Through a Jungian Lens

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Lives Governed by Fear, Flight and Triviality

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What is it?

One thing I can say with some certainty is that whatever it was when I took the photo, it was in the Philippines in the water. For a moment I believed it might be a sea snake, then I thought it might be some kind of eel or fish. The possibilities seemed to make certainty becoming more and more distant as my imagination began to fill in the spaces that ambiguity had opened up. With the ambiguity, my mind was alive with possibility, I was alive, animated, even excited.

I had chosen this image for the blog post for today, the evening before. This evening before doing supper dishes I did a bit of reading from Hollis’ book What Matters Most and found these to be the first words I read as I continued my reading from a few nights earlier:

“Certainty begets stagnation, but ambiguity pulls us deeper into life. Unchallenged conviction begets rigidity, which begets regression; but ambiguity opens us to discovery, complexity, and therefore growth. The health of our culture, and the magnitude of our personal journeys, require that we learn to tolerate ambiguity, in service to a larger life.” (Hollis, What Matters Most, p. 34)

Again, what I found in my reading resonated with an image though neither the image or the words were consciously or unconsciously connected. They seemed to both appear just when they were needed, almost as though there was a deliberate design in the process of building this post.

I have to agree with Hollis’s words, for they speak of mystery and energy that seems to fill one’s being when one steps out of the routine and predictable. Travelling deliberately choosing new countries, new cultures and new languages forces one to enter into ambiguity or it turns one into a cranky, permanently dissatisfied tourist who is always complaining that everything is not as it should be, not as it is in the real world at home.  I meet some of these people just about on every journey I take. I wonder each time why these people ever left their personal spaces of predictability where everything and everyone had its place and rules.

I read on to see what Hollis would say next:

“One further thought on all this. Our personal psychologies, our theologies, our politics are chiefly designed to make us feel more comfortable, more secure. This is not a federal offense, for fear is an inescapable aspect of our journey; however, these constructed forms favor our comfort . . . our flights from ambiguity will lead us, and our culture, to dead ends; spent ideologies, theologies, and trivializing psychologies. Is it acceptable that our lives end governed by fear, by flight, and by triviality . . . ? (Hollis, What Matters Most, p. 34)

In these words, I hear the echoes of my country and that of my neighbours to the south. I hear the voices of a world retreating into a womb of conservative certainties where everything that is contrary to these certainties become the enemies, the faces of evil, of chaos.

Oh, for those that want to know, I learned two days after taking the photo that the “blue thing” was the arm of a starfish.  The mystery was solved but the sense of being alive to mystery didn’t fade with the answer.


2 Responses

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  1. Great post! Your political observation is being reconfirmed daily here in the great white north. Certainty is seen as achievable because every argument and issue is seen as “simple”, a black/white duality, no matter in reality how complex or how relevant and important an historical context is. It has, of course, great appeal for many regardless of how many times a flood of unintended consequences emerge from implementing simplistic solutions. It also creates the rigidity and refusal to adapt and formulate flexible, fluid, creative and humane solutions since that would be an admission that reality is not simple.

    When it becomes a national pathology, some very bad things can happen.

    With regard to fear, or phobias, that are so easily exploited by advertising and politics I have wondered recently whether it all doesn’t reduce to the fear of death? (shadow?) I don’t know whether Jung dealt with the fear of death specifically, but we all have some sort of irrational fear and I wonder whether it is ultimately routed in a fear of death.

    Syzygy Xanadu

    December 1, 2011 at 11:48 pm

    • Yes, the fear of darkness, death, unconsciousness, being out of control, being controlled, Jung dealt with change, with transformation – all change is about death, the death of the status quo (our primary fear) with rebirth (our primary hope) as a transformed being.


      December 4, 2011 at 11:56 am

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