Archive for August 2009
In taking this photo in Udaipur, I was struck by the “attention” being given by the younger woman, the daughter-in-law. In terms of their world, life is relatively successful with a baby in the background, a house and good clothes; significant things in a world where most want for the simplest things. I learned long ago not to judge anything found in the outer world using my own measuring stick. I learned that what is visible is only the tip of what actually exists and that the visible part is usually not the best guide to what lies beneath that surface. You know the old expression – never judge a book by its cover – that is what I mean.
Appearances can be deceiving. Someone who struggles, who faces so many challenges may possess an inner sense of equilibrium. Those who appear to navigate through life without many challenges and appear to be the most with-it are often roiling cauldrons of dis-ease within. Jung says it best:
… it is not always the contradiction between subjective assumptions and external facts that gives rise to problems; it may just as often be inner, psychic difficulties. They may exist even when things run smoothly in the outside world. Very often it is the disturbance of psychic equilibrium caused by the sexual instinct; equally often it is the feeling of inferiority which springs from an unbearable sensitivity. These inner conflicts may exist even when the adaptation to the outer world has been achieved without apparent effort. (Carl Jung, CW 8, paragraph 762)
Kumbh Mela is an Indian festival in which people go down to the Ganges River to wash away the sins of the world. It is a festival that occurs once every twelve years in the month of February. Each day in between festivals, most make the journey to various ghats along lakes and rivers throughout India in order to wash away the grime of living in an unclean world. It is symbolic and practical at the same time. I wondered about this while in India as often the water is likely dirtier than the person who comes for his or her ritual bath.
There is something to learn for me from this. It isn’t about looking outward for antiseptic cleansing, but more about looking inward for spiritual cleansing. The soul is awash in all of the shadow detritus, all of the dark aspects, all the rejected poisons. Yet, by honouring the soul through some small ritual, it shines and renews. Out of the muck one discovers the gold of “self.”
This is one of my photos from India, taken in one of the circular mud, dung and stick homes that abound in the Rajasthan desert countryside. Small little openings such as this served as windows, limiting the amount of sunlight so that the house would stay cool, and limiting the amount of sand when winds race over the scrub desert country. This small brass holder reminded me of a pair of similar vessels that sit atop my TV which are often used as vases for smaller flowers. As it glowed, I sensed at its edges, a numinous aspect that took me deeper than was expected. And so, I took this photo.
This plain vessel evokes more than its simplicity in setting and workmanship would suggest. In a way, this becomes a holy chalice, a container for the soul. Though the interior of the hut was dark, light trying to peek through the darkness allowed the vessel to glow as though it was the keeper of a treasure.
It’s much the same with us. Our soul is illuminated by consciousness which peers into the darkness of the unconscious. In that darkness is found transformation; in that darkness is found shadows of forgotten and castoff aspects of who we were, who we are, who we could yet be. In that darkness we find a deeper connection that lets us know that we are more than self, that we are all part of a whole that embraces all the light and all the darkness; all that is and all that isn’t.
A lesson for myself, even the warts are worthy of being contained and honoured.
I got the lady who works the pro shop at a golf course close to the city to take this picture of us before our golf game this morning. As far as games went, the scores were normal for us on a very nice, small course. We try to visit this course every few years. As the subject line tells it, today marks our 38th anniversary. Sometimes I didn’t know if we would have ever made it this far. I am not an easy person to get to know and I definitely have issues that get in the way of a solid relationship. But then again, so does everyone else I have ever met. It’s rather amazing to me that anyone ever stays married as they learn about the bumps, bruises, warts and worries of the person that they find themselves involved with as a couple.
Of course, that said, I know that I am blessed to have had this woman with me over the years, and even more blessed that she plans on being with me for several more decades of life. Some people stay together and don’t even like each other. Believe me, this isn’t the case with us. For both of us, the only major issues that rise up are issues with self. We both want to be so much better than we are, more deserving of the “other” with whom we continue to choose to be with each day.
Thank you to the love of my life for choosing me thirty-eight years ago and for continuing to choose me.
A male Magnificent Cormorant sits on a mast of a small fishing boat called the Black Christ (Cristo Negro) in the harbour of Rio Lagartos, Yucatan, Mexico as evening gets ready to settle in. It’s a photo I took at the end of January of this year.
I struggled for quite some time today trying to find the words that I wanted to put here. A search through a number of volumes of Jung’s works didn’t yield anything that resonated. And so, I decided to simply speak as it “felt” for me. In the end, that is all any of us can ever do. the closest any of us can ever come to what might pass as the truth of who we are.
Black is about shadow, that much resonates loud and clear. However, all that is black isn’t evil. That is the hard part to get past sometimes. For the owner of this boat, obviously, the use of the word Christ is all about hope. So, why not have the two combine? This is where I jump from the scene of the photo to my personal realm of the underworld/inner-world.
Going through midlife, it is only when I dared to look at the edges of shadow country, staring into the fearsome blackness within that I finally began to sense hope, sense that I would emerge from that inner journey better than when I began that journey. The darkness and shadows yielded treasures about self, about personal strength and even validation of my “self.” Like the fisherman heading out into the ocean for the rich yields of the sea, I headed deep within the darkness, blind for the most part because of the darkness. I fought those sea monsters that assailed my sense of fear, my sense of inferiority and somehow, like the fisherman, found myself back in port, back in the outer world of consciousness. The journey had rewarded me with a bit more awareness of self and of the nature of the unconscious – a rich treasure. But more importantly, it renewed hope in something bigger than my ego. This is the promise of the Christ symbol.
There is hope if one does not fear the darkness so much that one flees from it. Rather, think of how San Juan de la Cruz (St. John of the Cross) embraced the dark night and found love, love that burned with its own light, a love that touched Christ. To embrace this, one must go under, one must sacrifice the “what is” for “what could be.” Or as I read in Jung’s works somewhere in words similar to these, “the good is the enemy of the better.”
Just as the sun, by its own motion and in accordance with its own inner law, climbs form morn till noon, crosses the meridian and goes its downward way towards evening, leaving its radiance behind it, and finally plunges into all-enveloping night, so man sets his course by immutable laws and, his journey over, sinks into darkness, to rise again in his children and begin the cycle anew. (Carl Jung, CW 5, paagraph 251)
The photo was taken last January in Rio Lagartos as I was sitting at a table enjoying a pre-supper drink with three others while at a sea-side restaurant in Mexico. It’s amazing what feelings arise when one experiences a sunset that is so colourful. The quotation which suits the photo was taken from an essay, The “Origin of the Hero,” by Jung taken from his Collected Works volume 5, Symbols of Transformation.
I love the approach of evening when the light begins to paint everything with a touch of gold. In the bright sun of mid-day, so much looks taudry and flawed. Yet in the last part of the day, this disappears to be replaced by gold. It is as if life is transformed. The photo is a scene from Rio Lagartos in January, 2008.
If one can imagine it, what happens in nature is mirrored with that which happens within each of us. As we move past the middle of life into the late afternoon and early evening, a similar transformation occurs. It isn’t something that just happens overnight, it is something that is gradual, similar to the change processes that turns grapes into wine. It’s an alchemical change, transmutation from dross into gold. All it needs from us is to be present in the moments, even at this time of descent into the inner realms where one discovers that what before appeared to be flaws now becomes character, traces of ancient gods that dwell within as archetypes. Re-visioning and re-awekening to our “self” allows us to finally feel comfortable with ourselves in relation to whatever it is that is the guiding principle of everything,