Friday, April 30, 2010

Weight of the Soul

The question of suicide is a difficult one for psychotherapy. Do you respect the wishes of the person who intends to end their life or do you do your best to prevent the person carrying out this final act? Or maybe something in between. Whatever the viewpoint, Jungians especially regard suicide as the murder of the soul. In his science-art exhibition, textile artist, Sean McGuinness, addresses the question through research and installations. The soul has been said to weigh 21 grams, the title of one of his installations - and the picture above is a detail from his series of hanging shirt collars of that weight. The Royal College of Physicians mounted this innovative lecture as part of its public information lecture series run at its fine building in Kildare Street, Dublin 2 and further information is available at the link above. If you get the chance to take part in the lecture and exhibition, do go and make your views known. Talk to the organisers and artists there and appraise them of your particular viewpoint. Jung's viewpoint was clear though.

The idea of suicide, understandable as it is, does not seem commendable to me. We live in order to gain the greatest possible amount of spiritual development and self-awareness. As long as life is possible, even if only in a minimal degree, you should hang onto it, in order to scoop it up for the purpose of conscious development. To interrupt life before its time is to bring to a standstill an experiment which we have not set up. We have found ourselves in the midst of it and must carry it through to the end.” (Jung, 1973, p. 434)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Cognitive Signal Sequence

When they changed the traffic lights at Baggot Street Bridge, I wondered how many motorists and pedestrians noticed. The world goes on pretty much as normal - we obey the signs and go at the correct time in more or less the right direction. With some notable exceptions of course! But how much difference does it make? There are many professional drivers who know intimately the sequences of traffic lights on their route and this knowledge allows them to move swiftly through the city at night. Rescue vehicles and large transport vehicles are well aware of the sequence and time required to navigate their way through the road network of the city. Technically this is a kind of spatial practice that overlays the lived world of inhabitants. It is the world of transport engineers and planners who are in control of the overlay. They can change it at will, as we see here in the picture. Space is subject to a system of signs. Yet this signalled space lies largely in the realm of the imaginary. It is not real in the sense that we can touch this overlay of timed sequences. If it wasn't there there is the chance we could crash into each other. But have a look at traffic behaviour when the lights break down. Motorists and pedestrians work something out. It does not generally grind to a standstill. Cognitive psychology is a very useful overlay and it is integrated into much of psychotherapy. But it is a system of agreed signals that can at the imaginary level be changed by the individual. Like signal sequences, cognitive change is a difference induced rather than produced by the individual.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Madness of Tulips

I've recently been talking about finance and the problems of the crisis. Tulips are said by some to be the first commodity to produce a "bubble" and at the height of tulip mania in the 1630s, bulbs were bought and sold for many times the yearly income of the ordinary person. A Scottish journalist, Mackay, wrote a book about the phenomena, which he called extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds. There is, as always, contention about the bubble itself and the relationship between crowds of people and the pursuit of wealth. Nonetheless in 1637, the whole tulip thing reached the end when people just could not pay and the tulip trade collapsed. What is extremely interesting is that 1980s economists tried to debunk much of what Mackay said! But of course, 1980s economists debunked a lot of things and promptly pushed us into the greatest recession the world has seen. So even, or perhaps especially the crowd can hardly be impressed with the record of such economists to date. Jung did not like or trust the collective much, preferring individuals and individual behaviour. In so doing he tended to decry much collective behaviour, describing it as unsubtle. and prone to tulip mania. The crowd is a blunt instrument to be sure, but nothing much really shifts without this aggregate of people behaving as one. So here is the tulip collective, doing its best in the spring sun in Pembroke Road.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Big Yellow Cab

This is taken from the location of the subject in the photo below. It's just beside the bank and across from the pub, because it's a beer delivery truck - or lorry. The vivid yellow in the sunlight was unmissable and the flare is genuine. This again lacks any Photoshop interference and it's pretty much exactly as it looked this morning. Yellow is a fabulous colour but has ambivalent symbolic meaning. Hot, burning, almost violent in its intensity it pushes you backward like the glare of the sun. The quest for gold however makes yellow a little problematic with its implications of worldly wealth and greed. For gold's earthiness (the yellow springs of the earth or Satan's sulphurousness) stands counter-opposed to its sunny heavenly nature. But this colour on an automobile always reminds me of that Joni Mitchell song about paving paradise and putting up a parking lot (don't it always seem to go/that you don't know what you've got 'til its gone). Maybe that's somehting to do with yellow's ambivelance seeping through from the collective unconscious?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Banking System

The photo is uncropped except for marginal adjustments. I hardly ever get a clear view of the bank because of parking, but here we are and the AIB branch looks good in black and white. I like the visual interest and the three people all doing different things. I've mentioned the banks before, mainly because of all the recent trouble. Regarding loans in the old times, usury would have been regarded badly depending on who you were and the taking of interest on loans was not especially welcome in some quarters. For Arabs, it was expressly forbidden because the Qu'ran says that God respects commerce but not the taking of interest. In more modern times, it came to mean taking unreasonably high rates of interest that were more or less outside the law. What happened in the immediate present is that excessive risk exacerbated a structural problem outlined by Minsky in what came to be called Minsky's (Financial Instability) Hypothesis. So say some Keynesians anyway. And correct or not, we can all see that the taking of excessive risk does not lead to anything good. Financial risk with depositors' money and sometimes without any deposits in sight could hardly end well.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Flower in the Wrong Place

The weed is a flower in the wrong place, say gardeners. It's true of course that in the "country", plants grow spontaneously and occupy a certain space. But in the city, space and indeed its occupants (ourselves), are controlled. We are more or less subservient to the masters of space - government agencies, developers and the like. The weed offers a counter-culture by appearing at will to confront the organised. It has for the moment escaped the control of the established order. If only the weed knew that this is illusory - there is no escape. We either confront, roll over in compliance - or adapt. Psychoanalysts are always talking about adaptation. A failure to adapt is one of the key concepts of disorder in the DSM - the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Adaptation doesn't mean compliance, merely a capacity to live with others. The counter-cultural dandelion is claiming its space and presently lives happily on the wall in Raglan Road. Its unconscious existence is illusory but for the time being at least it survives, gradually cracking apart the coping stones on top of the wall. It has adapted to the space.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Colour Red

I spotted the red on the balconies of this hotel in the Pembroke Road, Ballsbridge. Then I deliberately took the shot from the front. I knew that the buildings would look as if they were falling backward but I wanted to try the Photoshop 8 filter for distortion. You have to shoot wide because you will lose some of your shot and there will be further distortion at the edges. So a good idea about the middle is for the best! Then you can drag the building in the image, straight! Merleau Ponty is the man to talk to us about perception and the colour red - and we have visited him and his colours before. Forgive me if you see red! Perception is not what psychologists believe - that is what we "ought" to see, according to the retina. If we look freely at what is in front of us, the building slopes back but our consciousness corrects it for us. The building in the photo originally sloped back because that is what it looks like. Our conscious mind corrects it - we don't see double because we have two eyes, do we? Red attracts our attention because of all our preconceptions about red and what they means. Red does not step into our world value free - it comes pre-loaded. Yet together with all that other stuff, that's what "red" is.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Concept Urbain?

When I saw the "street furniture" and that it was French. I immediately thought of Henri Lefebvre and how he would have smiled at this conceit! But it was good to smile at something brash. Concept Urbain is in a company that carries out these kind of street installations and I will say no more about it except that it can be found on the Internet for extra enlightenment. In appears that in order to be urban we need some kind of empirical verification. Our needs and functions must be validated - but by whom and for what exactly? We are continually told that we must be organic and yet the urban environment is anything but. We have seen that when institutions can no longer hold on to power, they tend to describe themselves as organic. The food industry responds to a deep crisis by labeling its products "organic". The city that can no longer serve the needs of its inhabitants describes itself as organic and evokes the imagery of the body. The rough, rusted cover of a minor service duct describes itself as a "concept" of the city - and what rough work it is. And it's worth noting that this minor workpiece is part of a sea view. The city garners in the space that surrounds it - even the sea. It renders it urban and tells us so.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Salthill Sea View

Yes, this photograph is upside down. To tell you the truth, it didn't look half so good the other way up. Some of us can't bear the thought of chaos and in consequence they try to control everything. Yet this is impossible, even in photography. I can very well turn the world upside down, but it might not work in a picture - which obeys certain rules. Within the rules, I can play. Outside them it may look like a mess, rather like some modern art today. One thing is experimentation and another is schlock. If I turn a street photograph upside down it will look ridiculous, especially if it has people in it. If it's a reflection in a window though, I may have half a chance of making the picture work, because the viewer accepts that very particular and everyday world of reflections. Nonetheless, there has to be some element of criticism in photography, art and indeed, psychoanalysis. Without criticism we may compliantly accept what we are and not what we might become. The latter represents that world of possibilities, which makes us human. In some sense, when we enter psychoanalysis, we have to turn the world upside down - and sometimes we have to accept that this point of view may be the way things really are.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Ducati Day

There is a pleasant spot to stop in Monkstown and lingered there for a few photographs. I liked this one of the Ducati Tricolore so I thought this made a useful vehicle to talk about the tricolore flag and the number three! Curiously for a flag that became associated with republicanism, the three colours are, in all likelihood, religious in origin from the three theological of virtues of faith, hope and charity. More correctly, from Corinthians ... and now abideth faith, hope, and love, even these three: but the chiefest of these is love". Importantly, these cannot be achieved by effort - you have to have them anyway. The first tricolore italiano, dates from the Cispadane Republic of 1797, from the banners carried by the Legione Lombarda. The current version is recognised as dating from the end of the Second World War, but is more correctly associated with the Risorgimento. The three parts of all tricolour flags are rooted in symbolism of the three - the first odd number and hence the number of heaven - whereas two is the number of earth. Three is regarded as the perfection of divine unity.