 visits per day. This is the best it has ever been, but nothing near the tens or hundreds of thousands of visits that “famous” sites receive each day. The numbers quickly give me a lesson in reality. Still, the fantasies are there though I know that they are just fantasies now.
But when I look at our political leaders either American or Canadian, whether they are the parties in power or in opposition, hubris is rampant and there is no arguing with the sense of entitlement and power, the sense of being supermen that these leaders exhibit. Rules are for the rest of us, our self-proclaimed über-men, supermen, believe they make the rules and as such stand outside the rules as if they are the modern world version of super-heroes and mythological warriors. And therein we find the roots of “deleterious consequences‘” that we are now facing in the modern western world.
I was finding it hard to capture the real mauves and violet colours of this climbing bush, so I was pleasantly surprised at how this image turned out. Many of my photos are taken simply for pleasure, not with any particular psychological purpose for this blog. Flowers, scenes, places and people form the bulk of such “personal pleasure” photographs. It is my way of being “in the moment.”
That is something that many of us, myself of course included, find difficult to accomplish. I know that I want to be “over there” where the action is, doing something “vital and meaningful” for my family, country, community and mostly, for my ego. Yes, I admit it, I am often “full” of myself. The problem with wanting to be over there is that I miss what is here in front of my eyes. I lose the real opportunity for being vital and being authentic which in turn makes life meaningful.
My wanderings around this city with a camera provides me with an excuse to be present in my own quiet way. As I wander with the camera, I get surprised by others who then see me being curious and take that as an invitation to communicate, to connect. And so, I get drawn into a more vital presence.
Back in the apartment, with the doors closed, I often fall back into a less vital existence, at least until I visit my photos which kindle anew, the sparks of connection I experienced earlier. Slowly, I learn what it means to find meaning through the act of being present in life.
During a tour of the People’s Number 1 Hospital in ChangZhou, while in the Intensive Care Unit, my wife collapsed. Immediately a team was doing all in their repertoire to deal with the situation and soon had my wife in a bed on monitors. In the end, nothing serious, just a combination of flu and circumstances. This occurred on April 6th and has had a lot to do with my three-day silence. All is now much better and a worry has lifted. For those who don’t already know, I have been married to this same lady for almost 40 years. We are very connected though I don’t know if it shows in my posts as I rarely mention her existence. Why? For me, trying to plumb the depths of my own psyche, I try to keep it as individual as possible.
The avoidance is more about trying to avoid inadvertently bringing in projections, avoid focusing on other even though that other is a significant part of my interactions with the world. With all of that said, I intend to continue bringing my self to this blog as I navigate the images that bring some awareness to my own depths and darkness.
The tour was about the administration honouring me and the guests that I had brought to visit the hospital. I saw that “otherness” was being valued, almost unconditionally. Though we were just middle class Canadians, we were being treated as VIPs by the staff and administration. As we toured the hospital’s museum I was shocked to see my photo on the wall of honour because of a lecture delivered there in 2007. The photo also caught the vice-president by surprise. At that point I was wishing that I was somewhere else as it stole attention away from the others for whom the tour had been arranged. And this feeling lies behind the selection of this photo.
What the photo does, is tells me that I am not fully in control, that I must trust the presence and efforts of others, and that one must not succumb to hubris which is easily slain by the shadow. It reminds me to take nothing for granted, to treasure the small moments which are easily snatched away.
This photo was taken a few days ago on campus. I enjoy going to work and interacting with my students at the university here in ChangZhou. It is easy to be positive with the energy that the students bring to class. Add the colour of spring, and a bit of spring warmth, it becomes easy to see life through rose-coloured glasses.
As you are likely aware, I have been almost obsessed with the world and the Canadian situations in terms of power and politics. I need to step back and look at this obsession and see what it is trying to tell me. I do trust my inner voices that tell me what is right and wrong for me. There is much to do in terms of sorting through the feelings, the reactions in order to locate triggers and re-approach the political world with more balance. I guess that in this, it is not yet spring.
With the media shouting at fever pitch about all possible topics as if each is heralding the end of the world. it is almost impossible to sort it all out. I know that there isn’t a right side or a wrong side, but there are right and wrong actions for a collective’s security and sanity. I know when respect is intended and received. I also know hubris and disdain and greed and every sin possible for the individual and collective soul. The problem is to sort out my darkness from the collective darkness and move to act more consciously is hopes of allowing others to feel more hope and to feel loved and respected.
This is a scene I see almost everyday at the campus. I can’t read it and likely never will due to laziness in trying to learn how to read Chinese characters. This colorful chalkboard sits in an outdoor hallway protected from rain for the most part and it has looked the same as far as I can tell, for five years now. Possibly some of the characters have changed, but certainly the boat, the fish, the flowers and the titles seem to be the same as when I first say this bulletin board in August, 2006. I took this photo this morning, likely inspired by the book I have been reading on the Tang Dynasty, the golden age of China. This scene evokes some of that history, a sense of golden times, of pride.
As I travelled through various Asian countries this winter, I encountered a lot of “proud” people and it gave me a good feeling. Their pride was of the moment, not of a past – for the most part. Yet, that pride soon shifted to something a bit uncomfortable. The pride somehow became something that “set apart” rather than “joining together.” It made me rethink my own sense of “pride.” And needless to say, that wasn’t something I wanted to peer at in depth.
Pride is narcissistic on an individual level which often leads to a level of hubris that effectively becomes a barricade between self and others. On a collective level, it becomes ethnocentrism, or hyper-ethnocentrism. I am seeing too much hyper-ethnocentrism in the world and seeing how it is causing us more problems that building a healthy sense of community. In my own country which is on the edge of heading into an election, the darkness of hyper-ethnocentrism is visible to anyone who can stand outside the dynamics. As I read various news articles and the public comments, I wonder at the “heat” and the “hate” that comes out at a deafening volume. Where will it all end?
In an individual, it ends in a fall.
I was walking with one of my grandsons moments before it decided to rain, looking for pictures. I would show him something then take the photo which we would then both look at; then he would point out something and I would look at it before creating another photograph. Needless to say, the process kept us outside and active for as long as the rain held off. Once back in the house, we shared “our” photo treasures with his dad. This was the ultimate test for my grandson. His dad is his number one authority, the greatest of all.
Watching the interplay between my grandson and his father, I got to see what likely was the same dynamic in the life of my own son as he grew up. Looking at it at a distance reflected in others creates a sense of humbleness and almost shame. The “father” swells with pride in the adoration, a worship that brings the child as much pain as it does joy.
The “son” mimics all that he senses in hopes of becoming his “father.” And when the father doesn’t know his role, when he gets caught up too much in his “greatness,” it doesn’t take long before the son can’t support the weight of that hubris. The slender branch holding this illusion snaps and the father falls.
It is painful for all of us when our heroes fall and become human again. I know that my first reaction was anger, anger that my hero became as ordinary as I was. His greatness was not all that spectacular in the history of humankind. And, this coloured my view of those heroes of history as well as those heroes in the modern times. Somehow I knew that underneath the mantles of hero status, these heroes were conflicted humans who suffered as much, if not more, than I suffered.
In thinking about what CG Jung had said in my quotation that began this post, I realise that he was talking about something bigger than what I have said here. But perhaps this is an appropriate interpretation for what happens in the dynamic of the nuclear family, the roots of most of our complexes.
For the next series of photos, I will be using photos taken in Northern Saskatchewan when I lived on a Dene Reserve and served as the Education Manager for the reserve. This photo was taken in August, 2005 using an HP Photosmart camera with 5.1 MP rating. The camera has long gone though the photos remain.
This photo features wild raspberries against a backdrop of Canadian Shield granite along the shores of Lake Athabasca. For a brief time, the raspberry vibrates with a brightness as though ready to change the world of water and stone. Swelled with its fruit, it lives as though it was more than one small moment of brightness.
When I took the job as Education Manager, a job that was a combination of school principal, Directer of Education, and Post-Secondary administrator, I had thought that my recent retirement from the provincial system was leading me into a way to provide needed service for the north.
I had begun my teaching career not too distant from this Dene reserve in September, 1974. At that time, I had promised myself that I would return when I retired, hopefully to stay. I didn’t know then that staying was not really an option as I was an outsider in too many ways. I was an outsider in 1974, but by 2005 I had become even more different. And that difference resulted in my hopes for being an agent of positive change for the reserve, being crushed.
After all of my life experience and my training in human psychology, I had allowed hubris to distort the lens through which I saw this reserve community. I heard and understood the words of the reserve leaders, words that I resonated with and supported. In making decisions based on the dreams and hopes of these leaders, I began to experience a huge disconnect from what was hoped for and what was actually possible. I pushed too fast and too hard to bring their vision to life. I forgot that I wasn’t the leader, I was supposed to simply follow, listening carefully and then clear the path through the arts of administrivia – no more. To do more was to be blind to reality. To attempt to do more was simply an act of hubris.
This is a follow-up to the last post, another photo of the canal surrounding Tiger Hill Park in Suzhou, China. This time, the scene includes people. As I mentioned earlier, I am in the process of preparing photos for a book on China, one that focuses on one city, Changzhou, a city not to distant from Suzhou. Perhaps when I have finished the book or two based on Changzhou, I will attempt to write about other places in China that I have visited, places such as Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an, Suzhou, Nanjing, Nanning, Haikou, Sanya and Chongqing. Two years in China has resulted in changes within, something I didn’t expect.
Like anyone else heading to China to teach English, I say it as a way to save my pension cheques and make retired life in the future just a little more secure economically. I saw the venture as a way to see the world on someone else’s dime. I had paid my dues as a teacher for thirty some years and now, I thought it was time to be rewarded. Both motives, that of saving money and having others pay for my being a tourist were realised. However, China was much, much more than that.
In China, all the rules were off. What I had learned as common sense in societal behaviours was not applicable. I quickly understood that I basically knew nothing that was helpful. The only good thing for me was my natural tendency towards being a quiet person. Not knowing the language reinforced my quietness. Yet the strangeness was intriguing enough for me to wander outside of my safe apartment in order to listen, to watch and to study the world around me at that time. It was almost as if I had again engaged in hero’s journey.
As an experienced teacher, I had little difficulty in teaching. In fact, it was as if I was a superhero in the classroom. I was loved and could do no wrong. Other teachers came to watch me teach and soon wanted to establish friendships that would benefit them with extra English language contact as well as perhaps helping them to make their own teaching situations better for them and their students. It didn’t take long for me to begin to see myself as a superhero type of person in China. There are dangers when one develops a mana personality. Recognizing the dangers, I looked within and saw the trap I was setting for myself if I bought into an inflated ego.
Every step toward greater consciousness creates a kind of Promethean guilt. Through self-knowledge, the gods are, as it were, robbed of their fire; that is, something that was the property of the unconscious powers is torn out of its natural context and subordinated to the whims of the conscious mind. The one who has “stolen” the new knowledge becomes alienated from others. The pain of this loneliness is the vengeance of the gods, for never again can one return to the fold. (Sharp, Digesting Jung, 2001, p. 120)
The is no superhero here, no special person “chosen” by the gods. There is only a person who has become yet more different than before, more of an individual, a person that finds himself or herself more alone than ever. If I was to hold to the role being cast for me in China, I would lose both my sense of self, I would find myself more and more isolated as well. I refused to believe in the myth that placed me in the role of teacher superhero. I laughed at my moments of hubris. And, I began to learn liking my warts, the faults that made me one just like everyone else.
It’s not often that I include a photo of myself here. Why? Well, since they are usually not photos that I took, I think that I overlook the photos. However, this photo is worth including here as it about relationship. The man with me is another teacher. His name is Arjun and he was my guide in Jaisalmer, India for two days. For whatever reason, we became friends and have maintained communications since my visit to his city sixteen months ago. I will be going back for another visit in order to spend more time with this man and his family. He sends me stories of growing up, stories of his family, as well as thoughts he has about his homeland. These stories are being included in a book that I have been writing on-and-off for the past few months.
As you can tell, I am a writer. For some reason, I have to write in order to feel more present in life. I have two books on the go at the same time. With the SoFoBoMo book, it was three. My book which is getting some exposure here, the one I thought would be the SoFoBoMo book is now half done and will be finished before summer is here. Like the SoFoBoMo book, it will be about eighty pages in size. The book on India will be significantly larger. My hopes are for that book to be finished by sometime in the autumn before I head off to another country. I have thousands and thousands of photos taken while in China for two years and have stories from there to tell as well. I don’t know when I will write those books. I don’t even know why I have delayed those stories as they pre-date the India experience. Oh well, I trust my instincts and listen. Perhaps I should say “muse” instead of “instincts.”
Man to man. How can I explain the relationship? There is something about the “I-Thou” relationship that comes about from time to time that defies logic. Probably everything about it defies logic as it is outside of the norm. Both of us are teachers. But that is not enough as I have worked with many male teachers, none of whom have “connected” in this way. My colleagues have ranged from acquaintances, to friends and to antagonists in the workplace. I can’t explain it, nor will I try. It just is. Man to man.
I have begun reading another book, Celebrating Soul: Preparing For the New Religion, by Lawrence Jaffe. I had read a previous book by Jaffe a number of years ago called Liberating the Heart: Spirituality and Jungian Psychology, a book which I found rather interesting. So far, and to be fair I have not read much of the book, I am not impressed. I actually feel uncomfortable with some of his ideas which essentially boil down to Jungian psychology becoming the next great religion with Jungian analysts as the high priests. I get the feeling that there are a core of older analysts such as Edward Edinger who are party to this notion. I will comment here in the future about more thoughts on this book and this idea. Needless to say, somehow I think “transference” has played a number on hime and “hubris” has turned Jaffe from analyst into prophet.
I have a free evening while the grandchildren are enjoying popcorn and a movie night (they are watching something called air puppies – I think). One good thing about using WordPress is the ability to schedule a post for a later publishing time. Though I write this in the evening, it will be published early tomorrow morning when I hope to be still sleeping – grandchildren willing. So, I decided I had enough time to add another photo from my months spent in Mexico.
This photo was taken in a small village called Dzemul. I wrote earlier about this village and its church, Santa Ana. There is a small village square which has a small market and pre-school play area. Next to the play area, I spotted this grafitti which I couldn’t resist adding to my image collection.
There is no doubt that America makes its neighbours feel small and impotent in comparison. The overpowering masculine energy of the U.S.A., like a powerful male, draws the attention of all, men and women alike. And like all strong figures, a significant number react negatively. Hubris. A collective hubris.