Archive for January 2014
“The persona is that which in reality one is not, but which oneself as well as others think one is.” [Jung, CW 9i, par. 221]
On my bio [about] page I give a definition of who I am. After reading these words of C.G. Jung’s, I realise that I have simply given a picture of my persona and have basically left the reality of who I am hidden. For those of you who have been reading here for some time, you have been able to grasp some larger sense of who I am. I have been reading more from Daryl Sharp’s book, Digesting Jung, and in the process a few small lights are showing their presence in the foggy shadows from which I hope one day to emerge with a decent sense of awareness of who I am and what this process of life is all about. One of the things that Sharp talks about with regards to the persona is how persona is as much about the collective as it is about the self. The persona only comes to life in relationship to the collective. It is only through interactions with the world that one gets to see reflections of oneself. Here is what Sharp has to tell us:
“The development of a collectively suitable persona always involves a compromise between what we know ourselves to be and what is expected of us, such as a degree of courtesy and innocuous behavior. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with that.” [Sharp, Digesting Jung, pp 21-22]
The words “collectively suitable” stands out for me, in large part because the “naturist” part of how I know myself is not collectively suitable in the western world in which I live. Still, there are smaller groups within that larger collective for whom I am “suitable.” As I bring this aspect of “self” into the larger picture, there are small negotiations between myself and a growing circle of “others,” the process is allowing me to peel away bits and pieces of persona revealing some of what is buried, some of what could best be called the authentic self.
The adoption of naturism has a deeper meaning than simply being nude at times. Naturism has become an active image mirroring the work of the journey to an authentic self as I shed the masks, disguises and costumes which I have used to construct what I had believed was a collectively acceptable persona, a construct that I had come to believe was the sum total of who I was. The process doesn’t deny all of the constructs but simply becomes aware of what they are.
For example, I am a father to three incredible adult children (yes, the typical viewpoint of a parent). I did take part in the act of creation that led to their appearance and I did take a large role in taking them from their birth to their present status. That said, this is only part of who I am, not a definition of who I am. Over the years, mostly through unconscious processes while fathering, I discovered more and more of who I was and who I wasn’t. I fathered under the influence a father complex, making conscious decisions to do the opposite. Along the way, unaware, I responded to some situations unconsciously only to see the surprise in my children’s eyes which then pointed to something hiding in the shadows. Bit by bit, my children helped me discover and uncover bits of that authentic self, even if the things were not so nice.
I have mentioned that naturism, the uncovering of the physical self as part of the uncovering of the self hidden in the depths; however, I have not mentioned how by putting clothing back on, I get to see myself differently, a self that isn’t defined by clothing or the absence of clothing, something deeper and fuller. Naturism helped point the way for me, as though the process was a holy one in which I could only approach that centre of self in a state of purity, a state without the attachment of persona, without the taint of a collectively suitable persona.
I wonder if any of this makes any sense at all? I often feel that words get in the way concealing more than they can ever possibly reveal.
I am finding it more difficult to write at times. With keeping busy and present in daily life, there is less energy and time for the inner life. As I understand that it is important to spend enough time in the outer world, focused on the people, places and activities that make their way into my space, I am okay with that. Yet, as an introvert by nature, I need the quiet time, the inner time, in order to recharge my batteries and be better able to be present in a real way in the outer world. For me, like all introverts, being present in the outer world is work. In saying that, I don’t mean work in the negative sense, but in the sense that it draws on energy levels. Once I get to the point that I have overdrawn the energy account, I become less rational and as my family calls it – I end up zoned out.
With the little time that has been left over, I have been able to write some more poetry and will offer one of these poems here today before I retreat into an energizing quietness.
Whole and Holy
Body, soul and spirit
In man and in woman
Created whole and holy
Created in the creator’s image
Hide the body
Hide the creation
Blame it on shame and sin
Blame the creator for
For it is the creator
Who set us out here, naked
For it is the creator
Who set us up for sin
That would send us from
The Garden into a world
Waking up, opening eyes
To the truth of our natural
Holy condition as created
Allowing the light to overcome
Fear that blinds us to darkness
Daring to look in the water
Which mirrors our inner and
Outer temple and find
Our voice speaking
To the One.
2014 01 26 – Playa del Carmen, Casa Verde
The last time I went into what is called Xibalba, the world beneath the surface of the world, was in Belize. Today I travelled once more into this alter universe beneath the surface of the world at a place in Mexico called Aktun Chen. I had been prepared for a place that was more about commercialism than about substance. I was pleasantly surprised as there weren’t any tourist vendors selling Mayan artifacts made in China. For the day we spent at the site, there were less than thirty tourists who showed up to walk through the underworld, to swim in an underground river cave or to wander in the jungle.
I got to walk through a series of three different caves, dry caves for the most part. In the last cave, there was an option to walk a portion of the cave in ankle deep water. My wife and I were the only ones to take advantage of this side detour. A few hidden lights along the way made it easy to track through the cave while on our own. I am familiar with the underworld as it is almost a second home, an inner landscape that often is not much different that the Mayan caves I have been visiting each time I go to Mexico.
Something about caves, the intense darkness, the visceral fear and sometimes the comforting pulse as if within a womb, that has had me descending into the earth in China,Vietnam, Laos, and various locations in Canada and the U.S.A. These caves give a sensate experience with which I can locate the psychic underworld caves I encounter on my inner journeys. I have found thousands of Buddhas in caves, bats in caves, angry and frustrated tourists in caves complaining of the bats, the smells and wanting it all to end so that they can have a beer and some food – and sometimes if I am lucky, there is silence and total darkness in caves – a silence that soon becomes a hymn as though in a cathedral at midnight with no lights or windows. There are no words that can describe both the inner and outer experiences of such a silence and darkness while within the bowels of the earth.
Walking through the water today in the cave with no one near me besides my wife, who walked as silently as I did, stopping more often than not to listen and search out the faint path, was an experience that lifted the heart. It has been a good day.
I’ve been reading a Spanish author’s books which are, as I can best describe them, very strange. The author, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, has a central character that is far from endearing, a man who is a writer and is depressingly depressed and disenchanted with life. In the current book, The Angel’s Game, the hero is listening to a man who has offered the hero a contract to create a new religion. One almost has a sense that the hero has just made a deal with the devil, or perhaps an angel, who has saved him from a fatal condition of cancer as well as a ruinous contract with an unscrupulous publisher.
“An intellectual is usually someone who isn’t exactly distinguished by his intellect. He claims that label to compensate for his inadequacies. It’s as old as that saying: Tell me what you boast of and I’ll tell you what you lack. Our daily bread. The incompetent always present themselves as experts, the cruel as pious, sinners as devout, usurers as benefactors, the small-minded as patriots, the arrogant as humble, the vulgar as elegant, and the feeble-minded as intellectual. Once again, it’s all the work of nature. Far from being the sylph to whom poets sing, nature is a cruel, voracious mother who needs to feed on the creatures she gives birth in order to stay alive.” [Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Angel’s Game, Part 2, Chapter 8, page 7 ]
As I read these descriptions of the worst among us, I thought of these same pretenders that are found on Twitter, in book stores, in politics, in our churches, in our schools, in our workplaces and began to feel an anger against them. But then, as soon as that affect made its presence felt, I wondered and dreaded just which of these described me. I couldn’t find myself there and that didn’t offer any release. Rather, it seemed to confirm that I fell short of inclusion, not because I was better, but simply because I was perhaps irrelevant being an outlier.
But then again, the book isn’t about me – my affective response is about my own complexes being activated. And realising that, I can see how the sub-stratum of complexes, archetypes have been successfully captured by Zafron. I am anxious to get back to the book which I have yet for another seven days on loan from my home library as an eBook. However, before I go, I just want to say that tomorrow I am away for most of the day, visiting the Aktun Chen Ecological site not too distant from Playa del Carmen. Perhaps I will return with a photo or two for inclusion here in future posts.
“The four functions are somewhat like the four points of the compass; they are just as arbitrary and just as indispensable . . . But one thing I must confess: I would not for anything dispense with this compass on my psychological voyages of discovery. [Jung, CW 6, par. 958]
The photo for today’s post was taken at the suggestion of my wife so that there would be a visual record of our electronics should we become the victims of a break-in. I would have never thought of this possibility, so it’s a good thing that my wife is in my life to add to the complete package of awareness in the world. I am introverted and she is extroverted. That should be enough differences to make life interesting for both of us. But, of the four functions – thinking, feeling, sensation and intuition – we are again at polar opposites. Where I look at life and see possibilities (intuition), she sees the facts (sensation). These are our dominant functions, irrational functions. Our rational functions, thinking and feeling are also in opposition making for two very divergent world views.
As I understand it, my secondary function is extraverted thinking while hers is introverted feeling. Our tertiary functions are the reverse which makes for a similarity of functions, which are simply different in degree, meaning that we draw on them in reverse order from each other.
Now, just to add another layer of difference based on the Myers-Briggs, where I tend to make decisions based on “perceptions,” she draws judgement to make decisions. Obviously, I am much slower in making decisions and typically defer to others who seem to have more at stake with decisions. For me, decisions are relative as I can always see positives in all sides. I am not a very practical person in the final analysis which makes it simpler and more frustrating for others around me who wish that I would just make a quick decision, especially decisions that they already see as the right decision. Oh well, it is what it is. My wife had learned to cope with it and somehow it works out, and that is all that counts in the final analysis.
After yesterday’s post which focused on the divergence between the authentic self and the provisional self, I found myself left in a state of mind that said I wasn’t yet finished with that idea. This morning after waking up and following my usual pattern of morning meditation and morning coffee, this poem was born.
The Divergence of Inner and Outer
Looking deeper, behind the skin, the muscles
And bones that form a body, a temple
For soul, that essence of the authentic self,
A small flame of light that is not alone.
Turning away from these inner depths
Putting clothing back on to become once again
A provisional self, a being like some chameleon
Changing to match an outer world’s demands.
One moment garbed for some profession
Some labour that follows narrow tracks to success.
Another moment clothed to fit within a community
Which needs visual familiarity and affirmation of beliefs.
An outer self that is self-created to be as one with others
An inner self that is created to be as one with its creator
An outer self that is cloaked to disguise for acceptance
An inner self that is transparent and accepting.
Dare we be together, transparent?
Dare we set aside the disguises
We cultivate to protect from fear
That we are not equal as beings?
Standing naked before a naked you,
Standing naked before naked others,
Standing naked before God
Who created us naked in his image,
Fear becomes illusory leaving only
The truth that we are all equal.
2014 01 25 – Playa del Carmen, Casa Verde
“Our lives are tragic only to the degree that we remain unconscious of both the role of the autonomous complexes and the growing divergence between our nature and our choices. Most of the sense of crisis in midlife is occasioned by the pain of that split. The disparity between the inner sense of self and the acquired personality becomes so great that the suffering can no longer be suppressed or compensated.” [Hollis, The Middle Passage, p. 15]
These are hard words to hear, to honestly hear when one arrives at that place in life where one begins to question who they are and what they are doing here on planet Earth from the singular and personal perspective. As conscious beings, we are aware of being homo sapiens and that we are actively engaged in the survival of the species. But, that isn’t enough of an answer when midlife demands that we look beyond the surface of living. As soon as one begins to sense the divide between the life being lived and some other life that is tied up with a different sense of who we are as humans, we are caught in a angst that demands that we do something to solve the divide.
So now what? Most recoil from the mess that lays buried beneath the surface which compares so unfavourably with the life we have lived, with our successes, our gathering of people to surround us and define us, and our accumulations of property and material goods that tell everyone we have indeed made good choices with good results. Perhaps, we reason, we need more of the same, or perhaps we need to reinvigorate ourselves as though we were again young adults. New relationships might serve to reinvigorate; or perhaps new toys, new acquisitions, new and more power. And if that fails, perhaps a good drunk or mind-numbing addictions such as food, exercise, sex, work, drugs . . .
My response to this question, “So now what?” lies in peeling off the layers of protection that have been covering what I believed to be my fragile real self. Beneath the roles, beneath the education and skills, beneath even my clothes lies a self that has been wanting to be heard and lived unknown to me. I had invested in my family, career, and community willingly and have reaped a good harvest with children, grandchildren, enough material goods and property to meet and exceed what anyone truly needs. The first half of life as an adult has been all that I could have ever hoped for. That said, I can’t deny that in doing all of this living in the outer world in order to fit into that outer world, that there was a cost.
Now, in the second half, I find myself driven to honour the needs and demands of my soul, my inner world. How can I do this? As I see it, it is by bringing what has been hidden, consciously and unconsciously denied a place in my outer life up from the inner depths where they had been banished. Resurrected, they allow me to finally feel a sense of wholeness, even holiness in a curious kind of way.
What will this look like? How will it be made evident in my life? As I see it, my writing here, my poetry, my writing novels that are thinly disguised journeys of a soul reaching up from the dark confines of the unconsciousness, serve as part of how the divide between inner self and acquired personality are being bridged. There is more yet to come, and for that all I can say is simply to “watch me.”