Archive for the ‘Hue’ tag
This is a detail from one of the buildings found in the Imperial Palace of Hué, Vietnam, an imitation palace of Beijing’s Forbidden City. I have to say that the idea of a “Forbidden City” is one that is very intriguing and very apt when one thinks of the “self.” The forbidden city in Hué is much smaller than the one in Beijing. I am fortunate to have been able to wander through both of these palace grounds. Needless to say I was not able to see everything in either place with many areas marked as off limits to the public. The doors were locked tight and the windows were boarded up with decorative shutters keeping the contents “in the dark.” One begins to wonder if the idea is to keep outsiders away or to “contain” the shadows within the darkened buildings and rooms.
Hiding places within, places where we keep our secrets. And being human, over time we almost forget the secrets are there and forget how to unlock the barricaded spaces. It comes as a rude shock to ourselves and those around us when somehow the contents long barricaded away in the shadows find a way to ooze out, usually at the most inopportune time where it causes us no end of grief, embarrassment and shame. We get to see a lot of this now because of the social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and My Space. Twitter has “exposed” shadow stuff twice in the past few weeks, once in terms of Canadian politicians and the second time by an American politician. Once exposed, the contents are quickly withdrawn and hidden away but the damage has been done.
It is somewhat easy to understand how our “stuff” leaks out to mess up our best intentions and our well-laid plans; but, it is not so easy to understand that the “forbidden city” within not only contains our personal repressed contents, but is also home to the collective shadow. Again the political world serves as a good example. Major political parties are based on ideologies and polar versions of what the world is supposed to be like. Imagine each political party as an extravagant structure such as the building in the photo above. It looks attractive and as though it has substance. Yet when one waits long enough there is stuff that oozes out to alert one to the real nature of the political beast that has claimed this palace as its home. In listening to the individual voices that adhere to the political party we get to see that collective shadow.
As a wandered through new countries and cultures in search of my “self” I am learning that there are a lot of secret places to discover within my own psyche, in my personal forbidden city.
The title of this post says it all when one looks at the image. On the way to a village the guide made an unplanned stop so that I could investigate the tombs found in the poor soil area not too far from the village I was supposed to visit. There are a lot of tombs scattered throughout the land with almost every farmer’s plot hosting a tomb os some sort. War has been a fact of life for the Vietnamese since people have lived in this narrow stretch of land along the South Pacific coast.
War between the forces of darkness and light, between self and other, between the known and the unknown; this is how we mostly approach that which is different. Few have the courage or wisdom to hold the tension that the unknown presents to us. We have a tendency to react as though we are cornered rats, allowing the darker aspects of self to emerge and cloud consciousness. Acting blindly leaves a trail of wreckage, a land of psychic devastation. And when we come to our senses and see the waste, we wail with regret and find ourselves in need of healing. Our psyche needs to forgive self and begin the healing that will allow us to continue the journey of individuation. Without admitting one’s own part in the devastation, one gets stuck. It is as though we have entered the City of Tombs before our bodies have died.
I took another set of hundreds of photos today and have trimmed the lot so that only three hundred photos remain from the day’s efforts. I then ended up selecting this photo taken a few days ago though there were a fair number that I had thought would be used for today’s post while taking them. This photo was what was needed for me today so I decided to honour the pull to it and present it here. It’s a simple photo not too unlike a mandala to my mind. The image isn’t symmetrical or balanced, but it works. It wasn’t until the third viewing of the photo, after it was placed here in this post that I noticed the Buddhist swastika, a mandala unto itself, in the bottom right of the circle.
My original thought was of being on the inside, looking out – in the dark, looking toward the light with a yearning. And what was to be found in the light wasn’t in focus, couldn’t be objectified and so kept its numinous quality, its mystery. As I peer through the barriers of my ego and filters, I can only see these barriers clearly. I know that I have to take these dark lines, these projected pieces back into my self if I am to attain the light.
I begin to wonder if perhaps this is a call for me to once again turn to meditation. I wonder but know that I will wait, hold the tension to see what else pulls me before committing to a turn in the road that is my journey of individuation.
This morning I went to a village called Phu Thuong, a village near Hué that has a group of ladies that make the conical hats that are symbolic of Vietnam, hats as worn by these two men who are herding their water buffalo. It was an opportunity for my wife to try her hand at the craft of making conical hats with the ladies. We got more than we had hoped for in the process. While the work with the ladies was taking place, I noticed that for a good while there were two ladies, two older ladies, who looked at me with distrust and some initial fear. They had lived through the American War and their first response was that of an American standing in the doorway, an image burned into their memories from the past. The oldest woman had lost a son and a nephew in the war.
The initial fear passed as it became obvious that we were not in the past anymore. I talked with the young people who had gathered to see the foreigners while my wife continued chatting with the ladies and engaging them in bouts of laughter.
The situation served as a reminder to me to let my own anima free in interactions with others rather than to always rely on the ego. Sometimes masculine energy creates distance and distrust.
I took this photo just outside of the Forbidden City within the walls of the Citadel in Hué, Vietnam yesterday afternoon. Obviously, the photo wasn’t part of the record file of the UNESCO site, but an image that has its own life. This journey through Vietnam is one that has several purposes for me. The first is an escape from the “sameness” of everyday life in my home in Changzhou, Jiangsu, PRC. The second is the love of travelling and capturing images of what I see. A third purpose is to understand something about “others.” And the most important, to meet my unconscious self that peers out in some of the images and scenes before my eyes and the camera lens. This photo falls into the last category. I have another purpose for taking images, that of capturing scenes for use as teaching tools, ways to help my students see a different world in a way that connects with them. I guess I must be a teacher at heart as well as by profession.
Today’s image is an invitation to look within, with a different eye. There is a comfort given that says what is to be found beneath the level of consciousness is connected to what is found in the conscious outer world. The perspective changes for one’s outer world when gets to add depth to what we experience and see in the outer world.