Archive for the ‘love’ tag
Yes, what then is love? I know it exists and that it blossoms and often withers turning into bitterness, sorrow and even sometimes hatred. I that magical attraction in others, and even see it in birds and animals. And most importantly, I have lived the experience of love, and still continue to find myself held within its bounds. Is it simply chemistry? Or, is there more to it? Sadly, I don’t have the answers but I do know that love exists.
For a man, it is confusing, this thing called love. Perhaps it needs to be called lust, or need, or dominance, or perhaps simply just love. Because of my history as a child, and because of everyman’s history as a child, the Mother creeps in to claim her share, to voice her approval and disapproval, to give or withhold as we enter into relationship with a woman once we have left childhood behind. The mother-complex influences us, directs us, pulls at us within our unconscious. For us as men, we simply find ourselves fascinated by a particular woman, a stranger or someone we have seen often, but yet have never really seen. We don’t see the energy of a mother-complex at work. For us as men, we simply fall in love. We don’t need explanations or reasons. It’s simple. We fall in love.
“We say we love, yet we know not what it is. We say we love many things in many different ways. We borrow words from the Greeks who sought to differentiate these states of desire: eros, caritas, philos, storgé, agape. And yet we sense the shadowy beast behind our purest motives.” [Hollis, The Eden Project, p. 30]
But, it turns out not to be so simple after all. After time has allowed us to discover the real person beneath the fascination, with in turn that person discovering the real man beneath her fascination, we are faced with dealing with loss, real loss that demands that we go through the stages of grieving for what has been lost, that Magical Other. For some, time and effort allows a new kind of love to emerge. For others, the grieving becomes destructive of the relationship creating even more grief. And for more than a few, the desire for answers to pull us out of depression, dysfunction and confusion sends us into therapy. We need to find ourselves and know ourselves as we find ourselves lost in some dank and dark swamp. With loss of the Magical Other, we are left questioning our own identity. If only we would know then perhaps we could again be in relation with our Magical Other.
“So we bring ourselves to relationship. With scant knowledge of ourselves, we seek our identity in the mirror of the Other, as we once did in Mom and Dad. With all the wounds of this perilous condition we seek a safe harbor in that Other who, alas, is seeking the same in us. With the thousand adaptive strategies derived from the fortuities of fated time, fated place, fated Others, we contaminate the frail present with the germs of the past.” [p. 32]
Hang on, there is hope. There is a way out of the swamp.
As I read through James Hollis’ book, What Matters Most, the constant reference to Eros suggested that I take a bit of a time-out in order to get this Greek God figured out, that is arrive at a psychological understanding as it relates to my own self. I borrowed this image from the Wikipedia article which can be found here for those who like doing their own reading and interpreting. As I read through the article, this passage struck me as vital:
“At the beginning there was only Chaos, Night (Nyx), Darkness (Erebus), and the Abyss (Tartarus). Earth, the Air and Heaven had no existence. Firstly, blackwinged Night laid a germless egg in the bosom of the infinite deeps of Darkness, and from this, after the revolution of long ages, sprang the graceful Love (Eros) with his glittering golden wings, swift as the whirlwinds of the tempest. He mated in the deep Abyss with dark Chaos, winged like himself, and thus hatched forth our race, which was the first to see the light.”
This Eros is different in some fundamental way from the Cupid version. This Eros is the one that I recognize as hovering at the edges of darkness. As Eros enters the darkness, Anima or soul, begins to be awakened. I guess it might even be said that the mating of darkness and love gives birth to the soul. And of course the soul, Anima, contains both the golden light of Eros and the darkness of Chaos. Psychologically speaking the journey is to balance, to find the thread, an individual thread between the archetypal power of both Eros and Chaos. To shift into the realm of Eros or Chaos is a shift into psychic pathology, into being numbed by either of these two archetypal gods – numbed with darkness, emptiness; or numbed by being to much into other so that the self is abandoned.
There, I think I have that understood, at least in my own mind for the present. Now, I can return to reading, thinking and writing.
At the beginning of the month when I walked around Hong Mei Park, the flowers were in full bloom and the number of park visitors was significantly high with most of them busy using their cell phones as cameras to try and take in the scene. There is something about spring and the bursting forth of flowers that stirs the life forces within each of us. There is an innate desire to possess all of this beauty, this vitality, this visible image of life energy. It doesn’t matter if one has a DSLR, an SLR or the crappiest camera phone, the focus is the same, the intent to capture and hold the moment.
Humans replicate this in other aspects of their lives, especially in relationships. The moment we feel our inner spaces stirred to the point that life forces start to surge, when in the presence of another person, we want to possess that person, to take that person into our bodies or enter into their bodies and become one with them as though in doing so, we would be complete, full, ready for everything life could throw at us. It really doesn’t matter what the person looks like or who the person is – all that matters is that somehow energy within us has been activated. The feeling, the rush that results tells us that this is what life is all about, this is what we need. And when there is a reciprocal response, the result is a relationship that primal and archetypal. We call it love.
Heading northwest on the Mekong River not too far out of Ho Chi Minh City, these homes on stilts made me realise how life along this river must be always subject to the unpredictable water of the river. Looking at the network of supporting poles, small sticks that would by themselves seem insignificant spurs me to think about all the differences I encounter while living in Asia and in China in particular.
Working at a university, I get to see young men and women every day as they move through the steps from childhood to adulthood. Teaching them a second language allows me to find out a lot about their ways of understanding the world. When teaching a second language, the quickest method is to use base knowledge of the first language and life experience as hooks for the second language. In other words, teach them what they already know, only in the target language. Since at this stage of life, relationships are the biggest focus of these young people, giving them a chance to talk about relationships and their beliefs allows them to speak with more confidence as they don’t have to learn new concepts, just the vocabulary and expressions. Aside from their romantic notions that come out of watching American films, these young people have a very practical sense of what marriage is all about. Love is not synonymous with marriage as it is in the western world.
“Historically, love and marriage have not been synonymous . . . As a matter of fact, only in the last century and a quarter has the vox populi claimed marriage and love as one and the same. This is not to say that happily committed people have not loved each other, but rather that for most of human history the purpose o marriage was to bring stability to the culture rather than make an individual happy or serve the task of mutual individuation. Possibly the greatest number of history’s marriages would, by today’s standards, be described as loveless, for they were contracted arrangements made to produce, protect and nurture the young, thus to preserve the tribe, to transmit social and religious values and to channel anarchic libido in socially useful directions.
Similarly, in many marriages love, whatever love may prove to be, is simply not the determinative value. What more commonly has brought people together, the energy which seeks synergy, are the operative complexes of each. One or both may seek to find the good parent in the other, may even wish to find an abuser in order to confirm a wounded sense of self, or may be seeking what was missing in the family of origin. Or, one may marry for a sense of transferred power.” (Hollis, The Eden Project, pp41-42)
With these words, I understand better how the young men and women in my classes dutifully abandon a “love” mate because the parents don’t support the union. I understand better why young Asian women willingly enter into relationships with older western men. As one young female told me, it is about power. The want to marry power and thus gain power themselves, a sense of security in a crowded and competitive world where there is not enough for everyone. These young people believe in love, fall in love and rebel for love. But, for the most part, these young men and women fall back into line in order to fit in with the needs and demands of their culture.
Maybe there is something to learn here. Maybe we (I) put too many demands on the people we marry making all of us crazy in the process?
Passion, rawness, sex, lust, love – so many words that call to the basic instinctual command to couple as a species. There is no room for logic or consciousness, just a throbbing of the loins to mate. When we begin to think about what our bodies command, we begin to travel a different road, one that often contradicts nature. Nature compels us to mate, to preserve the species as it does for all other species, a biological command. However, being human brings forth a different dynamic, one that both embraces and confounds the urges and demands of nature. I want to return once more to Gao XingJian’s book, Soul Mountain to have him speak of this dynamic from a “Chinese” scene.
“Young women in groups of five or six come to the river-bank, some standing in a circle and others holding hands, and begin calling their lovers. Melodious singing rapidly fills the vast night. . . .
. . . It is totally instinctive, uncontrived, unrestrained and unembellished, and certainly devoid of what might be called embarrassment. Each woman exerts herself, body and heart, to draw her young man to her.
. . . I am suddenly surrounded by an expanse of passions and think that the human search for love must originally have been like this. So-called civilization in later ages separated sexual impulse from love and created the concepts of status, wealth, religion, ethics and cultural responsibility. Such is the stupidity of human beings.
. . . I see her expectant eyes in the darkness, unblinking and fixed on me. My heart starts pounding and I seem to return to the long-lost trembling of my passionate youth. I am drawn to her . . . I see her lips moving slightly although she doesn’t speak again and just waits, and the singing of her companions grows soft. . . .
I’ve never encountered this style of love. It’s what I dream about but when it actually happens I can’t cope.
. . . I’m afraid of shouldering the responsibility of even pursuing momentary happiness, I’m not a wolf but I would like to be a wolf, to return to nature, to go out the prowl. However, I can’t rid myself of this human mind. I am a monster with a human mind and can find no refuge. (Gao, Soul Mountain, pp 228-229)
This is another photo from my journey through IndoChina. The photos I took were a mixture of the typical scenes shown to tourists, people photos, nature photos and photos taken ‘just because.’ Of the many ‘people’ photos, of which this is one, I am surprised at the number that were of women.
And, that other is really me, that which I deny as myself, my opposite, my shadow, my soul.
“. . . she says she is drifting on a boat and doesn’t know where she’s drifting, she is no longer in control. Let it drift, on the black sea, she and you, no, there is only her, she’s not really afraid but she feels terribly empty, she wants to die, death is seductive, she wants to fall into the sea, let the black sea drown her, she needs you, the warmth of your body, even your oppressiveness gives her a sense of security, she asks if you’re aware of it, that she desperately needs! (Gao XingJian, Soul Mountain, p.129)
She is me. I want to be secure, I want you to love me, I want me to love you, I want us to be one. But, my mind only finds thin threads that connect me to you, threads of intuition, not threads of time and space and matter. So, I look outside for a surrogate you, I look into the eyes of others in hopes of finding you, finding me. Though I am standing in the sunshine, I know that you are hidden in the dark corners, in the shadows where my eyes can’t reach, where my hands cannot feel. And so I look at others, touch others, claim others, hoping that the ache is anesthetized so that I don’t feel so alone.
No, the rose didn’t really look this way when I took the photo. Photoshop and contrast adjustments were used to achieve this effect. What effect? I think it is a protest of what one perceives as reality, that there is something behind, beneath, above and outside of facts that is crucial to experience, to being human. I wanted to capture the depth of the darkness and shadows and the dazzling and mesmerizing light as contrast. This is what love seems to be for me, incredible depths, shadows and blinding light at the same time. Captured in the thrall of love, there is no reason, no clear-headed thinking, no balance. One is either transported or sundered.
“. . . why have I come to this mountain? . . . What does this sort of experience mean to me? If it’s just to get away from the problems I was experiencing, there are easier ways. Then maybe it’s to to find another sort of life. To leave far behind the perplexing world of human beings. If I’m trying to be a recluse why do I need to impact with other people? Not knowing what one is looking for is pure agony. Too much analytical thinking, too much logic, too many meanings! Life has no logic, so why does there have to be logic to explain what it means? Also, what is logic? I think I need to break away from analytical thinking, this is the cause of all my anxieties.” (Gao XingJian, Soul Mountain, p. 50)
Love is the mountain and the valley and the cave within the mountain and the lake within the cave and the stream breaking over rocks descending into the valley. This isn’t a land of common sense. This is a land of myth and magic. Without question, love is the cure for a meaningless life, for a life that has become too predictable, too calm. The soul needs to be reanimated. And in the process of falling in love, one loses again “self” which then allows for a new round of self-discovery. One needs, I need to sometimes get out of my head and into my heart.
I went for a walk in a different park yesterday, the Qing Feng Park in the ZhongLou district of the city. It took a bit of extra effort in locating the park, especially since I can’t read Mandarin characters. The park is much different from the central park in ChangZhou, Hong Mei Park. It’s more about trees, water and walking. Of course, like everywhere in ChangZhou, there are flowers. The first of the season’s roses are now beginning to bloom. And so, I found this one which is for you, my readers.
This rose is symbolic to me of relationship. I gave my wife three roses for a wedding bouquet almost forty years ago. For me, the rose is also symbolic of the feminine. The blossom reminds me of the pull that the feminine has upon the masculine, how one is drawn into the blossom in order to both find completion and to find extinction.
Like all healthy men, I get pulled into relationship with an “other” with the belief that the “other” compliments me, fulfills me, completes me. I fall in love. Like other men, I found that the “other” does not fulfill or compliment or complete. Rather, the “other” is just that, another human doing the same thing. We can only fulfill our “self”. Only we can be responsible for our psyche, for our soul. We cannot lay the responsibility for that on another person and use “love” as the excuse for not being self-responsible.
Relationship then takes on a different agenda, one that is more like the rose – a dance of budding and ripening and then hibernating in mock death only to be rekindles with the warmth of a new season’s sun.
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.
I took this photo a while ago while strolling down the street. At first, I simply saw the humour in the photo, humour from a Canadian male point of view. Young men in Canada would not be caught dead carrying their girlfriend’s purse, let alone a pink purse, down a public street where other young men would see them. Yet, here, the scene is not that rare. Proving “love” to the “other” has so many quirky twists and turns regardless of the culture one finds oneself in. When there is a focus on “self” in the situation of “love,” it is usually about insecurity and the need for proof that one is valued by the “other – “Prove you love me,” kind of thinking takes over. When there is a focus on “other” then the “self” feels abandoned and almost valueless. There is no space where two become one. Does it matter which one is suppressed and which one suppresses? The result is the same for both, albeit from different viewpoints – the individual, unique self is no longer is valued.
The last day I wrote about distance and intimacy. I want to return to that topic in order to add to the idea of what “distance” really means in terms of intimacy and relationships.
“A relationship based on intimacy with distance does not require separate living quarters. Intimacy with distance means psychological separation, which comes about through the process of differentiation – knowing where you end and the other begins. Intimacy with distance can be as close and warm as you want, and it’s psychologically clean. Togetherness is simply fusion, the submersion of two individualities into one. That’s symbiosis, identification, participation mystique. It can feel good for a while but in the long term it doesn’t work.” (Sharp, Jungian Psychology Unplugged, p. 73)
In China, I see this “psychological distance” every day on the street, especially in crowds. It is as though each person, though surrounded by a sea of others, is alone, is separated as if on a deserted island. People walk by each other only aware on a peripheral level that there are others present, but oblivious of the them other than as objects to navigate around while walking.
How does one move to being self-contained rather than as half of a couple? This is the real problem for our heads, at least for mine. How can one be “separate” without having one’s partner feel abandoned? Living in the same place together and having a privateness is often taken as a rejection by the other. Somehow, it takes two moving through individuation and arriving at the idea of intimacy with space for relationship to survive. When it is a journey only one chooses to take, the relationship is threatened and all hell breaks loose.
“Togetherness is to intimacy with distance as being in love is to loving. When you’re in love, you absolutely need the other. This is symptomatic of bonding, which is natural at the beginning of any relationship, at any age. But need, finally, is not compatible with loving; it only shows the degree to which one lacks personal resources. Better take your need to a therapist than dump it on the one you love. Need in an intimate relationship easily becomes the rationale for power, leading to the fear of loss on one hand, and resentment on the other.” (Sharp, Jungian Psychology Unplugged, p. 74)
In the photo, this expression of love is about power. At what point will this young couple move from “falling in love” to a fear of loss and of resentment?