Archive for the ‘Santa Elena’ tag
As I walked through the Reserva Santa Elena on the mountain within Monteverde National Park, I found a number of different plants and a few birds. This fiddlehead was much larger than those I have found in the wilds of Québec, Ontario and Saskatchewan. In Canada, the fiddleheads were delicate things that promised a good meal if gathered in sufficient quantities, a special delicacy to be enjoyed at rare moments. This fiddlehead was huge. At first glance, it appeared to be branches unfolding on a tree.
In search of the symbolism behind the spiral and the fern, I came across this:
‘The spiral can be symbol of creation, however it is also a potent symbol of dissolution into chaos. The spiral spins both ways. Downward spirals represent the forces of entropy that are constantly working to instigate chaotic collapse.
Inevitably, these two spirals—the generative and the destructive—turn out to be one continuous cycle. Fiddlehead ferns dry up, fold in on themselves, and collapse back into the earth.”
Walking through the cloud forest with a light rain falling, it definitely felt like I had found myself in a place of both birth and death. There was no feeling of meaninglessness. I was taken in by the pregnant fullness of the place as though I was in a cathedral.
“Jung understood the collective unconscious to be nature itself but a nature in need of its greatest creation, the ego and its consciousness, to function on behalf of humanity. (L I, p. 283; L II p. 540; CW 5, par. 95, p. 62). It is often overlooked that in equating nature with the creative unconscious and understanding consciousness as its needed offspring, Jung is effectively containing within a vastly extended psyche both the totality of what is or can be as well as the human cognitive capacity to experience what is or can be. Needless to say this containment would extend to humanity’s experience of the divine. All of this is made explicit when he writes, “Not only does the psyche exist, it is existence itself.” CW 11, par. 18, p. 12. (Dourley, The Foundational Elements of a Jungian Spirituality, 2006.)
Nature as the creative unconscious as an unconscious source of all that is; this can be understood as a face of what we know as the divine. And I, and we as humans become the conscious expression of that divine. It is only through consciousness of its parts that the whole can come to consciousness. For me, it begins to make sense that the divine also embraces polarities. All that is light and all that is darkness, the conscious and the unconscious; all that is, was and all that isn’t yet – all are embraced in the divine. My experience of the divine becomes part of the divine. Perhaps this lies at the root of my pull to search, to write and to wonder.
I am bringing another photo from time spent in the cloud forest, a place where “wetness” seemed to be the “normal” condition. A place of shadows and muted dull colours, the cloud forest could have easily been a place in which to be depressed. Yet, in walking through the forest with eyes wide open, the cloud forest was also a place for new life.
This photo shows a delicate and life-affirming green that is found throughout the cloud forest, green that symbolizes hope. I guess that this is one way of looking at the photo. Another way would simply be an itemizing of objects and the relationship of objects to each other in space. Of course in such an objective study, there would be no room for symbolism, no room for “feeling tones.”
There is no doubt in my mind that to view the world ONLY through objectivity would be to miss much of the world. There is simply too much that happens than can ever be accounted for by simple cause and effect actions. And, as one learns as one goes through life, the total of anything is always greater than the sum of its parts.
Science, the home country of objective knowledge has already discovered this though it seems to be basically ignored.
“If we want to understand anything psychologically, we must bear in mind that all knowledge is subjectively conditioned. The world is not “objective” only; it is also as we see it. This is even truer of the psyche.” (Jung CW 3, par 397)
When it comes to being human, there is no possible way that we can ever “understand” anything without drawing upon subjectivity. We cannot see the world, or anything in it bypassing our individual filters and complexes. If there is any thought of being purely objective, then let a computer do all the “thinking” and “analyzing” and then structure and limit knowledge to the bits and pieces that life becomes reduced to in the process. There is no human that can be trusted not to consciously or unconsciously permit a subjective element to become involved. In studying anything in depth, one becomes part of what is being studies whether it be a long-lost tribe, a new medical procedure or a new model for economic governing of a society.
All one can do is look within and hopefully recognise the filters, the complexes that colour our thinking processes. Then, it would be best if we then declare to anyone we engage in converse about the filter, the resultant world-view from which we base our knowledge, our understandings of the world.
I am following up yesterday’s post about authenticity and photography in relation to C.G. Jung’s essay on Cryptomnesia which is found in Volume 1 of the Collected Works. I am probably an addict when it comes to photography having spent more than enough money on lenses and cameras and supporting materials over the past forty years. Now with having a couple of digital cameras at hand, I find myself taking about 10, 000 photos a year. Yes, I know, how do I find time to eat and sleep let alone write up these blog posts.
For me, photography has become an aide for writing, an excuse for writing even though no excuse is necessary. I have been writing even longer than I have been taking photographs, about fifty years worth of practice doing this. At some point you would think I should start getting something right. Well, if nothing else, I am saying what I want to say – my words, my thoughts, my creative efforts. I am really writing anything original? Or, am I plagiarizing, borrowing the words of others either consciously or unconsciously?
“The smallest parts of a master work are certainly always old, even the next largest, the combined units, are mostly taken over from somewhere else; and in the last resort a master will not scorn to incorporate whole chunks of the past in a new work. Our psyche is not so fabulously rich that it can build from scratch each time. Neither does nature . . . she builds laboriously on what has gone before.” Jung, CW 1, par 178)
I can understand this better in looking at this photo where a spider has built a pattern that has been repeated endlessly, built in locations that are typical and likely to be rewarded with food. That said, the cobweb here is unique even if it uses a pattern that has been woven repeatedly over thousands of years. Writing isn’t much different is it? Sure we use words that have been said before, written before, even whole sentences and stories. Yet, in re-presenting these words in a new container with an attempt to explain something of our thinking, of our understanding, of our need, of our dreams; we create something new based on the old. Jung goes on to say:
“This process in the world at large is repeated in the smaller world of language: few novel combinations, nearly all of it old fragments taken over from somewhere. We speak the words and sentences learnt from parents, teachers, books; anyone who talks fastidiously, whether because he has a gift for languages or because he takes pleasure in it, talks “like a book” – the book he has just been reading; he repeats rather larger fragments than do other people. The ordinary decent person either doesn’t not talk that way or openly admits where he got it from. But if somebody reproduces a sentence eight lines long verbatim from somebody else, we cannot, it is true, peremptorily shut the mouths of those who cry “Plagiarism!” – for as a matter of fact plagiarisms do occur – but neither need we immediately drop the person to person to whom this misfortune happens. For, when nature instituted the faculty of remembrance, she did not tie herself exclusively to the possibility of direct and indirect memories; she also gave, to clever and foolish alike, the power of crytomnesia.” Jung, CW 1, par 179)
For those of you, like me, who write, this should ease the fear that one is somehow going to be caught for plagiarism for unwittingly writing a sentence we hear decades ago or read in a book at some point in the distant past. Just as an aside, I just did a “Google” search of the words in italics (as a single complete unit) and found that these words have noted in 2,880 hits. So much for a unique sentence phrase though I have not read a single one of these web postings. Plagiarism is a “deliberate” use of someone else’s words, a “conscious” decision, for the purposes of personal gain whether that gain be monetary, status, marks, or simply to gain a measure of esteem in the eyes of another. The rest? Well, it is covered as being due to the power of cyptomnesia.
So, it is with a sigh of relief that I return to wondering aloud about the world and my self through a Jungian lens.
There is a particular reason I love taking photographs. That reason? There is a sense of clarity for me in the fact that the photo, as a work of art, as a journalistic proof, or as a psychological statement, is uniquely mine. It isn’t something borrowed, something stolen, something to worry about in terms of copyright when I publish the photo.
Take this photo for example. It contains leaves, raindrops, traces of cobwebs and branches and berries. Likely as scene like this has been taken countless times since the invention of cameras and has been drawn countless times before and since the invention of cameras. However, this particular scene has only been photographed once. Any attempt to reproduce (copy) this scene would result in a failure as the scene itself would have changed making it impossible to reproduce.
My wife often asks why I take so many photos and many of them being of similar scenes. The only thing I can say is that I always take unique photos. Even when I take a dozen photos of an object in a short space of time, each photo is distinct as something shifts. Nothing is static. This is no different that considering one’s self.
Who and what I am at this moment is different than the self that existed only moments ago before these words were entered through the keyboard onto this page. The self that existed following the act of this writing is different from the version of self that now exists following the act of creating this blog.
This is important information to know. It lets us know that we are truly never stuck. It may appear as though we are spinning our wheels and going nowhere, but that is a fallacy. We may be repeating the same sets of behaviours but the repetitions are constantly changing as the situation and the people surrounding these behaviours are also constantly changing. Realising this, I have no worries about reading and re-reading the words of others such as C.G. Jung as each time I read their words, I hear-see-understand differently.
Teachers understand this as we are taught to teach using a spiral system for knowledge acquisition. We progressively up the levels of difficulty of basic concepts which are visited and revisited as children travel through the education system. Each time we backtrack hoping to re-connect in the process with a variety of students who had learned some of the content or processes in the past. Picking up students along the way we then continue the journey of learning a few steps forward until we again start losing students who have met their “learning wall” for that moment in time. We know that there will be another circuit in the future to re-capture and re-new as the learning journey goes forward into newer territories.
I have finished the first two books of Daryl Sharp’s trilogy called Jung Uncorked. I had thought to go on with book three which is sitting immediately in front of me for different reasons. First, I respect Daryl Sharp’s approach and knowledge as a classical Jungian analyst. Second, it is the only book left on hand here in Costa Rica for me to use. Yes, I know that I can order and download e-books by other Jungian writers, but why when this book is so close to hand? And finally, I want to see what more I can understand as Daryl resonates with the words of Jung and as I resonate with both Jung’s words and Daryl’s words.
Yet, in doing this, I tread into unclear waters in terms of writing unique words, my words. I know that almost nothing I write is original; all is framed in my prior readings, prior interactions verbally and in the glut of media that inform and entertain. That said, my words are still mine. How I present them, how I choose expressions and the motive and context of those expressions are unique, just as unique as the photos I take. So, I journey on here, a journey I share with all who read these words.
“You are alone and you are confronted with all the demons of hell. That is what people don’t know. Then they say you have an anxiety neurosis, nocturnal fears, compulsions – I don’t know what. Your soul has become lonely; it is extra ecclesiam [outside the Church] and in a state of no-salvation. And people don’t know it. They think your condition is pathological, and every doctor helps them to believe it. . . But it is neurotic talk when one says that this is a neurosis. As a matter of fact it is something quite different; it is the terrific fear of loneliness. It is the hallucination of loneliness, and it is loneliness that cannot be quenched by anything else. You can be a member of society with a thousand members, and you are still alone. That thing in you which should live is alone; nobody touches it, nobody knows it, you yourself don’t know it; but it keeps on stirring, it disturbs you, it makes you restless, and it gives you no peace.” (Jung, CW 18, par 632)
I imagine you know this feeling if you are reading this. You know that pills and therapy somehow don’t really get it fixed as there is no search for the roots, only an attempt to deal with symptoms. And the results have been an abysmal failure for the world of psychologists, psychiatrists and psychotherapists. Hillman is correct in saying that with more than a hundred years of professional practice, we have not done any good, perhaps only having succeeded in making a bad situation worse for the individuals and for the others with whom those individuals come into contact.
Midlife crisis. What to do? Get pills? Get a new car? Get involved in a series of affairs? Step up the pace and acquire even more money and things? See a shrink? Take up yoga or martial arts? Run marathons and ultra-marathons? There are innumerable strategies to keep busy in the outer world in order to avoid that inner loneliness. Who would ever think that perhaps it is by going within to meet with the shadows that we find that we aren’t alone anymore, that we can recover a sense of who we are and a sense of meaning in an otherwise meaningless world.
Is there hope? Yes there is. I have hope and I have a sense of purpose and meaning and it is through beginning to live a symbolic life that this transformation has occurred. I have become re-connected to my “self” and in the process have allowed my soul a breath of fresh air. And, like this little bird, I am ready to emerge from behind the scenery into full life again.
This is a beautiful bird that I managed somehow to capture with my camera even though it was raining. I was on the balcony of a backpacker’s hostel in Santa Elena when I took the photo. For this fellow, the ordinary is not what appears to be the norm. He is flamboyant, almost cheerful with his life, bowing down before whatever it is in life that makes one rejoice in being alive knowing that one has a life with meaning and purpose.
Okay, so that is stretching it a bit, but this is about active imagination as I’ve mentioned many times. These photos are symbolic, evocative and resonant for me. I look at life through my lens, both the camera lens and that which is within me that filters all that comes in. For me, the inner lens sees a world that is framed in Jungian ideas. The camera simply frames what “I” see and how “I” see it. The process is more a symbolic quest for me as I rummage through the clutter, cobwebs and ghosts of the unconscious; for me this is a quest for life.
For me, there is no straight line of facts and figures, no template to follow in order to uncover a life that has meaning. It seems that each time I try to follow a trail that already is in place, someone else’s trail, I get lost and need to retrace my steps back until I find a familiar place. Then, knowing that it is painful to have to backtrack, defeated, I start to inch forward again making sure that the trail I follow is one that I forge, one that my intuition and gut tells me is the right one for me. Not doing this would leave me desperate, fearful of being lost; not lost in space and time, but lost to my soul.
“You see, man is in need of a symbolic life – badly in need. We only live banal, ordinary, rational or irrational things – which are naturally also within the scope of rationalism, otherwise you could not call them irrational. But we have no symbolic life. Where do we live symbolically? Nowhere, except where we participate in the ritual of life. But who, among the many, are really participating in the ritual of life? Very few.” (Jung, CW 18, par 625)
Now I understand my need to escape the paths taken by others, it is more about the need to participate in a symbolic life. Following the worn pathways leaves one in a meaningless rut. Yes, we try hard to construct meaning from our careers, from the lives of our children and/or grandchildren, from our investments and from our social position. Some expend a lot of effort and money to rebuild a home, to renovate, to upgrade, to beautify according to the latest fashion journal only to feel that once done, they are again missing something forcing them to reinvest more and more of doing the same thing hoping for different results. These are lives of quiet desperation, banal lives. I am lucky. I retired and now have the time and will to follow a different path. This is the greatest gift to me thanks to living through a midlife crisis.
Two leaves from the same plant. though they are joined, they are giving every indication of growing apart. I initially took the photo because of the contrast of colours between the leaves, a splash of colour in an almost dreary green-blue sea drenched in rain and darkened by the forest and the clouds. I noted how the red-brown leaf looked so healthy while the green leaf tinged with brown looks unhealthy. That said, I know that beneath the colours, both are struggling. I have the feeling that the green one will be falling off before the brown one. Somehow, no matter how linked both are together, the partnership can’t hold together. Sometimes there are problems with togetherness.
Togetherness. “One heart and one soul.” That is the typical fantasy-thinking during courtship, and it can last even longer than the honeymoon. But as time goes on, it becomes clear that life is not always what we want it to be. (Sharp, Jung Uncorked: Book Two, 2008, pp 93-94)
Now, having put in a lot of years together, united in the task of parenting and building careers, social position, and a home; there is an expectation that one is owed for the work. And one looks to the other for payment. What is that payment? To somehow become once again that person they originally married; to do less is a betrayal. Both remember the “real person” they married and the “feelings” that were born. Here is a song by Tim McGraw that still is played frequently on the radio. In a way, this song mirrors my story.
At a crowded restaurant way cross town, he waited impatiently
When she walked in, their eyes met,
And they both stared
Right there and then,
Everyone else disappeared, but
One boy, one girl,
Two hearts beating wildly,
To put it mildly, it was love at first sight.
He smiled, she smiled, and they knew right away
This was the day they’d been waiting for all their lives.
For a moment the whole world
Revolved around one boy, and one girl
In no time at all, they were standing there in the front of a little church
Among their friends and family, repeating those sacred words.
The preacher said “son, kiss your bride”
And he raised her veil
Like the night they met,
Time just stood still, for
He was holding her hand when the doctor looked up and grinned,
One boy, one girl
Two hearts beating wildly
To put it mildly, it was love at first sight.
He smiled, she smiled, and they knew right away
This was the day they’d been waiting for all their lives,
And for a moment the whole world,
Revolved around one boy, and one girl
Yet, now both have changed. both have matured, both have had time clear some of the projected magic from their eyes. Little did they know that now that the children have grown up and have moved on to make homes of their own, that they would have to “work” to build something new in terms of relationship. Yesterday’s post left me with a question or two about the container and the contained, how both somehow became the other, and with the question of one being complicated and one being simple. I guess it goes back to the projections where the opposite nature becomes the hook. So, I turn again to Jung for more:
Since the more complicated has perhaps a greater need of being contained that the other, he feels himself outside the marriage and accordingly always plays the problematical role. The more the contained clings, the more the container feels shut out of the relationship. The contained pushes into it by her clinging, and the more she pushes, the less the container is able to respond. He therefore tends to spy out the window, no doubt unconsciously at first, but with the onset of middle age their awakens in him a more insistent longing for that unity and undividedness which is especially necessary to him on account of his dissociated nature. At this juncture things are apt to occur that bring the conflict to a head. (Jung, CW 17, par 333)
The container needs to be contained. The contained must learn to become a container. Both must become whole, conscious of their nature, conscious of their need and to be willing to allow life to be lived differently in their relationship. I am a container and need to be contained. And, I am contained.
Sitting here at the keyboard, I am reminded of the words of a villa neighbour, an American single male in midlife, one of many such men here in Costa Rica who has one central goal remaining, to find a good woman to spend the rest of his life with, to find a good woman to take care of him, to be his container.
A bench found on the mountain path through the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve appears as though it hasn’t been used in quite a long time. As I walked the mountain paths over a distance of perhaps eight kilometres, there were three benches placed for those who felt they needed a time out from the strenuous trek going up and down the path as it wound around the mountain.
I will admit to doing a bit of touch up to the photo, a reduction of contrast as well as reducing colour saturation in order to come closer to the feeling and reality of the scene as I remember it. Sometimes the camera lies when it records a scene, giving more contrast or richer colours in one instance or removing contrast, shadows or the richness of colours.
What the eyes see is not always what the lens sees. What one person sees is not the same as what another person sees either. And, as I learn as the years pass, what I have seen at one point in time changes over time, not because the scene has changed, but because I have changed. This is true about seeing people as much as it is about seeing things.
Since this is my experience, I wonder about the experience of others. For example, I know that my children saw me as someone quite large in life. Yet, over the years, that vision has been replaced as those children grew into adults. Now, I am a much smaller person in physical size. As well as the way I am seen by my children, there is the question as to how I am seen by my partner, the woman I married almost forty years ago. There is no doubt in my mind that over the years I have become more of a stranger that a constant familiar presence. In my mind, both of these examples can be seen in a positive light. My children now look at me from the position of being adults, my wife now sees me as a complex and real person while living her own complexity. For all of us, the lens has changed.
I return to the subject of relationships, that as found between men and women, relationships that could be characterised as marriages. Typically, a relationship has one partner be the container and the other partner being the contained. This works well until midlife when the rules change:
Middle life is the moment of greatest unfolding, when a man still gives himself to his work with his whole strength and his whole will. But in this very moment evening is born, and the second half of life begins. Passion now changes her face and is called duty; “I want” becomes the inexorable “I must,” and the turnings of the pathway that once brought surprise and discovery become dulled by custom. (Jung, CW 17, par. 331)
At this moment, this entry into midlife, the lens through which we view and understand the world has also changed. And, with the change of the lens, what had been familiar and comfortable now becomes less comfortable. Above, I mentioned that in each marriage one is the container and the other is the contained. Well, that is true to a certain extent, but in reality both partners become both.
It is an almost regular occurrence for a woman to be wholly contained spiritually in her husband, and for a husband to be wholly contained, emotionally, in his wife. One could describe this as the problem of the “contained” and the “container.” (Jung, CW 17, par 331)
Both are containers, both are contained. I could easily see how this becomes a problem, especially as the lens changes in midlife. I will draw more on Jung to clarify this business of container and contained. But as I draw on his words, it is important to realise that references to the male and the female can easily be switched. Gender has no ownership to a specific relationship that of being either container or contained.
The one who is contained feels himself to be living entirely within the confines of the marriage; his attitude to the marriage partner is undivided; outside the marriage there exist no essential obligations and no binding interests. . . . The great advantage lies in his own undividedness, and this is a factor not to be underrated in the psychic economy. (Jung, CW 17, par 332)
Yikes! This is as close to a personal portrait as I could ever find in terms of relationship and containment within my marriage. The problem for any marriage with this is the building up of need in terms of dependence. Fears, not based on anything in the outer world, but based on one’s shadow, cause one to cling to the other, the container unreasonably. That fear manifests in a heightened sense of insecurity, fear that at any moment the reciprocal love of the partner who is the container will disappear and with the disappearance of that love, the disappearance of the partner. It’s as though one begins grieving long before an ending. But what about the container?
The container, on the other hand, who in accordance with his tendency to dissociation has an especial need to unify himself in undivided love for another, will be left far behind in this effort, which is naturally very difficult for him, by the simpler personality. While he is seeking in the latter all the subtleties and complexities that would complement and correspond to his own facets, he is disturbing the other’s simplicity. . . . And soon enough his partner, who in accordance with her simpler nature expects simple answers from him, will give him plenty to do by constellating his complexities with her everlasting insistence on simple answers. Willynilly, he must withdraw into himself before the suasions of simplicity. . . . The simpler nature works on the more complicated like a roon that is too small, that does not allow him enough space. The complicated nature, on the other hand, gives the simpler one too many rooms with too much space, so that she never knows where she really belongs. So it comes about quite naturally that the more complicatexd contains the simpler. (Jung, CW 17, par 333)
There is so much here, so much to say, so much to chew on. I guess I will have to return to this theme again in the next post so that I can say what I need to say. I want to find out more about container and contained about simple and complicated …