Archive for the ‘Playa Jacó’ tag
I have decided on my photography theme for this year’s SoFoBoMo photo project – Shadow and Light. It will join other similar projects in the “Through a Jungian Lens” series of photography and Jungian Psychology books. I hope to have both light and shadow in every photography, but that said I won’t leave out a photo that “fits” the text because of a lack of either light or shadow. In the photo chosen for today’s post, I have implied shadow with the fading light of a day, a light that burns on the horizon. As I talk about shadow, it will be referencing the shadow aspect of the human psyche, the personal and collective unconscious. Light will be symbolic of consciousness. And, in keeping with Jungian concepts, light will also symbolize the masculine while shadow and darkness will symbolize the feminine. At dawn and at sunset, we can feel the power of both as being present. As night ends, we are pulled from our sleep and the world of dreams as the sun banishes the darkness as best it can. But, the darkness doesn’t disappear as it lurks in the shadows caused by the light of the sun. And at sunset, we are drawn into eros, into a commingling of masculine and feminine, at least for a moment before night again reigns. But in the darkness, there are brief flashes of light, a promise that darkness will not last forever. It’s a curious dance, that of light and darkness, a drama that is played out every day, every season, in every life.
This image was taken at Jaco Bay in Costa Rica in January 2010. While in Costa Rica, sunset photos became a frequent activity with an occasional photo pf myself making it into some of the photos. I chose this photo in order to continue on with the theme of naturalism, being whole in one’s own skin. As I write, I do understand that many in the world do not see the naked body as a moral issue as it is understood in the North American collective. Naturalists exist in both Canada and the U.S.A. and have gathered together at private campsites, private resorts or isolated beaches. North American society grudgingly gives in to these isolated pockets while maintaining as much pressure as they can to push the fundamentalist, Victorian ideology/morality as far as they can in terms of public freedoms. Strange for me how the focus in on having citizens keep their clothes on rather than real issues of sexual exploitation and violence.
I am a naturalist in a quiet and private manner. Of course that means that I pick and choose times for liberation from my clothing, at least finding sleep as a time, space and place for being natural. Interesting to me that I honour this with the belief that in doing so, I allow the portal to the dream world to be as transparent as possible with the idea that in putting my body fully at ease, I am more receptive to whatever is attempting to be heard.
In doing my research for this post (and yesterday’s, I cam across a few interesting thoughts that I would like to bring forward here. The first is from Walt Whitman, taken from his work, Specimen Days. I have just quoted a few of the words from this section (133) called A Sun-bath – Nakedness:
“Never before did I get so close to Nature; never before did she come so close to me… Nature was naked, and I was also… Sweet, sane, still Nakedness in Nature! – ah if poor, sick, prurient humanity in cities might really know you once more! Is not nakedness indecent? No, not inherently. It is your thought, your sophistication, your fear, your respectability, that is indecent. There come moods when these clothes of ours are not only too irksome to wear, but are themselves indecent.” (Whitman, Specimen Days, “A Sun-Bath – Nakedness,” 1892
Another one of my early influences on a number of different levels was Henry David Thoreau who wrote a three part essay called walking (available now in various ebook formats from the Gutenberg project) written in 1861 from which he offers his thoughts on being “natural”:
“We cannot adequately appreciate this aspect of nature if we approach it with any taint of human pretense. It will elude us if we allow artifacts like clothing to intervene between ourselves and this Other. To apprehend it, we cannot be naked enough.” (Thoreau, Walking, 1861)
I know that I have found peace in nature, especially when clothing is set aside for a brief time. I have found this peace in lakes and in gentle pools along various rivers, walking through a Yucatan estuary, on protected areas along seashores, in isolated fields and meadows and while walking down remote trails in the wilderness. This is not about social activity or about sexual gratification. This is about being honest with oneself, stripping away yet one more mask and exposing all the flaws so that they can be accepted as natural aspects of self rather than as deficits.
A few days ago I took this photo from in front of the villa in Costa Rica, a morning photo which allowed me to capture detail of the moon. This is one of the problems with this camera that I am using, the weakness in being able to control shutter speed and light. I much preferred my old SLR that forced me to make all kinds of choices. I am seriously looking at getting a better camera that allows me more options. All of that aside, I am satisfied with this photo of the moon.
In the night, there is something that draws me upward and inward with the appearance of the moon. There is little question that the moon symbolizes a sense of spiritualism. In the light of day, the outer world is too vivid and the world becomes more object than subject. In the darkness, the world fades into a faintness at the edges of vision and is replaced by a shadows and possibilities.
“. . . when we speak of the spiritual problem of modern man we are speaking of things that are barely visible of the most intimate and fragile things, of flowers that open only in the night. In daylight everything is clear and tangible, but the night lasts as long as the day, and we live in the nighttime also. There are people who have bad dreams which even spoil their days for them. And for many people the day’s life is such a bad dream that they long for the night when the spirit awakes. I believe that there are nowadays a great many such people, and this is why I also mantain that the spiritual problem of modern man is much as I have presented it.” (Jung, The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man, Modern Man in Search of Soul, 1933)
Dreams, and the visits of archetypal presences to the self ripe through sleep, a self perhaps ready to experience and grow through interaction with the archetypal presences; both belong to the night. It is easy to understand how this night which allows us to touch the faces of the gods and goddesses within, becomes a time of wholeness, a time of holiness. But like all things, the night is two-faced. For at night, the time of spirit, is also the place where darkness and death seem to be present in equal measure. Balance. One cannot have a god without a satan. One cannot have day without night. One cannot have night without day.
My problem, the problem faced by all who dare to look at the problem, is finding how to honour the polarities and find a place for myself in the middle.
When out with the camera I sometimes get lucky. For example, I was out to a site where I was helping with some shovelling work preparing some ground for a cement pad. Across the way was a squatter’s home with bit of a yard surrounded by barbed wire in which a little boy was playing. Soon afterwards his sister came out to run around with him. Neither of them wore clothing. There was no shame, there was simply two children with only the intent of enjoying the moment.
It makes for good photography but one has to take care not to intrude or to present such innocence in a manner that would be taken as an improper and immoral act.
It was with this eye to being careful that I made sure that “sexual” overtones were excluded. And so what is left is thus closer to perhaps and original Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Only in this case, Eve would be the older of the two. I know, this goes against the grain of everything we hold as sacred in the Christian world. But, perhaps this is necessary. Perhaps it is time to challenge the status quo and to point to something deeper and fuller, something more inclusive and balanced for all of humanity.
“And now we must ask a final question. Is what I have said of modern man really true, or is it perhaps an illusion? There can be no doubt whatever that to millions of Westerners the facts I have adduced are wholly irrelevant and fortuitous, and regrettable aberrations to a large number of educated persons. But – did a cultivated Roman think any differently when he saw Christianity spreading among the lower classes? Today the God of the West is still a living person for vast numbers of people, just as Allah is beyond the Mediterranean, and the one believer holds the other as an inferior heretic, to be pitied and tolerated failing all else. To make matters worse, the enlightened European is of the opinion that religion and such things are good enough for the masses and for women, but of little consequence compared with immediate economic and political questions.” (Jung, The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man, Modern Man in Search of Soul, 1933)
It has been seventy-seven years since Jung published this essay. Yet in all of that time, the picture he has presented here has not changed very much. The Christian God is still in charge in the bastion of the Western world; and, Allah is still invoked in the Middle East in living prayers. If anything, today the fundamentalists on both sides are at worse odds with each other with the Jewish fact of Israel tucked in between them. The “European” attitude, is now the cultured western-world attitude that stands outside of national politics in favour of fat bank accounts to allow them cultured lives of conspicuous consumption.
And modern man? Is there such a thing as modern man as envisioned by C.G. Jung? Is perhaps the hope and wish of those who find an attraction to Jung’s version of psychology simply a way to rationalize their own situation of being out of sync with the world? I know that for myself, it isn’t -as far as I can understand it- a way to explain my own strangeness in this world, my dis-ease with the world. For myself, the words of Jung have resonated with some deep interior aspect of self that is not yet fully conscious within my psyche. Because of that resonance, I accept the validity of these words and see that I do have a part, albeit a small one, to play in this ongoing story of humanity.
And because of all of this, I can forgive myself for following a different drummer, going against the grain of this modern world.
Not too distant from the villa, there is a faint trail which I liked to follow in search of birds and whatever scene that would catch my eye. As you can tell, this isn’t a well-used trail which makes the path even that much more interesting for me. More often than not, I don’t like following the well-beaten highways though they are necessary to travel upon when one lives in community.
This is a critical idea for me, learning to balance travelling down faint trails with being present in the larger community, travelling with them on their familiar roads. Therein lies part of the problem with psychology – getting caught in the journey through the underworld, getting entranced with it to the point that there is little attraction or desire to return to the prosaic world of day-to-day life in community.
That said, I do see how so many disappear into fantasy books, science-fiction books and video games; many disappear into movements, churches and work. These places and activities are holding patterns. They aren’t engagement with community nor are they engagement with self. It’s all about numbing the mind and body hoping that the shadows can be silenced.
“Along the great highways of the world everything seems desolate and outworn. Instinctively modern man leaves the trodden paths to explore the by-ways and lanes, just as the man of the Greco-Roman world cast off his defunct Olympian gods and turned to the mystery cults of Asia. Our instincts turns outward, and appropriates Eastern theosophy and magic; but it also turns inward, and leads us to contemplate the dark background of the psyche. It does this with the same scepticism and the same ruthlessness which impelled the Buddha to sweep aside his two million gods that he might attain the original experience which alone is convincing.” (Jung, The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man, Modern Man in Search of Soul, 1933)
It is about throwing away the habits of living and thinking that begin to serve as a barricade to the soul, to the self. But, in turning away from these old ways of being and thinking, it would be a mistake to throw them away completely. After all, who we are is built upon the base of these old ways of being and thinking. Who we are now is tied into the collective psyche, much of which still holds on to these old ways. Again, I come back to the idea of balance.
My grandchildren play video games in a modern technological world. To connect with them, I must be willing to meet them in their world. At in doing this small thing, they will get to sense a different world, the one in which I feel most at home, the land of roads not taken.
This is my last photo of Playa Jacó which was taken after sunset last night. The last hour of daylight was spent sitting on a log on the beach watching surfers attempt catching waves in the swell that has been producing some decent surfing. I can recognize a few of the surfers already even though they are at a distance. I can recognize their style as well as their outline. Each surfer is unique. Gone are my preconceived notions of surfers. Here are kids, both male and female, intent on learning, working with a coach to whom they run after completing a water journey; here are the long-haired twenty and thirty somethings who can’t keep away from the surf and travel in search of more and more; here are the older men, some just learning and others with long histories, in search of their youth wanting proof that they are still alive.
As I sat on the log, I also looked out at the setting sun realizing that tonight there would be no “sunset” photos because of overcast skies. There were enough breaks in the clouds to allow moments of orange and red to be painted on the surrounding clouds. It was enough to know that the sun still existed behind those clouds, even though it was unseen. The alchemical work of the sun continued to create moments of magic that found its way within me.
As I sat on the log, I saw couples taking photos of the skies colours and of themselves. I saw children playing at the edge of the surf being tumbled by the water as they laughed. I saw on old lady of more than 90 years sitting on a beach chair beside her daughter, an activity I have seen them do almost every evening these past three months. She is my neighbour who is still very much alive in spirit.
This, Easter Sunday, is the last morning at the beach in Costa Rica. Tomorrow morning we take a bus to San José where we will spend the day before flying out on Tuesday morning. Knowing that I will have little time or access to the Internet, I am scheduling posts so that this site continues to publish blog posts until I am settled back in my home in Canada. Once settled in I will once again return here and share my thoughts and my photos. I invite you to come here each day and read, post comments and be patient with me for responses. Now, on with today’s post.
I took this photo a few weeks ago capturing a private moment between a mother and her child. The scene is along the banks of a dried out river bed in a squatters’ community. I have met a few of the squatters as they scrounged through garbage bins in search of recyclables as a way to help eke out a living. The government has allowed power to be diverted into this collection of homes made out of scrap tin and other found materials.
As I think of this mother and her child, I got a sense that there is a belief in life being better for her child. Life is viewed with optimism. I know that many of the women of this mini community are hookers by night and parents by day. What I would have taken as a desperate life style is understood differently by these women. Their work is about providing for these children. This isn’t an issue of morality, it is an issue of food, clothing and opportunities for schooling for their children.
When I then turn to my own journey, I wonder about my spiritual quest. I know that my focus is based on privilege of a sort of wealth in comparison to those who have no guarantees for food, shelter and other basic needs. That said, my journey is valid and doesn’t need an apology.
“To me the crux of the spiritual problem today is to be found in the fascination which the psyche holds for modern man. If we are pessimists, we shall call it a sign of decadence; if we are optimistically inclined, we shall see it in the promise of a far-reaching spiritual change in the Western world. At all events, it is a significant phenomenon. It is all the more noteworthy because it is rooted in the deeper social strata, and the more important because it touches those irrational and – as history shows – incalculable psychic forces which transform the life of peoples and civilizations in ways that are unforeseen and unforseeable. These are the forces, still invisible to many persons today, which are at the bottom of the present “psychological” interest. The fascination of the psyche is not by any means a morbid perversity; it is an attraction so strong that it does not shrink even from what it finds repellent.” (Jung, The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man, Modern Man in Search of Soul, 1933)
My journey is rooted. I am connected to a long line of searchers. I know that somehow I will also transform the life of this world, even if only microscopically. And as I change myself and the ripples of that change my immediate environment, the whole of civilization shifts. There is no separation, no wasted humans. All is connected going forward, or perhaps going towards extinction.
It is not very often I bother to keep a blurry photo. A few days ago I was attempting to capture this little fellow with the camera. After a number of shots, I did get a few decent photos. Yet somehow, I didn’t delete this one like I usually do. I have a large number of hummingbird photos taken here in Costa Rica, different species in different locations and in different states of being. Yet this recent one defied the odds and remained in the photos folder.
And now as I wrestle with Jung’s essay regarding spirituality, I find that this image deserves to be here. Spirituality is a theme that is far from clear. If anything, it is numinous, just that faint presence that hints of something more than what is sensed out the side of one’s vision. It’s a theme that is so difficult that one is often reduced to comments such as “this is as clear as mud.”
One knows it is there, one has a fuzzy sense of what it might be like or where it might be located or how it might be reached. But in the end, it is still “fuzzy.” And that is a problem in today’s world of science and facts and things. We demand clarity, we demand proofs. If one is to truly believe then the answers should be easily located through an Internet search. Life is hard enough without having to try to muddle through something the best minds in the history of human kind have yet to answer to our simple satisfaction.
“Spiritually the Western world is in a precarious situation, and the danger is greater the more we blind ourselves to the merciless truth with illusion about our beauty of soul. Western man lives in a thick cloud of incense which he burns to himself so that his own countenance may be veiled from him in the smoke. But how do we strike men of another colour? What do China and India think of us? What feelings do we arouse in the black man? And what about all those whom we rob of their lands and exterminate with rum and venereal disease?” (Jung, The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man, Modern Man in Search of Soul, 1933)
From my limited experience after two years in China, one month in China and several years in remote areas living and working with Canada’s First Nations People, I would not be able to come close to answering Jung’s vital question. How can one answer what others think of us when we can’t fully grasp what we think of ourselves. And they have the same limitations of consciousness even if a different orientation. There is no magical, mystical super knowledge being held by these ancient cultures that is being withheld from us ready to transform us. That is the problem of growing awareness, the ability to see that the fuzziness and blur extends everywhere. For me, there is little doubt that if there is to be any clarity, I must begin and end with “self.”
There are only a few days left for my wife and I here in Costa Rica. On Tuesday we fly back to Canada. One of our frequent activities is to watch the sun set over the Pacific Ocean. It is a time of peace. Having no church, no religious faith, moments such as these become a place of awe and wonder, a spiritual place.
Our days have taken on a pattern of sorts that we follow for the most part. Up early, usually at 5:30 AM and enjoy a coffee while the sun rises from the hills behind this beach community. With this morning ritual complete, I typically come here to finish up a post begun the previous day. I like to have some time to let most of the post sit and settle within me so that I can ensure that this is really what I want to say. Then I turn over the computer to my wife who often talks with grandchildren using Skype.
By nine, it is time for our long beach walk, a walk of about nine or ten kilometres. Then it is back to the villa where I slip into a private walled area for some sunbathing. The afternoon is spent catching up on reading, or surfing the Internet. Currently I am reading a Dean Koontz novel called Velocity. As you can tell, I am not all about Jungian psychology. Yet even while reading novels I am sensitive to what can be found in these novels. Below is an example of meaningful coincidence between my psychological readings and resonances in recreational reading.
“In another age, men on the eve of battle had gone to churches to prepare themselves spiritually, intellectually, emotionally. To incense, to candlelight, to the humility that the shadow of the redeemer pressed upon them.
In those days, every church had been open all day and night, offering unconditional sanctuary.
Times had changed. Now some churches might remain open around the clock, but many operated according to posted hours and locked their doors long before midnight.
Rather than travel from church to church, trying their doors and finding only sanctuary by prior appointment, Billy went where most modern men in need of a haven for contemplation were drawn in post-midnight hours: to a truck stop.” (Koontz, Velocity, 2005, pp 341-342)
Spirituality, religion, sanctuary, the shadow – all these elements find their way into the novel.
So where do I find sanctuary? For now, it is in the tiny private courtyard, a place of temenos, a sacred place that is honoured. There, I return to ancient roots where man worshipped the sun. There, the silence and the privacy is not much different than that found in the medieval monasteries, a silence and a privacy that is meditative. As for religion, the closest I can come is through the journey of individuation, the journey of bringing a bit more light into the dark interior of my psyche. Of course, it is there that I meet with shadow. In the return home, most of the this doesn’t change for me – except for sanctuary.
That will be something that I will have to re-discover. I only hope that it won’t be some late night truck stop.
As usual, it is hard to pass by another iguana when walking with the camera. For me it was interesting to see how this iguana found in a tree was more intent on “going to ground” even though it was warm and sunny. Usually I see these iguanas making a place for themselves as close to the sun as possible so that they could bask in the warmth of that sun. And when the heat of the sun fades, the iguana heads back into the bowels of the earth in order to find warmth, a warmth of both the earth itself as well as that warmth which has been captured from the sun, stored in the darkness beneath.
I don’t think I am much different from an iguana at this point of my life. In the daylight I seek to capture as much sunlight and warmth as possible, a warmth that is reflected in my darkening skin. At night I retreat into an underworld, the world of dreams.
Night and day, consciousness and unconsciousness, soul and spirit, body and mind. These things are at the centre of my universe for the moment. I have no interest in the outer world for the most part at this time. The world is too chaotic with too much upheaval evident in society as well as with the planet itself. Does the planet’s condition reflect itself in the psyche of the collective? Or, is it the other way around?
“Great innovations never come from above; they come invariably from below, just as trees never grow from the sky downward, but upward from the earth. The upheaval of our world and the upheaval of our consciousness are one and the same. Everything has become relative and therefore doubtful.” (Jung, The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man, Modern Man in Search of Soul, 1933)
There is little doubt in my mind that the arrival of midlife and the crises I faced in terms of identity, value, soul and relationships were upheavals that not only rocked my world but also the world of my family, my students and my community. Of course in the descent to the depths of my personal underworld I encountered all the sins visited upon me as well as those of my own commission. I needed to come face-to-face with these things that shamed me. One of the curious outcomes of this time of crisis was a flowering of sorts of my presence in the outer world of the community. I was able to contribute to two books in the field of second-language education, was elected to serve on the provincial executive for French Language Instruction as well as the Guidance and Counselling Association. I also managed to complete my Masters in Education. On the sidelines I painted, wrote poetry and owned and co-managed a Jungian On-line discussion group. Who said that crisis meant retreat? I do give credit to all of this to the opening of the gates which had been holding the unconscious contents at bay.
I didn’t become famous in any way, but I did become more present and active with the upheaval of the personal unconscious. Somehow I don’t think it always turns out well. I was lucky that I had some understanding of the human psyche at least an intellectual understanding. When the dam broke and the shit-filled contents started to swirl around, I was able to grab a few lifelines and point myself in the right direction. One of my brothers wasn’t so fortunate. When the dam broke for him, he broke.
Knowing that there is a collective psyche as well as a personal psyche, it does offer some hope that out of the current upheavals that are plaguing most of the world, something will be born, some idea, some process, some collective will. And with this innovation, we can collectively begin to heal our world and our place in it. Yet, I am wary. My brother also points to another darker end. And then I wonder if the Mayan end of times and the end of times according to Revelations drawing near?