Through a Jungian Lens

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Flower and Thorns in the Desert

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Wastelands aren’t what they seem at first appearances.  This scene is duplicated innumerable times throughout the hills that can be seen from my living room window.  Though the plants first appear fragile, somehow they survive winters of harsh wind and harsher temperatures and unpredictable moisture patterns.  As I wander through these hills where one can see the relative flatness of the prairies stretch to the horizon almost unbroken except for tiny clusters of buildings, I am awed by the open space where people are more absent than present.  It doesn’t take many people to farm the Canadian prairies.  The prairies, as evidenced by this photo, is a harsh place with its moments of beauty, a face of the planet that shows that suffering is a natural part of even the physical world.

“Consciousness only comes from suffering; without some form of suffering – physical, emotional, spiritual – we are content to rest easy in the old dispensation, the old comforts, the old dependencies.” (Hollis, Under Saturn’s Shadow, 1994, p. 19)

Time spent in Costa Rica, about as different a place as one could find in comparison to the prairies, I got to see so many expats; Canadians, Europeans, and especially Americans, who were doing their best to “rest easy” in that tropical paradise.  The environment told them that the world was near perfect.  Yet, they weren’t happier for all of that.  They were still turning to drugs, alcohol and sex to fill in the empty spaces.  Of course, I am only talking about men in this instance as Hollis’ book is about men – and I am a man.  It is always best for women to speak for women.   And, I am talking about being an adult and the wounding and suffering of an adult male.

And what is an adult male supposed to be like?  There seems to be so much variation presenting itself across the scope of humanity that it becomes difficult to find an answer to this question.  Hollis supplies one partial answer:

“The essential part of being an adult means not only that one can no longer turn backward to the protection of others, but that one must learn to draw upon inner resources.  No one knows he has them until he is obliged to use them.  The natural world is dark and full of strange animals and demons, and the confrontation with one’s fear is a moment of decisive significance.  Ritual isolation is an introduction to a central truth, that no matter how tribal our social life, we are on the journey alone and must learn to draw the strength and solace from within, or we will not achieve adulthood.” (Hollis, Under Saturn’s Shadow, 1994, p. 19)

Ouch!  As I look around, I see many well into midlife who have yet to achieve this.  Many are locked into dependence and have never learned the strengths that reside within.  Many of those I see who live alone are still avoiding the inner world, hoping that they can drown out the strange inner voices out of fear, fear that those voices would take away what little sanity that they have.  If only they could see what I see, even in the desert country – there is life in dismal places, there are flowers even in the desert.


2 Responses

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  1. These plants speak to me not only of desolation, but of endurance and adaptability. That plants and humans can survive under harsh conditions speaks of abilities that we may not think we have. The drive for survival, even in the harshest conditions, is strong.

    Your last line reminded me of one of my favourite quotes:
    “I have seen flowers come in stony places
    And kind things done by men with ugly faces
    And the gold cup won by the worst horse at the races,
    So I trust too.” John Masefield.

    As a woman I would see Hollis’ words equally applicable to women. Our own growth does not spring from others, although we can give life to others. An adult woman is not a dependent, is not merely an adjunct to man or children. Our growth too must come from enduring and adapting to the conditions around us. Knowing that our ‘self’ is internal and permanent gives the impetus to develop it, so that we can survive in this world.

    Lotus Light

    May 11, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    • Great bit of poetry from Masefield. Thanks for it. I agree with your resonances with the photo. You are right in noting that there is much here about endurance and adaptability. I do understand how Hollis’ work can be understood by woman, but I do have to caution that he wrote it intentionally in order to address the wounding and healing of men.

      Robert G. Longpré

      May 13, 2010 at 5:59 pm

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