Archive for August 2011
It is hot and muggy outside and I am forcing myself to stay awake though it is only late afternoon. I don’t have the energy to go out with the camera in order to capture some of the images seen in the morning when I made a longish walk in order to get some provisions for my meals for at least a few days. That said, I am not so worried about a photo for today’s post as I had this one which I took only a few days ago ready for this blog post.
I knew that I would be tired because of jet lag and because of culture shift. My grandson is caught in one of his small culture shifts with the inclusion of someone new in his world. His response to the presence of another person not often seen is shyness, a retreat; and a quietness. For myself, the shift is more about quietness, a quietness both within and without.
As I walked down the familiar streets of this city in China, I saw familiar faces and scenes. My first foray into the city was to go to a farmer’s market to buy fresh vegetables, and my second foray took me to a supermarket where I was able to stock up on other essentials for meal preparation. And the last venture out was made in order to pick up concert tickets and performance tickets for events being held in September. Though I don’t understand much Mandarin, I do enjoy being caught up in the dramas of music and voice and dance. With all the tasks completed, I retreated to the apartment and ate a simple meal of dumplings (jiaozi) followed by a cup of tea. Fatigue told me that this was enough as my body still thought it was time for being asleep.
And my mind? Understandably, it is confused with the sunlight burning during the middle of the night. My mind has retreated and left me with little access to words and ideas. I am left, like my grandson, awake but withdrawn.
I took this photo on the last morning in Canada just hours before heading to the airport for my flight to China. I have to admit that leaving Canada and my son’s home left me with a lot of mixed emotions. Spending two weeks with my son and his family was the longest stretch of time we had been together since he left home to make his own way in the world as an adult. This time, it was I who was leaving to return to a life outside of Canada.
Leaving is a break from something old and moving to something new, and it seems that most leaving takes part in the morning. Moving forward into a new day, a new journey is archetypally represented by the journey of the sun, a journey that is renewed each day. And so, knowing that as I move forward on a new journey, I am heartened by the thought that the sun will come out from behind the dark clouds.
I am writing today’s post from the airport in Toronto as I wait for the boarding call to ShangHai. I have been fortunate over the past two weeks to be with my grandson and his family. It didn’t take many days before I was the adult to go to for the little guy, especially as I got to care for him when he was ill and not able to go to playschool. The photo taken above is from yesterday morning. There is little question that the bonding went two ways and for that I am immensely thankful and blessed.
Relationship is vital and unavoidable. I often talk here of individuation and I wonder if some of my readers mistake individuation as being something that exists separate from relationship. Individuation is about getting to know oneself through interactions with others in the outer world, with objects in the outer world as well as the culture and place on the planet in which we find ourselves. Relationship must also consider an inner world filled with its own cast of characters and complexes and landscapes. What we discover about ourselves is only possible through our responses and our awareness of our responses to both inner and outer worlds.
One does not live in a bubble that excludes the inner and outer worlds. In absence of inner and outer world there is no sense of self, no sense of separateness, no sense of otherness. Two weeks watching my grandson expand his awareness of both himself and his grandfather has taught both of us, blessed both of us. And, as a result I leave his home a better man.
This is a reflected image of one of my grandsons who was busy trying out his in-line skates at a skate-boarder’s park in Jamestown, North Dakota. I rotated the image 180 degrees so that I would have him appear upright for the purposes of this photo. The details of the photo aside, the image itself has a story to tell.
As I see it, this is a view of the journey in the first half of life. A youth is propelled forward into engagement with little thought of who, when, where, why. The impulse is instinctual. Most of the choices just happen for thinking will come at a different time when consciousness is more developed.
And then I think of myself, now in my sixties and wonder if there is still a lot of my journey that is lived unconsciously as though I was underwater. One would think that after sixty years one would have become conscious enough to have a sense of control. But the truth is I am not much different that my grandson when it comes to the extent of the unconscious dimensions that still remain in comparison to the small fragments of consciousness that I have managed to stumble upon during my own rush through life.
Today I have been married for forty years and I wonder at the stranger that I am to myself let alone the stranger to whom I am married. How can anyone truly know another person in depth when the self remains a mystery for the most part. I imagine that each of us dies with the question “Who am I?” still being asked. Perhaps once beyond the filters of human existence we will finally get an answer. Today, a friend died and I remember him hoping that he has finally found the answer in the light that lies on the other side of life.
And to my wife – I love you always, I love you all ways, I love you forever.
I saw this tall ship at anchor in the harbour while walking in downtown Toronto a few days ago. I took the photo thinking I might find a place here for it at some point over the week. Finally, I got around to the photo and got it ready for posting here. The next part, what to say, was the hard part. I was wordless and so left the post unfinished, actually unstarted other that the photo. Then after a morning spent playing with my grandson and then doing a bit of last minute shopping for gifts for colleagues in China, I returned ready to write these words.
The image makes me think of my self, at least the ego aspect of my self. I have reached a point in my life where I can begin to find words to answer the question, “Who am I?” I know that I am a male biological being; I know that I am a person in relationship to others by blood, by friendship and by community; I know that I am a person that has depth which includes much that has yet to be discovered – three masts: ego, others and shadow. Without realising it at first, my journey has always had these three masts.
My journey is not so different from the journey taken by anyone or everyone. The journey is one into the unknown which is not much different than setting forth on a voyage on the sea. The journey is all that exists and all that is important. The journey requires that we be ever watchful of the stuff beneath the surface. Ignorance of the depths can lead to shipwrecks. Seeing this photo makes me think of a journey made long ago, that of Odysseus.
I set out for a destination which I am certain is the place I am supposed to go only to find myself taking detours because of the things that life throws at us. Plans I make soon find themselves scrapped. And taking the detour I soon realise that I am where I am supposed to be.
Taking photos of children was not my intention as I wandered along the harbour in downtown Toronto. These young people were learning about boating safety, particularly as it relates to canoes and kayaks. They sat still and listened well, obviously very motivated to learn. Yet, I would venture to say that in a few weeks once school has recommenced, the ability to sit still and listen with motivation will be a distant memory. Something vital changes within the school. For the most part, school is about teaching subjects, skills and habits with teachers trained and armed with all manner of teaching aides and pedagogy. Teachers want to teach and teach well so they spend countless hours becoming proficient in new methods for teaching Maths, Sciences and Language. So what happens in the schools that change the students from motivated and invested in learning to bored and distracted and often misbehaving children?
In a way, the answer lies above. Teachers focus on teaching subjects, presenting mastered content in as many varied activities as possible using creativity. But, the truth is, they are meant to be teaching students. But more importantly, teachers must realise that they are in effect teaching students who the teacher is. Not realising this, teachers divorce their authentic selves from the lessons. All the focus and energy is focused on the lesson. Any visiting principal or superintendent would have no doubts about the lesson being presented as one that is masterful. Yet, the lack of connect with the students is glaring. What the teacher is teaching is disconnected from the teacher and so therefore must not be of any real worth. And so, the students wait for those rare moments when the teacher connects with them with a persona value and passion for some topic. At those rare times, learning happens, students are motivated.
At the individual level we have a lesson to learn. If one is to learn and grow as an individual, one must follow one’s bliss.
But now, it is time to also celebrate the feminine. Today my wife will join me to share in being with our family here, share in being parent and grandparent, before we fly off together of another year as lecturers in China.