Archive for the ‘Sony DSC-H50’ tag
I took this photo from my archives, a photo I took in September of 2006 not long after my first teaching term in China had just gotten underway. I was walking down a street that was “traditional old China” as far as my eyes could tell as the buildings were old and so many had already been demolished as there was a concerted effort to clean up the old in order to bring in the new, tall modern apartment buildings that would hold many more people. The reason I bring this photo here today has to do with my journeys today on both bus and rapid transit train.
It began as I headed into the core of Calgary where I was to have today’s session with my analyst. As I sat down on my seat, I saw a young father and his three year old daughter sit across from me. In my usual “grandfatherly” manner, I smiled at the little girl and she smiled back. For the duration of the trip into the city, she continued to look at me, trying various facial expressions as a way to try and keep me looking at her, acknowledging her presence. A few seats further down the bench, a woman in her forties also gave me a number of glances which I acknowledged – again, an “I see you and acknowledge you” kind of non-verbal communication. Later, on my way back home, a young mother and her child sat in front of me on the bus for the last leg of my return trip. The child saw me, smiled, then hid in her mother’s arms. Just two bus stops later, this young family got up to leave the bus. As she was leaving, the little girl being held in her mother’s arms continued to wave good-bye to me which of course had me waving in return.
This isn’t much of a story, but it is interesting to me as I am learning to shift how I see myself in terms of how others see me, to a more authentic understanding of my self. Like every other human, I had to learn that I even existed as something separate from my mother. Like everyone else, that awful knowledge sent me scrambling to find a way back, back into the original state where I was at one with the universe, not separate from mother or father or the universe. And like everyone else, I took that frantic need for connection into the world where I then projected my unconscious need for re-union onto those who somehow twigged the possibility of relationship.
Now that I am older and have slowed down enough to actually start to see what I have been doing unconsciously, I am given the opportunity and choice of releasing my projections and allowing the reality of the others in my life to emerge as separate beings. And that in turn, allows me to learn more about myself.
“If we are to understand ourselves and our time, we are obliged to adopt this essentially psychological view of the world. This is not to speak for any specific theory or behavioral treatment, but rather the need to internalize our responsibility, to see the silent origin of choice within, before we can move through the outer world with understanding, effectiveness and perhaps compassion for self and others.” (Hollis, Tracking the Gods, p. 51)
Hollis talks about “silent choices,” choices which I understand to be more binding that “voiced choices” for we are more apt to be honest in our silence. For myself, I am learning to be self responsible in terms of self regard and self knowledge. The more I learn about myself, the less I then project of those unknown parts of myself.
But, as I said earlier, this is my task in this last half of my life. For young people such as I met on my journey today, the responsibility is different, that of exploring the world and using a child’s resources to label the discoveries of the day as either positive (gives some measure of pleasure and happiness) or negative (eliciting a fear response). For a child needs to use the outer world as a mirror in order to place self in context with the larger world, and perhaps more importantly as a means of determining the worth and nature of self. Curious in more ways than one.
This image was captured in one of the many caves that I was able to explore in the Yucatan, one of the caves that became part of Mayan culture and survival. It was interesting learning about how the Mayans used these caves for escape as various threats that had appeared, threats such as the invasion by the Spanish during the 1500s. The rugged terrain pockmarked by holes which fell into deep caves, often containing pools of water that were fed from underground rivers as well as from rainwater, effectively allowed the Mayans to “go to ground.”
As my recent posts have been indicating, I have spiritually gone underground. This image is a good representation of just what I mean, especially if you look at the bottom right-hand side where, just above the field of light that is on the floor of the cave, what looks like a man in pale green stands with bend head – a man that could easily be me at this point in time.
Going to ground doesn’t mean a descent into depression though that is what had often happened to me in the past. Now, going to ground is more about a descent into the unconscious, sitting still and letting what light does enter from above begin to allow shadows to become visible at the edges of sight. There is a definite awareness of the light, even when entering into a dark chamber where light is totally absent. Because I made the journey into the dark, I know that there is a way back, a way up into the light. The time spent in this darkness is healing, meditative, not that much different from a meditative moment with my eyes closed in a darkened room.
If anything, going underground is life affirming with the similar intention of the Mayans who saw going underground as a way to preserve life, preserve a culture, and preserve hope.
A different kind of scene today, one that I captured in Costa Rica in early 2010 along the shoreline of Jaco Bay. For some reason this image pulls at me. I am undecided about whether the water is pulling me into it or if it is about being tossed out of the waves to stand on the shore in the light like this stump. Perhaps it is both at the same time.
In a few days I fly off to Moalboal on Cebu in the Philippines for nine days of engagement with the Pacific Ocean. I am taking my snorkel gear in anticipation of spending some of the time beneath the surface of the sea, noting the life to be found in the water. I am also anticipating long walks along the beach or through forest and mountain paths with my camera in tow hoping that images appear before my camera lens. And in between these times, I want to spend a lot of meditative moments in the sun, still and attentive to my own breath and the breath of the land and the sea.
The anticipation of the break from teaching and China leaves me unsettled and less present, a feeling which I imagine will intensify until it is time for the flight from Shanghai. Added to this current feeling of detachment from my current reality is the decision to finally retire from teaching at a university regardless of location in the world. I am left wondering what will follow when I fly out of China for the last time in the late spring. The truth is, with the decision made, my spirit has already left leaving me standing in my body in China going through the motions of fulfilling a contract. With 35 years of teaching experience, my students and colleagues are unaware of my disengagement of spirit. The practice of quality teaching remains in spite of the flight of my spirit and soul.
And now I understand the image – I am the trunk left stranded, abandoned on the shore, at least the ego part of who I am. My soul and spirit have returned to the sea where they wait for that time when we reunite to engage in the next part of my journey.
Today I am bringing two photos I took in Costa Rica, one of a male that I found carved on a wall, and the second of a female that stood in a garden on the side of a mountain. Though the two are representations of native Costa Ricans from a distant past, these two images tell a modern story of men and women.
As usual, active imagination takes me past the images into a different places. These images take me into a realm where consciousness is almost absent. In the case of this image of a man, the bound hands talk to me of how we become slaves to physicality when consciousness is weak. One becomes trapped by an outer life with a corresponding sense that one is a victim in that life. In the outer world, one knows that one is at the mercy of the elements, at the mercy of nature and those that have power.
All that circulates within the psyche is unquestioned, often allowing the circulating shadows to exert powerful influences over the ego. The shadows act as gods and goddesses that must be obeyed or one suffers madness. And the shadows demand much of their human hosts. The shadows within compete with each other in order to find an outlet. In the outer world the humans who give these inner gods and goddesses their due find that they become leaders, powerful beings in their collective communities. The shadow expressed touches the collective shadow and swells with the resonance.
It is all about power, power that becomes meaning, power that ensures survival. Where one is placed in the power matrix determines if one is to thrive or to simply survive. These images evoke powerlessness for men and women.; they evoke servitude and bondage.
Women become chattels of men, sexual containers that also serve to provide heirs and or status beyond the satisfying of sexual urges. In cultures in which the collective unconscious is dominant, women then look to men for protection from other men. Their bargaining tool, their sexuality, their apparent fragility. The few who rise above the collective in terms of ego intelligence learn to harness the desires of men and the desirability of women in order to increase personal power.
As humans evolved becoming more and more intelligence in the ways of human behavior and psychology, they devised more and better tools to gather power and dominate other humans and nature. The discovery of the religious center of humans provided yet another pathway for exploitation, one that rivaled if not surpassing the exploitation of humans sexual nature. The rise of religion which seemed to always find a way to either glorify or demonize human sexuality which in turn unconsciously pulled even more and more into a collective unconsciousness.
It has only been with the refusal to drawn into the collective unconscious that allows us today to see there is another way forward. Daring to consciously confront the personal shadow which in turn allows us to recognize a larger collective shadow effectively sets us outside of the unconscious participation that seems hell-bent on a descent into collective madness where even those wielding the reins of power are caught in the web of madness, a collective unconscious that has destroyed all the boundaries meant to contain it.
There is another option, but it falls to individuals who dare to challenge the collective, a collective that includes family, and community. Who will dare to tell the emperor that he is not wearing clothes, and that his shadow is showing?
This little guy is getting to be a regular visitor to our yard. We have not had this bird variety in our yard during the nine years we have lived here. It’s a good thing I keep a handbook on birds close at hand. I was particularly taken by the common name for this bird, a Brown Thrasher. It makes me think of how the mind finds itself “thrashing” about at various points during life.
It seems that whenever I find myself with choices that are poles apart, I end up squirming and thrashing around for a good time while holding the tension of “not choosing” so that I can allow other possibilities to emerge. It never fails, other options do emerge, ones that are not found at either pole. I will give a somewhat simple example of how this works for me.
I found myself seemingly caught between a black and white set of choices such as when in my work a school administrator, I had the choice of giving up administration to remain in the same school to continue teaching, or to seek another school administrator position in another school, or retire. I struggled with these choices for quite a while, for months when I realised that I needed to do something different if I was to get a different result in my life. As the weeks, then months passed, I was tending towards retirement though I was still rather young. I didn’t want to move again as this community had become home for both my wife and myself.
While reading through a newspaper, my wife saw ads seeking education administrators on northern reserves. Life on a reserve for an outsider is temporary. Without status as a First Nations, status within the tribe, one is always “just visiting.” If I took a northern position I would keep my home outside of the reserve. It seemed I could keep all of the choices at the same time – I retired, I got a new job, and I kept my home. When all of the pieces came together I finally made the decision to retire and prepare for the next stage.
We all face small situations (and not so small) which could use a bit of wait time before we make a choice. Of course there are many decisions we need to make that must be immediate and leave us living with the choice made. When we fail to make a decision, a decision will be made for us making our discomfort and thrashing around pointless, leaving us feeling like a victim without being aware that we placed ourselves in the role of victim. There is a difference between holding the tension and not deciding for ourselves. Holding the tension is to invest time and energy and to stay present with the choices and the situation requiring a choice. Removing oneself from choice is an act of abandoning, even denying the need to do something, dissociating.
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.
Again, I return to the topic of transparency and authenticity, something I have talked about here before. I want to talk about “natural” man as distinguished from “civilized” man. This is a relatively old photo taken in March, 2009 while spending the winter in a Mayan fishing village. I chose this photo because it is “safe” and reader friendly. The image is symbolic to me of times long past that are more about young adulthood than about midlife. I am reminded of how over the years I celebrated naturalness in the water. In today’s world there is an element of fear attached to being natural. I admit that I am quite conflicted about the being at one in a natural state, in the world. I am a naturist at small, private moments yet I must choose with care these moments because of the impact it has on others in my life. When I was younger, I didn’t care that much. Isolated beaches, forest meadows, in the privacy of home naturalism was present in small doses. My children grew up knowing the freedom of skinny-dipping and moving from bath to bedroom without body shame. We never passed a camping trip without at least one skinny-dipping night swim. Somehow, for some reason, the freedom has gone, at least in North America.
The world has changed, become more charged with sexuality. With the growing ascendancy of the right, fear is reacting badly attempting to criminalize sexuality, especially when it comes to young people. Who in today’s modern world would take a photo of their children playing in the bathtub with cousins or siblings or parents? Should someone dare this photo, it risks the photographer or owner of the photograph being charged with a criminal offense and being put on a registry of sexual offenders. Walking in the buff in one’s own home is risky as any passerby who chances to look in a window and see a nude body risks being charged with indecent exposure and being placed on a sexual offender registry.
Many psychologists say that clothing is an extension of ourselves. The clothes we wear are an expression of who we are. The Naturist’s comfort with casual nudity, therefore, represents an attitude which is comfortable with yourself as it is in its most basic state, without modification or deceit. (Indiana Naturists Blog)
Naturism. It’s a word that is not held in high regard in the western world for the most part.
Johann Lemmer, in his work, Introduction to Sexology, discusses CG Jung’s concepts in terms of sexuality and suggests that the moral issues that confront modern man are often centered around sexuality and points to the masculine and feminine images and archetypes discussed by Jung as psychology’s attempt to deal with the issues. One needs to remember that Jung’s work was built on the foundation of Freud’s work which has a significant focus on human sexuality.
“FKK” (Frei-Körper-Kultur) or “Free Body Culture”. FKK derives its roots from the philosophical works from Carl Gustav Jung (one of the founding fathers of modern psychology) and Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (German physicist and philosopher), who maintained nudity was a form of returning to nature. Specifically, it was a form of returning to the natural state of mankind, before clothing dictated our social status, and set standards of how much respect we pay to people based on the clothes they are wearing. (Celeste Neumann)
Good information, but how does that solve the moral dilemmas faced by men, women and children in both Canada and the U.S.A. And more importantly for myself, how do I navigate to liberate myself from the attitudes of those around me? I know it is my choice, that I can find the space, place and time for naturism. Yet, my choices always seem to have an impact on others, others who have meaning for me. Regardless, little by little, I am pushing back the straight-jacket that would have me wear clothing even when sleeping.
A second hummingbird photo to bring here for you. Like the last photo, this one was taken in Costa Rica. This photo talks to me about being warm, about sunshine, about summer. It has been quite cool and cloudy with more rain than is normal. For a typical prairie summer, we have had more than 400% the normal rainfall – more than four inches in the last week alone. The gray skies and the frequent showers limit the walks through the countryside and do not provide good light for photography.
Today I am supposed to get my new camera so I imagine that regardless of the gray skies, I will be out taking photos to learn the feel and the capabilities of the new camera. I have to admit that I am excited about the new camera. I also bought a book by Tom Ang on photography as I will likely have time to study the art more in the university year to come while I am in China.
In less than two weeks I will be back in my apartment in Changzhou, Jiangsu, P.R.C., back to a work week of sixteen hours in classrooms filled to the brim with young twenty somethings who are filled with dreams of perfect lives, perfect loves and enough wealth to make these dreams a reality. The university is a place of charged energy and I am valued for the gifts I bring to the craft of teaching at the university. This will be my thirty-third year practicing the art of teaching. For those that want to follow my “Teacher in China” blog, click here to link to Laowai Lens.
In case you are wondering, I will be continuing to post here at Jungian Lens almost daily. I have already packed eight books by Jung and post-Jungian writers. I have also packed my Chinese dictionary and a few calligraphy brushes as I will be working on learning Mandarin with better focus this year.
Looking back at this post, I am surprised at how I have left out almost all reference to Jungian psychology in what could be seen as a celebration of ordinary things. And in realising this, a smile comes to my face as I know that this is an important psychological process – making room for the hodge-podge, the méli mélo of life.
This is a hummingbird that I photographed in January while in Costa Rica. I never realised that there were so many kinds of hummingbirds, especially those with short beaks like this one. I was fortunate to be able to capture quite a few different types of hummingbirds while in Costa Rica. Lately, I have bee seeing one particular hummingbird in our back yard as it sniffs around the flowers of our garden. I am constantly amazed at how it flies so quickly only to stop, hover, drop lower or rise higher or dart side to side as if the most technologically efficient aircraft. This little bird can do what technology can only dream of accomplishing.
For me, the hummingbird is a call to “joie de vivre.” In this photo, as I look into the eyes of the hummingbird, I see something of the challenge to be. Yes, simply to be as fully “me” as I can. I see the challenge to do. It is almost as if I am being “dared” to step out of the ordinary into the extraordinary, to risk even greater change.. And in his eyes, in her eyes, I see the infinite. The path traced by the wings of a hummingbird form the symbol of infinity, an eight laying sideways – also the symbol used by the Métis people as a symbol of themselves as a people.