Thursday, July 17, 2014

Things come around: Fairground Attraction

This big wheel isn't unusual except for its position. It's to the rear of the old Nazi Party Rally Grounds in Nürnberg. I guess if you visit Nürnberg you have to go there - although I did find it uncomfortable. It's rather a massive place, although much was demolished after the war and more recently in the sixties. I hadn't realised it was used as a prisoner of war camp. Many Allied prisoners helped to build this daunting place until they were replaced by German prisoners - the wheel of time revolves. In the thirties, the Nazi Party even had a funfair housed in wooden building within the site. But I was feeling a little sad after I explored the interior where the museum is housed - and when I saw the Big Wheel I snatched a shot because I had to. It's the sky that makes the picture - it was that kind of day and I reflected. The ceaseless turn of the wheel leads to renewal but nothing can stop the direction of the wheel. We may not turn it back, yet it always moves. Unlike the circle however, spokes suggest the sun. In Hinduism, the wheel is not only solar. It is cosmic and hence intergalactic. A single horse pulls a single wheeled chariot like a voyaging star. But perhaps this particular wheel means something more - wheel symbolism also includes the wheel of fortune and of course the Tarot springs to mind. Where Jungian thought is concerned, the rise and fall of the cars connote alteration and compensation. Some say this means justice.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Feuerbach's Beard. The point is to change it

I find it interesting to come across the grave of someone I've read. This is the resting place of Ludwig Feuerbach, a teacher of Karl Marx and the subject of one of his most famous works. Long years ago, my old college chums would amuse me by criticising Feuerbach for not being a Marxist. Of course, it's hardly possible that he would be. Without Feuerbach, there would be no essay on Feuerbach and that was seminal to Marx's development and outlook. It is within "Theses on Feuerbach" that we meet the famous line, "Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it." Marx emphasised the practical activities of humans and to some extent psychoanalysts do also - although we can often sink into the marshes of ideology. Thought on its own doesn't go anywhere. It emerges in practice and only then is it a vehicle for change. People in analysis want to change. So the contemplation process that we encourage must eventually be practiced in the real material word by the real flesh and blood person. Feuerbach himself was a great thinker but I'm afraid I was more fascinated by his beard than his writing. A beard is a sign of bravery. Many cultures insist on them and the greatest of gods are depicted with beards. In Ancient Egypt, they were often imitation with a curled point at the end. I'm not a beard person - I'm a moustache person and I appear to be in luck, because the symbolism is much the same. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Trains, names, numbers and life

The shot was taken from a platform seat in Fürth metro. I modified it a little because it was nearly monochrome and I wanted the roof to stand out. But what symbolism should I employ? Seats, roofs, holes and maps - there's a lot to chose from. The train itself is recent addition to symbolism and the received opinion is that certain structures apply - structures of timetables, regulations and authority. I take a different view. Every train has a number and attached to that is a departure time (from somewhere). The train is always called strictly by it's departure time, not the actual time it left. For example, a train might be the 3.20 from Fürth and so it remains even if it's late. The name of the train contains the nominal time. Now that may be a semiotic point, but theory is grey and green is the tree of life. Isn't it a wonderful feeling when you're satisfied you are on the right train? You look at your watch and hear the guard's whistle blow. The wheels screech and very slowly the train moves off. It's not long before it picks up speed and begins to glide across the city. The destination station is set - but of course it can and occasionally does change. Instead of arriving at our chosen station, we find ourselves somewhere else and have to make new arrangements for our final destination. It doesn't matter where the train ends up. It's still the 3.20 that left from Fürth.And so it is with people. Our date of birth, a number, is the one we have to carry. A name can always be changed but never your date of birth. That's the time you left on your journey. You know where and when you departed but the destination is up to you.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Judging the Round of Time

This is a clock I saw in Nürnberg in the National Museum. I love old clocks like this, with faded paint and numbers. Something about the duration of time is encapsulated in a way that a brand new clock can't attain. That clock has certainly seen some time, but I don't know much about the clock. Perhaps there was a picture there in the centre, because it looks a bit like an atlas. That's our reference to space, because time and space are bonded. Clock and watch makers often feature square frames - said to be an attempt to get away from the endless wheel of the clock face, a design to join time and space. Old grandfather clocks often had graphics, a pictorial view of time and duration - day and night, sun and moon. In mythology, Kronus, one of the most important Titans, seized world dominion and swallowed all his children. He was a destructive God, representing time as all-consuming - the past tries to stop the future. It points to the ravages of time, which are really the ravages of duration. The experience of time leads us to judge it. Think back. Have you been having a good time? It's always about judgement! If we dream of clocks, are we judging our experience of temporal phenomena in our lives?

Friday, May 16, 2014

Wine, Inoxication and the Psyche

The cherub with grapes is in a small park in Nürnberg. There are two of them and they appear to guard the way to a beer garden. Wine is the blood of the grape and so cross culturally, intoxication from alcohol (and wine in particular) is associated with immortality, knowledge and initiation. Muslim mystics called wine the divine love (The Wine Ode: Ibn Al-Farid). Wine was so much the elixir of the Gods that consumption of alcohol was part and parcel of the ancient Gods’ fabric. Christianity followed suit and placed wine at the centre of ritual. The bearer of grapes looks similar to the way that Eros is depicted and since there are two, that would make sense. Eros lost his space in mythology and became relegated to the world of art, where there would be more than one of him and most likely winged. Gilbert Durand (1963) pointed to the connection between wine and youth as secret and triumphant. The archetype of both wine and milk contain sexual and maternal qualities. If you dream of wine, it’s unlikely to be about drinking as such. From an archetypal point of view, wine is divine. It’s a miracle that transforms from plant into free spirit. So within the psyche it may be connected with a higher state and a positive inner life.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Archetypal City, Steeples and the Phallus

The Frankfurt city skyline is almost archetypal. It's all about the money and the phallus. The banking centre reigns supreme over what's left of the medieval city post war. The picture is taken from an old church tower, nearly as high as the bank buildings. Both reach to the sky and in that dynamic, similar things are at stake. In medieval times, the city is the centre of the life force. The city is a protective mother. Yet the church steeple thrusts up to the heavens as a sign of power. In every society a single class claims universality - that is, it claims to stand for all citizens, not merely those of the ruling order. So do the bank buildings. In this brash and impressive display, they seek to convince us that we all share in the power of capitalism. As we have seen recently this is an illusion.  "The phallus hardens or softens in the presence or absence of energy." Single-sided to the last, the banks seek the comforting power of patriarchy - but are entirely oblivious to life and to the interests of the majority. The energy they draw on is fake, self manufactured and ultimately it dries up. The medieval tower also rose to the heavens and signified an altogether different power that was more than each individual, more than the sum of their parts. The aristocracy and the church offered itself as universal, just as the banker class does today. But the medieval city represented mother and children. What now does the city represent?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Green Cans of Life

I was visiting a graveyard in Nürnberg and the gardener was very active indeed. She had assembled these watering cans into a rather fetching design and so I made my contribution to her art. Watering cans are always about gardens and gardens are paradise on earth. Even - or maybe especially - when they are graveyards. Graveyards have the symbolism of tombs and are female in principle, offering safety, growth and comfort. It was certainly so in this graveyard, a perfectly tended garden with many volunteers. Here in this place, the body changes - the life and death cycle contained within the bounding walls of the garden. Watering cans these days are usually plastic and almost always green, the colour of hope, of pastures and eternal youth. There was something ordered about the watering cans that I really liked. They were poised and ready to water the grass, flowers and the vases placed on graves. Indeed, the watering can is something like a vase, always open to the heavens and carrying the elixir of life - in this case water. We place flowers on graves as remembrance but in so doing we salute memory of a life. Without water, life does not continue - so water something is very precious, a natural, caring act that belongs to humanity.