Archive for the ‘Sony DSC-H5’ tag
I took this older photo from 2006 in order to continue the series about naturism. But before I go further, I want to be upfront and say that in this series of photos, judicious cropping has led to the illusion of my being fully in my own skin. It’s not true. I cropped the swim wear in each photo to give an illusion. Obviously in each photo I was not alone and someone else was taking the photographs with my camera. And because of the fact of the presence of another person, I find myself, like the vast majority of North Americans, uncomfortable in my own skin concerned about my less than perfect body. I wouldn’t think of going “au naturel.” And so, I ask myself “Why?”
Well, I have convinced myself that it is “selfish” of me to not care about the sensibilities of others. I have told myself that I would embarrass those closed to me in any given situation, embarrass strangers that would accidentally see me. Being seen unclothed in a public place, even at a beach in Mexico, Cuba or elsewhere would be an intrusion into the space of others, an assault on their own concepts of self and others. And as I continue to think about it, there appear many layers of “reasons” for my feeling uncomfortable in my own skin when others are present. I want to include a few words here that I found on another site while researching the psychological aspects of naturism:
“Progressively, over the centuries, society has developed the use of clothing as a mask. Clothing was originally used and designed to protect people from the elements of heat and cold, to stop themselves from getting burned or frozen. It was also used as a method of adornment to enhance attractiveness and for ritual and ceremonial reasons. In the latter centuries, people developed a cultural dependency on clothing. Clothes became a mask and a prop for perceived personality and character deficiencies.
“We frequently see people who would not be seen dead without their clothing on. Clothing is often used to portray an image that is different from the person’s perceived inner deficiencies. It is a form of artificiality or masking that they outwardly project to cover up any personality or emotional defects they think they have. People tend to feel that by hiding behind clothing they can metaphorically cover themselves and deny others exposure to the inner-self they perceive to be crippled. The need to do this most commonly occurs in people with low self-esteem.” (Naked Beneath Your Clothing)
Again, the masking of the self, the portraying of an image that would be more socially acceptable, one that would leave me safely protected from the collective. I know that I have a lot of scars and messy aspects and I desperately want to hide them so that others will like me. I hide my true self. But that hiding can only go on so long before one is forced to expose one’s true self. I have no issue with seeing others in their own skin, something which isn’t so rare in other countries such as India, and in IndoChina. Seeing others in their own skin in North America is also not an issue for me other than me berating myself for lacking the courage these others demonstrate in being comfortable in their own skin.
The journey of individuation forces one to become honest with one’s self, and in turn, that leads to a transparency that forces one to be honest with others. I am not really there yet though I yearn to be there, need to be there in order to feel whole, to feel a sense of real holiness. This blog space is one place where I feel a real sense of safety, especially in allowing my inner self to be more transparent. The journey continues.
I love the play of light on this Tiger Lily which I photographed in June, 2008. The flower garden is several weeks behind its normal development this year and the Tiger Lily plants are not even close to ready for flowering. Even though one gets used to a certain rhythm for the garden, nature decides differently at times. Before deciding to use this photo for today’s post, I had to check through the archives of the posts here to see if somehow I had already used the photo. This was a time consuming task that led me to start another task, that of building a photo log for this blog site. I guess I never thought that this blog site would become as long-lasting as it has, nor that I would post as often as I have. Since I have well over 500 posts with some of them having more than one photo, I can’t trust to memory when dipping into the photo archives. Back in the seventies when I was quite active with photography, I would make notes on my contact sheets of photos printed for various purposes. The switch to digital photography changed these good habits into a basic state of laissez faire – laziness. Now that I envision the longer term survival of this blog site, I now realise the need to do the work of logging the photos into a new version of contact sheets. Oh well, since it is a rainy, dull day, it will be a good way to pass some of my time.
On another topic, the SoFoBoMo project is now on but I still have yet to take a photo. My personal photo project will begin sometime in the next ten days if all goes well. I still have yet commit to a specific theme. That will come with the photo opportunities that present themselves. This is “holding the tension” at work in the field of photography.
Now, after all the distractions, I want to return to the photo. The image is definitely one that celebrates light. For me that light is symbolic of consciousness and of the best parts of myself as a man. Yet the image also talks to me about fragility and transience. I think about how I wrap myself in various cloaks to mask the dank interior of who I think I am. In the outer world others see me wearing various personae and make judgments based on the limited, cleaned up versions of self that I present. Little do others know about the truth of who I really am. Honestly, I even have a difficult time plumbing the depths to get an honest look at self.
I had thought that once I had passed through the crisis of midlife that I would become more honest with myself and others. But, I find myself returning, over and over again, to being as lost and confused as before the crisis. It’s as though I must continually go through that painful process like some hamster on a wheel in a cage.
“So a man, during the Middle Passage, has to become a child again, face he fear that power masks, and ask the old questions anew. They are simple questions: ”What do I want? What do I feel? What must I do to feel right with myself?” Few modern men allow themselves the luxury of such questions. So they trudge off to work and dream of retiring to play golf on some Elysian Field, hopefully before the heart attack arrives. Unless he can humbly ask these simple questions and allow his heart to speak, he has no chance whatsoever. He is bad company for himself and others.” (Hollis, The Middle Passage, p. 55)
Ouch! I remember reading these words fifteen years ago. Even then the words were powerful, so powerful that I was moved to highlight them in the book. Yet, today now that I am retired and I am golfing, I find that I have yet to deal with these questions. I hear them echo, over and over again, sometimes quite loudly. Yet, I put my head down, take out my hearing aids and pretend that this life I lead is enough. I know better though I deny it to myself. Those around me know better though I deny it to myself. And, I am quite certain, a number of you, my readers, also know the truth of this. So, when will I dare myself to listen and attempt to answer truthfully?
This is another photo from the past which I found again and wanted to bring forward to share with you. I took this photo in June, 2008 and thought that this would be a good way to begin June posts here. The fence pictured here is one that I built to define my property. The rose belongs to a plant that was on the neighbour’s, side of the fence. Rather than push the blossom back to the other side of the fence where it belonged, I propped a rock along the opening so that the rose would find support. This rose, a solitary stranger, became a treasured visitor.
The image is a powerful one for me. The fence was much the same as the fence I continue to build and rebuild in my own psyche as I continually try to define myself. That idea is basic to all of us. We build fences beginning at an early age, trying to carve out a space for “self” from the confusing and many times overwhelming mass of everything. I see this in my grandchildren who have moved from infants of need to become distinct little people. The fences we build are multi-functional fences.
We also build fences to protect ourselves from our neighbours, especially those that threaten our sense of physical and psychic safety. We build fences that present a various outer faces of ourselves to the outer world. We build fences to prop up the wounded interior. And we build fences to contain the dark elements within that threaten to escape and replace our conscious sense of self. Yet, for all of these fences, stuff leaks out and stuff sneaks in.
This rose is an example, one that suggests that some of the stuff that makes it way passed the barrier is good, but with the proviso that one realises that all that appears good has a dark side as well. A rose does have thorns.
The photo also reflects the entrance of “other” in the guise of “anima” into the “self.” As a man, I built a world that was contained within boundaries of my sense of who I was as far as my consciousness would allow. In my outer life, anima found its holder in a woman that, like this rose, found her way through the porous fence surrounding my self. Of course I didn’t know that the walls were porous at all. I thought I was secure in my independence. But, consciousness is never complete – there are always holes.
With the entrance of the rose, the inner yard becomes more complete as it adds something that was missing even without the knowledge that something was missing. With the presence of anima cloaked in a woman, I became aware of another dimension of my self. And the continued presence of that woman continually pushes me to grow more conscious not only of self, but of other and of relationship to other.
This is a bay that I found on walking the shoreline of Lake Diefenbaker, a flooded section of the South Saskatchewan River near Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park. The hills in the background look the same as the hills I see from my living room windows though they are a different set of hills. The scene is about 65 kilometres from my home. Between my place and this recreational area are scattered farms and a small community of less than 500 people. This is a land that somehow doesn’t encourage people to stay in spite of its beauty, a beauty that is overlooked.
Personally, I am a forest, trees, small meadows, streams, rivers and lakes kind of guy when I am not hugging an ocean shoreline. I find myself at home in the woods. Yet, I recognize a need for connection to people, a need for relationships. In that context, I would have to say I am a city person rather than a small rural town person. In the city there is a better chance that I can maintain my privacy yet have the opportunity to converse with someone on topics that I find interesting and stimulating. It’s interesting that somehow I find myself living in the semi-desert country where trees are scarce, where water is scarce and where people are scarce. Not only does this contradict how I understand myself, but I am also allergic to the grasses, alfalfa, poplar trees and dust that form the ecosystem of the prairies. All that said, here I am wandering rare shorelines naked of trees with no human visible as far as I can see, which is quite far indeed. This is quite the paradox. Why? The answer is actually quite simple – there is a woman . . .
“At this point the fact forces itself on my attention that beside the field of reflection there is another equally broad if not broader area in which rational understanding and rational modes of representation find scarcely anything they are able to grasp. This is the realm of Eros. In classical times, when such things were properly understood, Eros was considered a god whose divinity transcended our human limits, and who therefore could be neither comprehended nor represented in any way. I might, as many before me have attempted to do, venture an approach to this daimon, whose range of activity extends from the endless spaces of the heavens to the dark abysses of hell; but I falter before the task of finding the language which might adequately express the incalculable paradoxes of love.” (Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, p. 353)
I took this photo late last spring when my grandsons were visiting. I had thought of how this photo would be good for this blog site in terms of camouflage, but in letting the photo sit, a different reason has sort of come to the surface. Camouflage seals with masks, hiding what is present in order to protect. Now, I want to look at the bird that is within. What is hidden behind the mask?
Of course, in this case it is a bird waiting for the right moment when it can be born into the outer world. In our human condition, this is often the case as well. We build a shell around ourself, somewhat like a cocoon so that we are protected in our local community. At some point, one has to break out of the cocoon in order to become more than the possibility that lies within the cocoon.
“The bird is struggling out of the egg. The egg is the world. Whoever wants to be born must first destroy a world.” ( Hesse, Damian, as translated by W. J. Strachan)
Yes, there is some destruction in going forward. There are deaths as we cast off the old for the new. There are also possibilities that are destroyed in making a choice to follow one path versus another path. Doing nothing also destroys worlds, the worlds of “what might have been.”
So, as I looked at this egg, I knew that this perfect world within a world would soon be destroyed whether or not a bird would emerge to begin a new life, to create new possibilities and prepare the cycle again in the creation of new life in new eggs, either as father or mother. Should the bird not emerge, that perfect world would be destroyed none-the-less. There is something vital to learn from this and apply it to our own lives. As the old saying goes:
“We are damned if we do; and, we’re damned if we don’t.” Not to choose, not to be conscious is a choice with its own versions of hell.
I am posting this photo I took on my birthday in 2006, a month before leaving Canada to teach at a university in China. I will let the photo speak for itself about alchemical transitions. For me, this was a moment of rebirth as though I was rising out of the ashes of retirement into a state of personal freedom. Enjoy!
I got this photo from the Forestry Farm in Saskatoon in early June of 2008. The birds are free to leave, but somehow stay. Interesting. This particular bird seems to be focused on looking at its own reflection in the water. Of course, this is all projection as birds are not humans and don’t have human hang-ups. I took this photo just because the scene evokes a feeling of peace and beauty.
In another way, the photo makes me think of ego. Superficially, we often think that looking at self and becoming focused on self is a negative trait. Yet when one really thinks about it, the ego is all we really know. Looking in the mirror isn’t necessarily an act of vanity, it may just as easily be an act of self criticism. What one sees in the mirror isn’t always what is really being reflected by the mirror. When we don’t see ourselves as is really being reflected, our sight is being affected by personal and collective unconscious factors. More from Hollis on the theme:
“. . . life is enacted on three levels simultaneously: consciousness, the personal unconscious and the archetypal or collective unconscious. We vest much significance in our status as conscious beings, perhaps because consciousness is so hard won and because it constitutes the known. But the ego, the center of consciousness, is a thin wafer floating on an immense ocean. We all know this, intuitively and experientially, when we sleep or are stormed by uncontrollable complexes. But we seldom give sufficient weight to what courses within, think, perhaps, that what we do not know will not hurt us. This is worth repeating: what we do not know, controls us.” (Hollis, Under Saturn’s Shadow, 1994, p. 29)
This is some heavy stuff. What we don’t know, controls us. It makes me think of the debate happening around issues of privacy in this age of Internet. For example, the illusion we have that “only” friends, people we have authorised access, can see what we post on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter or other similar spaces. Another example is this blog site. Privacy is an illusion. Cyberspace becomes more and more like the collective unconscious where the mass of humanity is floating beneath the surface.
What lies beneath the surface of this pond? What lies beneath the surface of identity and perceptions we have of others and self?
These two photos are separated by time. The photo of the sun was taken in January of this year and the photo of the moon was taken in July, 2008 with my older camera which has since been passed down to one of my children. Of the many photos taken of both sun and moon, these are the two that have the greatest alchemical feel for me, the greatest pull to the inner world in which I can travel in search of a stronger sense of self, of a fuller consciousness.
Consciousness requires as its necessary counterpart a dark, latent non-manifest side, the unconscious, whose presence can be known only by the light of consciousness. Just as the day-star rises out of the nocturnal sea, so, ontogenetically and phylogenetically, consciousness is born of unconsciousness and sinks back every night to this primal condition. This duality of our psychic life is the prototype and archetype of the Sol-Luna symbolism. So much did the alchemist sense the duality of his unconscious assumptions that, in the face of all astronomical evidence, he equipped the sun with a shadow. (Jung, CW 14 par 117)
You can see the descent of the sun (Sol) into the sea of unconsciousness, the realm of darkness in which the moon (Luna) can be seen, only because of the reflected light of an apparent absent sun. This descent into darkness is found as a descent into unconsciousness on a personal level where I drift from the state of being awake and conscious of life around and in me, into a state of sleep where my consciousness is set aside so that the unconscious can do its essential work so that the psyche, my psyche, can attain some semblance of balance. It is through dreams that the unconscious communicates in a manner that is like walking through a hall of mirrors that distort the reflections of the unconscious contents as to be confronted directly with the unconscious contents would likely result in madness, my madness. But then again, perhaps all is madness in its own way.
This will be the last of the Changzhou, China photos in this series of posts. I have chosen this photo of the canal along Jinling Lu heading towards the centre of the city. From my apartment to the city centre was a walk of seven kilometres, something I was willing to do as it allowed me to see so much. Often I would take different routes to the city centre. As you can see, Changzhou has a very modern face as well as the scenes of deconstruction.
It is only to be expected that the collective consciousness and unconsciousness is found in the individual. A close study of one’s environment can reveal aspects of self that have been lost to conscious awareness. Individually, we move forward. Each of us is unique and as we struggle to become more aware of ourselves and our communities and the world at large, we do so in relation to others.
We exist in relation though we only ‘know,’ somewhat, ourselves. We are in relation to the land, water, sky and the elements. That relation has its own history that shows in our phobias as well as in our passions. We are in relation to community and family. Again, our lived history as well as the history of siblings, parents and other extended family members which are still in the collective memory of the family and the community. Both polarities of positive and negative are alive within the community as well as within ourselves.
We move through this towards a better sense of self always aware that the crystal clear picture of self we project is reflected in such a way as to let us know that this picture is hazy at best as there will always be so much that will remain unconscious with enough of these unconscious contents at the edges hinting that all isn’t as it seems.
As I wandered the lanes of an older section of Changzhou, a part of the city that was being razed in order to make way for more modern buildings that would hold more people, I wandered inside a number of the old broken buildings and discovered remnants of lives lived, little snapshots of families that used to call these places home. And looking out from within these buildings I saw the world differently.
It’s not much different when on a journey through the dark, inner swamplands. Seemingly locked in the darkness, battling unseen powerful forces, one is able to glimpse some of the scene of the outer world. That outer world is framed in black, is somehow surrounded by shadow a collective and personal unconsciousness. A path exists that leads from the swamplands of soul back into the outer world, but that path is not a smooth road, it is a broken road, a road that is littered and crumbling with all the fears and detritus of one’s psyche.
It is only by turning to look at the shadows, the shifting presences within, that one loosen the power of those shadows and shapes. It is only by examinintg all that has been banished within, that one is freed from their power, a power magnified when denied. It isn’t much different from the outer world. The power of attraction is increased when one tries to deny the attraction, not lessened. In honouring the attraction and seeing it for what it is in reality, one is finally able to look with perspective, to feel with perspective. The shadows and shapes within become less powerful, less controlling as we honour their existence and place within us.
In doing this work, we are able to move back towards the outer world as a participant rather than as a broken victim and refugee suffering from an inner world battleground, suffering from what is really no different from the Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome experience by a soldier broken by war in an outer world battleground.