Through a Jungian Lens

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Avoiding the Questions

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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?


7 Responses

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  1. My analyst teacher used to answer that last question with ‘when you are ready’, which I thought was a cop out, but I now understand what he means.


    June 3, 2010 at 11:07 pm

    • I agree that it isn’t a cop out. It fits as a teacher knows that to give a student answers when they don’t know the how or why of the answers doesn’t lead to any learning at all. The student has to be ready for new learning with all the prepping done in order to have the mind ready to connect the new information with known information.

      Robert G. Longpré

      June 4, 2010 at 6:20 pm

  2. I agree with Urpso, but I think I know what I want because it isn’t really one set thing. I might have been just as happy with an atheist as with the Christian man I married. I might be just as happy farming as I am doing the work I am doing now. The things we want are intrinsic: peace, enough tension to make life interesting, space, perspective. And believing we found the answers on our own.

    Capturing a moment (just the like the one above) where beauty steals our breath, tears smart in our eyes and we are overwhelmed by the joy of being alive.
    If we did not, however, have the times you described above, we would not sense the difference. On an elemental level, indeed a molecular one, we all crave life. As long as we are alive and have a dose of happiness once in a while, we are accomplishing nature’s purpose.

    The fact that our chemicals work a little harder to come up with thoughts like “I’d like to make the world a better place,” is nothing short of miraculous, and we ought to consider ourselves very fortunate indeed to be this far along in the chain of evolution. More responsibility, yes, but also more awareness.

    L’Chaim, to this day!

    • Hi munchkin mom. Thanks for adding your thoughts here to the discussion. I often wonder about nature’s purpose. Most times I don’t think there is any such thing, that the only purpose arises out of consciousness.

      Robert G. Longpré

      June 4, 2010 at 6:24 pm

  3. Interesting. I listened to this very passage on the way to work this morning. Very poignant very tough questions to answer. It’s tough, at least for me, to actually know: ”What do I want? What do I feel? What must I do to feel right with myself?” because I have been so used/conditioned to ‘performing’.


    June 4, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    • It is hard to focus on these personal questions when one is always looking for answers to the questions/needs of others. Strange how we often put ourselves last.

      Robert G. Longpré

      June 4, 2010 at 6:27 pm

  4. Once again you bring up an interesting subject Robert. I don’t have much to share however as I don’t feel like I’ve been through this stage in my life. Or perhaps I have but didn’t recognise it for what it was or perhaps I have yet to experience it though at 50 I suspect I am past “mid-life”.

    In any case the quote where it says “So a man during the middle passage, has to become a child again…” reminded me of a story (the source of which I am not certain but I think it may be Nietzsche’s “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”). The story deals with the three metamorphoses of the spirit whereby the spirit becomes a camel, the camel a lion and the lion a child. The camel takes on life’s burden’s. It struggles and it suffers doing what its told gaining strength and patience as it goes. At some point however the camel has enough of carrying the burdens of others and decides to become a lion. Only the lion can say no to others and thus carry its own burden. With that strength it can demand its freedom. But the lion strength is only good for fighting, its strength cannot be used for creating new values. To find true freedom the spirit has its final metamorphosis when the lion becomes the child. Only the child can attain true freedom. The child is all about innocence and forgetting and as a child the spirit can say “Yes” to life and become a creature that is creative and beautiful and new.

    The thing about a child, at least from my own observations, is that it makes no memories. Perhaps that is why we do not remember being born or anything from the first few years of life. It seems to me that we are trained to make memories and as we mature and become adults we hold on to them dearly fearful that without them we will be nothing or something worse. That may well be true, I do not know. What I do know (in my case) is that being child-like has allowed me to re-discover what is most joyous about this thing known as my life.

    Our misery all too often comes from being self-conscious and our self-consciousness comes form all the restrictions imposed on us by memories. We cannot be free of the past, or the future for that matter, until we “forget” the memories we learnt as a camel, drop the knowledge we gained as a lion and fully embrace the wisdom of the child.


    June 5, 2010 at 12:52 am

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