Monday, December 6, 2010

Redirecting Traffic

No photo - just a note to say that I am now located at my new blogging home - - which is a private domain site which will allow comments.  I have kept the old Wordpress look and hope to eventually move all of my posts to the new site.  Since I have paid for three years of service as well as the registered domain name, the blog site should be a lot more stable regardless of where I find myself in this world.

Imagination as Portal to the Unconscious

As I read James Hollis' book, Mythologems, I am finding it a very comfortable read.  One of the things that this reading is doing for me is the fact that it is providing me a bit more structure in my posts here.  In the past, there was less flow, in my opinion.

As well as flow, Hollis' words are encouraging me to look closer at my images, to see what is to be found in these images besides a copy of the objective world.  Photography allows me to do both, record visual data as well as portray something "more."

Tucked between modern high rises that line one of the many canals in Changzhou, are little homes that have been cobbled together.  These canal-side dwellings evoke a different time and place, one that finds its way into many of the folk art expressions in China, a scene that is both nostalgic and poetic. - Or, is this scene just another set of dilapidated residences housing those who can't pay for a better place while hoping the authorities don't tear down their squatter quarters that can be viewed as a blight on the edges of a modern city?  It's all imagination regardless of which version of the image you hold.
"The German word for imagination is Einbildungskraft, the power of creating a picture. The picture may come as an intentional act of mind, as these sentences are, or a gasp of aesthetic or horrified phenomenological experience which is embodied as image.  The phenomenological appearance of such an utterance, such as image, is a de facto manifestation of something powerful about our nature.  We are imaginal creatures; through images the world is embodied for us, and we can in turn embody the world and make it conscious.  Such an act seems, in its generative, nominative and constitutive power - all godlike to me."  (Hollis, Mythologems, p. 31)
 Powerful words, "we ... embody the world and make it conscious."  For me, this is the key as I try to bring more light into the process of self-discovery.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Red-Crowned Crane - The Fairy Crane

This is the Red-Crowned Crane which is a rare bird that makes its home nearby in the Yancheng area.  I took the photo in the Yancheng area not knowing that the bird is on the protected species list as the second rarest crane in the world.  I took the photo because the Red-Crowned Crane is featured in the mythology of China in a significant manner.  In Chinese, the bird is called Xian He (仙鹤), or fairy crane.

In trying to do a search for the myths that surround this large bird, I kept coming up short with only a few lines that were repeated and repeated endlessly about how this bird was "a symbol of longevity and immortality" and of "nobility." The myths themselves eluded my search.  Perhaps they are yet to be translated into English and so I am left with all the images that are abundant here in China, images that feature the crane.   
"While the world as it is is infinitely more complex than we can imagine, we are provided with the helpful tools of metaphor and symbol to move from the knowable world to the unknowable.  If the poet compares the beloved to a flower, or analogizes the human life cycle with the seasons, we know full well what is intended.  From this capacity for metaphor, symbol, analogy, we have the possibility through imagination of creating a partnership with mystery."  (Hollis, Mythologems, p. 31)
I am learning something here.  I wonder about how there are things that are knowable - known - to some, such as the myths surrounding this crane, and those things that are a mystery to all.  We sense/intuit something numinous but we can't move from the fuzzy edges of contact into conscious awareness.  What comes after death is the best analogy that I can think of - do we become immortal?  The crane suggests that we do, a noble immortality that demands a transcendence from a corporal form.  There is not "truths" to be had here, just the fuzzy edges of mystery.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

In Search of Answers

Looking out a window at the world passing by, this young Chinese girl is enjoying late fall sunshine in Changzhou.  There is something comforting about being in the sun's warmth and looking at out at the world while being safely contained.

One looks out with real curiosity at the world and wonders.  All those passing people, all the stories untold are mysteries that feed an inner curiosity.  One wants to know, but one doesn't know.
"The problem always comes back to the fact that we do not know what we do not know.  We are not conscious of that which we are unconscious.  We do not apprehend that which lies beyond our instruments of apprehension.  The wise from Socrates to the present, know that they do not know, so all of life remains a mystery, a curiosity, which gets, as British astronomer J.B.S. Haldane once concluded, ever curiouser and curiouser." (Hollis, Mythologems, p. 29)
Children, like this girl are also wise, an instinctual wisdom, as they know that they don't know.  So many adults, in fear of the unknown, proclaim truths and hold to the "hard facts" of science or the "word" of their religions.  Curiosity is a danger as it questions and doubts.

Did our world emerge out of a big bang or was it created by some deity or . . . ?  So many answers claiming the "truth," the ultimate answer.  Yet, the truth is that we don't know, that we can never be conscious of the unconscious.  And coming to realise that I don't know any of the answers, I allow myself to become curious, especially about the questions themselves and where the questions come.  What is it within the human psyche that probes into the unknown in search of beginnings, that searches for the roots of self?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Hidden Treasures Within

I just had to take a photo of my new guitar.  It is a simple, no frills gift to myself.  When I left Canada, I took along a capo knowing that I would likely be buying the guitar.  I didn't want to take one of my guitars from my home in Canada because of weight and baggage limits.  I knew that I needed to have more to do to fill the hours in China.  Teaching, lesson preparation, walking and photography are not enough to fill all the hours, especially since I am not keen on hanging out with ex-pats in bars.  But, it is hard to spend the money on myself - feeling guilty when others have so little, especially since I already own two other guitars.

Denying myself the access to music just built up pressure within.  I am not a great musician, just another guy from the flower child generation that found a refuge in music and a way to be with others through music.  Now, it is a way to be with myself.  When I allow my words to flow on the keyboard and through music, I become more peaceful and as a result, become a person easier to be around - less tense, less repressed, less silent.

And so, I begin again the work of building calluses on the tips of my fingers, working through some pain in order to release the treasures hidden within my soul.

Mythopoetic Imagination in China

This is obviously a photo that is about China - a China that is now mythical, a place that is represented symbolically through architecture, colour and words.  All work together to create an image that points to something that is bigger than China's past, bigger than it's future.  Rather, the image is more about soul and psyche.

Living in China and spending a lot of time with the young adults who will be the future of the country, I can see how the images become more about myths and poetry than about history.  The songs being sung, the movies being watched, the serial television shows that feature heroes and villains of the past show a story that is anything but the messiness of real life.  All of the modern images of the past paint a story that is bigger and fuller than the prosaic stuff of everyday living, especially the simpleness of that living in times when living was a basic affair that often was focused simply on surviving and not great colourful epics.  Like in this photo, what is taken forward is a mythopoetic story that lies beneath the surface of today's Chinese people, a story that isn't really about the past at all, but about today with a hint about what is to come tomorrow.
". . . the mythopoetic imagination has never gone away; it is no further from us than tonight's dream, tomorrow's projection of symbolic material onto another person, or the affective energy of the next day's headlines in our local newspaper." (Hollis, Mythologems, p. 25)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Translating Emotions Into Images

"To the extent that I managed to translate the emotions into images - that is to say, to find the images which were concealed in the emotions - I was inwardly calmed and reassured.  Had I left those images hidden in the emotions, I might have been torn to pieces by them.  There is a chance that I might have succeeded in splitting them off, but in that case I would inexorably have fallen into a neurosis and so been ultimately destroyed by them anyhow." (Jung, Memories, Dreams. Reflections, p. 177)

Powerful words by Jung near the end of his life.  Images allow me to get out of my head and into those aspects of self I have otherwise bolted behind solid walls.  I know that I am often seen as "cold" and "distant" by others.  My penchant for wanting the facts, for looking at the evidence before me makes others feel uncomfortable.  I often hear, "Show some emotion, for Christ's sake!"  Unfortunately, these words don't seem to make a dent in my dispassionate way of being.

It was only through images, be the images contained in music, art or photographs, that I came alive.  The magic lies within myself and not in the music or the images or the materials.  The camera, the brushes, the guitar are simply tools in which I have allowed my hidden self to emerge.  Without these tools and the permission, I would have self-destructed.  The images that emerged, were voices and images of my repressed emotions.  They needed release or else, like a bomb, they would have exploded with lethal force with no thought to the damage that would have been wrought on others, especially those closest to me.  And so it remains even now, Via images, I continue to flow with life.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Capacity to Ask Why

This photo was taken almost two weeks ago.  It has been sitting on my desktop waiting patiently for me to finally place it here on the blog site.  To tell the truth, when I took the photo, I took it expressly for the purpose of using it here and so placed it on the desktop.  Then, I ignored it as if it wasn't even there.  Well, like all things that get shoved into the background, it eventually finds a way of making its presence felt with a demand to be brought into the light of day, into consciousness.  So, here it is.

So, what does this image mean?  Why this image?  Why did I even take it?  Obviously, something about Chinese architecture must be at play, something about an opening in a solid wall that is neither a door nor a window.  The wall is not within so both sides of the wall are "outside.  The wall isn't even a barrier as one can easily go past the wall as if it wasn't even there.
"The nature of the mythic sensibility is found most in our curiosity, our capacity to ask "why"? and "what does this mean"? and "how do I respond"?  (Hollis, Mythologems, p. 23)
So that is why, mythic sensibility is active.  This curiosity isn't the same curiosity one uses in search of solutions to math equations or for technical problems.  Rather, this is the original curiosity that one sees in a child that views the world with awe and with not just a little fear of the unknown.