Archive for the ‘sinner’ tag
Yesterday afternoon I went for a walk around the gated community within which I live, a place called “Sunshine Gardens” (Yang Guang Hua Yuan). To be fair, it is very much a place that deserves the name as the private homes and the public spaces in this community is mostly garden. As you can see in the photo, the word “sunshine” is also apt. The community within the exterior barriers, the face presented to those on the outside, is a different world. The exterior, for the most part, doesn’t have a “garden” look. Rather, it is mostly non-descript.
Outward appearances are important, but one must remember that these appearances are “contrived” and serve as a mask. I know that I am not that much different than Sunshine Gardens in the fact that I present an unimposing figure to the outer world, someone who is easily overlooked and ignored. And, this is something that feels comfortable for me after all the years where I stood out like a sore thumb in a smallish community as the principal of the community’s school. When I stood out, I drew negative heat and the positive energy of the community. I was both the hope and the scapegoat for the community, two roles that I resisted as much as possible as I feared being caught in the collective images of “self.”
But, so much of my inner world, my “Sunshine Gardens” is a mystery to me. My ego consciousness can only understand some of what is found within. My outer world is simple in comparison, a world that for the most part, is one of my own crafting that has been built stone by stone over the decades with each choice, and each omission of choice that has been made. I am not a victim of the world, never have been a victim of the world regardless of what I thought or believed. Rather, I was and remain, a living and breathing part of the whole.
I guess I could say that I have been a master builder of my ego and the personae that are met by the world. Yet for all of this skill, I know that I, the conscious self, am on shaky ground in assuming “I” am in control. There is something bigger than “I” at work.
“The invisible world governs the visible world, which is one of the reasons why it is so difficult to be wholly, or even partly, conscious. Every life is the enactment of not one story, but many. The story we consciously know, or believe we know, is seldom the whole story which is unfolding within us.” (Hollis, Mythologems, p.112)
Looking out my apartment window here in China I do get to see a different world than the world that appears through my window in my Canadian home. In today’s photo, a collector of cardboard has just picked up a load of spent fireworks’ boxes. There is rarely a day that goes by when there are no fireworks. Strangely, from my point of view, most of the fireworks occur during the daylight hours. The intention is different as is the intensity in comparison with the rare fireworks’ events I am familiar with in North America.
Trying to understand what is purpose of all the flash and noise here, I asked my university students about the reasons for the constant barrage which often makes one think that one is on a battlefield. Reasons were given that make sense: a new birth, a new business, a birthday, a new apartment, a marriage, a death. Anything that was viewed as a shift in the known world, a change, was marked by setting off fireworks and long strings of firecrackers.
Why? The best answer I can get is because of tradition. Reason has no role to play as the fireworks go up in noise and smoke. A layer of superstition lays buried underneath the modern veneer of the psyche. The noise is meant to frighten evil spirits leaving the way open and clear for good luck to rule in the affairs of men.
Thinking about it, I have to admit that I am not much different. I know that there are dark things waiting for an opportunity to make an appearance in my outer world and in the process make a mess of the illusions that I have crafted to be representative of the light aspects of myself. My persona is that of a kind and gentle man, one that is trusted and honourable. I am the teacher, trusted and valued. I work hard to maintain the illusion, to restrain the shadows that would deny the exclusivity of saintly Robert. I know that I can’t totally control these shadows, the ancient and primal darkness of man, so I seek quiet moments in privacy to acknowledge these shadows.
Denying the darkness didn’t work for me in the past. The more noise I made, the louder I protested their presence, the more they found a way to disgrace my presence among others. Now, the pressure has lessened as I have given up on trying to distract these shadows within with flash and noise. Now, I honor the shadows with an acknowledgement of their presence, of their being. I am both saint and sinner.
This photo was taken in a local church a few weeks ago. In reading the essay on spirituality and modern man, I thought it appropriate that one of the modern men of history was represented here. Jesus left the ground of the collective to open up a doorway to the future through being fully present during his time. He became the carrier of guilt for the collective. And in the process, a new myth was created, one in which humanity was given a new set of traditions that allowed people to unconscious in a more modern framework.
“An honest admission of modernity means voluntarily declaring oneself bankrupt, taking vows of poverty and chastity in a new sense, and – what is still more painful – renouncing the halo of sanctity which history bestows. Te be “unhistorical” is the Promethean sin, and in this sense the modern man is sinful. A higher level of consciousness is like a burden of guilt.” (Jung, The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man, Modern Man in Search of Soul, 1933)
Well, I don’t know about anyone else, but I am not ready to give up eating healthily, having access to you through this medium or having someplace secure to hold my bed. As for giving up the pleasures of sexual union? Not very likely. I might be getting older, but I still find the act of making love to be a taste of heaven.
As I read this chapter, I worry about how Jung’s words might be influencing my thinking about “modern man.” Before getting too far into the chapter I thought that I was perhaps somewhat along the path towards this destination. But now, how can I trust myself with what Jung says? I know that I am not a saint nor will I ever be a saint no matter how “saint-like” I have tried to be throughout most of my life. Yet, to claim to be a “sinner” and to “renounce the halo of sanctity” can be a back-handed way of asserting that I am a modern man. Sometimes I think that this journey should be made in a state of intellectual innocence.
And how does all of this influence you? Do my words and Jung’s words pull at you and tempt you to see yourself as a modern man or modern woman? I know Jung’s words tempt me, a temptation no less than that suffered by Jesus near the end of his time. Yet, in denying, do I do this out of some false humility, some sort of sneaky trick in order to have others proclaim me a modern man? It is too easy for me to become swelled with self-proclaimed importance, even if no one agrees with any such claim I would dare to make. And so I think that perhaps I should have left well enough alone and sat still here in silence leaving all of this left unsaid.
A recent photo taken near our town shows an American Widgeon male and female. The male is blurred however I decided to keep the photo rather than trashing is, something I typically do with blurred photos. Though blurred, the photo has meaning.
I guess the meaning for me is that life is often blurred. In almost all situations, there is little that is crystal clear – black or white. I get tired of listening to the certainty and clarity that many pronounce their “knowledge” their “truths.” I get wary when hearing simplistic black versus white statements. Yes, there is good and evil in the world. Yet, that good and evil is in all aspects of the world and in all humans. The more I try to live as a saint, the more pressure the sinner within exerts on me unconsciously. Knowing this, it stops being “us” versus “them” for me.
I get tired of hearing of someone having all the answers which are available if one studies this particular book or buys into that particular belief system. The answers aren’t out there. What is an answer for me can never be an answer for you. We each must carve our our own set of answers by “living the questions” that arise within us. I don’t trust gurus or their followers. Any real “individuated” person would be much too humble to take on a mana-personality to be a guru.