Archive for the ‘YuYuan Garden’ tag
I have finished the tasks that I’ve set for myself at my middle child’s home. The last of the subflooring is done and the stairs recovered with vinyl. Having finished reading the one book I brought with me, I am reading one that I gave to my son-in-law, a book by Stephen R. Donaldson, the first book in the Gap series called The Real Story.
The book isn’t as good as I thought it might be as I remembered the old Thomas Covenant series as being powerful. Still, the book is better than nothing. Imagine my surprise when I found this in the book:
He’d never had much to do with women. In fact, he’d never doubted that he could live perfectly well without them altogether. But now his brain teemed with lust. Perversions which had nvere occurred to him before now seemed exciting, even compulsory. The more he saw of her helpless beauty, and the more he excercised himself on her flesh, the greater her hold on his imagination became – the more power she seemed to have over him. (Stephen R. Donaldson, The Real Story, 1991, p. 95)
The above quotation captures a human living in the grip of an archetype. The barriers between consciousness and unconsciousness have almost completely disappeared. The unconscious world, a huge and dark expanse of repressed evil as well as repressed positive aspects of what is possible, finds its way into the outer world through a weak ego which has somehow become too enamoured by the images that flood from the unconscious.
In a way, this is what lies at the root of most of our dysfunctional behaviours. The story of Mark Mocha is but one of many who have cracks in the ego that allow the unconscious to emerge. Each of us is a saint and a sinner. The more saintly we become, the more the sinner wants out of the closet so as to be recognized. It needs a strong ego to meet the shadow, and take on the awareness that this darkness is as much “self” as the good stuff. The work of the first half of life is to build this strong ego in order that when the second half of life enters and makes its demands toward wholeness, that one is ready. If one isn’t ready, one either retreats into rigidity, depression and dysfunction – or, one breaks down. Thank god for breakdowns. It is when one is broken that one is forced into dealing, finally, with the work of self-healing.
If science is an end in itself, man’s raison d’être lies in being a mere intellect. If art is an end in itself, then his sole value lies inthe imaginative faculty, and the intellect is consigned to the lumberoom. If making money is an end in itself, both science and art can quietly shut up shop. No one can deny that our modern consciousness, in pursuing these mutually exclusive ends, has become hopelessly fragmented. The consequence is that people are trained to develop one quality only; they become tools themselves. (Carl Jung, CW 16, paragraph 731)
The trouble with developing one faculty, of course, is all about creating an imbalance in the human psyche. And like all “moderns,” I worked hard to do just that, to become a “professional” educational administrator. It was a work that engaged me and held value for me as I saw it as way to live a meaningful life. Looking back, I made the right choices along the way. However, in crossing the bridge of midlife, being so “one-sided” plunged me into a depression. My psyche had its own agenda, that of healing the soul, the work of moving from one-sidedness into some semblence of wholeness.
And so this journey continues into wholeness. I do know now that it isn’t the destination of wholeness that is vital to me, it is the journey itself.
This photo was taken in the YuYuan Gardens in ShangHai, China in March of 2008. Such gardens were typically built by wealthy men who felt it was time to find a place for the soul, for doing soul work. In these gardens, the owner would contemplate flowers, or carp moving slowly in the ponds. In small isolated open-air structures a few men would gather to engage in deeper dialogues. In a small study, the owner would work tirelessly to craft a poem making sure the calligraphy was as much an art form as were the words. These gardens were the retreat centres that allowed honouring the needs of the second half of life.
There is little doubt in my mind that I am more focused on what is happening in my inner world than on what is happening in the outer world. At one point I was focused on reading the newspaper and letting the news bytes bring energy into my life, not always positive energy for sure. In the present, I still read the news (on-line for the most part) but do so out of curiousity rather than out of a need. This is understandable when one realises that the second half of life has different demands, a different focal point.
The first half of life was spent in learning how to be present in the world. Much of the task was spent in nurturing the ego in order to be able to do the work that the world is asking of us. A strong ego was needed in order to build a career in a competitive world. A strong ego was needed in order to find the courage to partner, to engage in a significant relationship. A strong ego was needed in order to participate fully with a partner in bringing a new family into the community.
Overlooked in this work of the first half of life is the need to develop a strong enough ego so that the second half of life can be lived in a way that allows one to do the work of responding to the question of soul.
… we suffer authentically when we experience a conflict of opposites, a conflict between duty, say, and what we really want. For example, “Should I stay in this relationship or leave it” If one stays, one suffers the denial of the Self; and the subsequent depression, addiction and resentment can only deepen. On the other hand, if one leaves, one will be alone, perhaps ridiculed, marginalized, consumed with doubt. So, what is the right course of action?” (James Hollis, On This Journey We Call Our Life, 2003, p. 130)
James Hollis asks a question that only can be answered individually. And then, even for the individual, the answer only leads to living another question. The temptation is to find answers rather than allowing the questions to continue to swirl within, “holding the tension” in Jungian terms. The holding of the tension, not jumping to a one-sided answer, is somewhat like being held in a fire so as to be tempered. It is, indeed, suffering.
To see two sides of a coin, two opposing answers, suggests that one answer is right and the other answer is wrong. This is polarized thinking. Either-or thinking leaves one feeling either half-empty or half-full. There is no chance of balance, in feeling complete. It is better to allow both options to continue to be present, working underneath the level of consciousness, in order to allow all aspects of the question become acknowledged. If one holds long enough, typically a third way emerges, an answer that one didn’t even realize was an answer to the original question.
For example, “Do I stay?”, or “Do I go?” Holding the tension between the two poles forces a pressure cooker to be activated, one that acts upon the self and the other. What emerges is often a change in attitude which makes the question redundant. At that point, a new question begins to be creating new tensions which lead to greater consciousness if one is willing to “suffer” holding the tension. Think of it as lighting a fire under a beaker of chemicals in order to have the brew become something different that the sum of its parts. Somehow, one creates new products this way. Within the psyche, one creates a different self, a more conscious self.
This photo was taken in ShangHai, China in late March of 2008. The scene, in the YuYuan Gardens in old Shang ? Hai ?, not too distant from the Bund promenade which borders the HuangPu River. The two years spent in China, a land filled with people, a place where for the most part, I was forced to look inward as the distraction of interactions with others was limited because of language barriers.
My exterior is placid and often offers a gentle, safe smile. Seen over and over again, one could say that there is little depth. Ah, the success in perfecting a mask. The inner depths are hidden, safely contained. However, perhaps they were too successfully hidden, even from myself. Decades of practice, in building the masks and the personae, decades of peering outward took its toll on my awareness of self.
Now, I am ready to open small windows so that others can catch glimpses of the fullness of who I really am. It isn’t all good stuff, but it is all real none-the-less. This is what this blog site is about. My daring to open these small windows. Why? I get to meet new aspects of self through interactions with you. Without these interactions, I remain blind to those aspects of self.
This is my journey.