Friday, September 30, 2011

Going to the Dogs (and Under the Weather)

If you feel like this, then things are getting you down. This was a day to stay in the house really. If it's dull and dismal for any length of time it can be draining. We all have these moments and often it's accompanied by feelings of despair. Jungians believe that depression is caused by a particular relationship between the ego and the self. In the first stage of life this is generally positive and possibly inflated because the ego experiences itself as at the centre of consciousness. But in mid life, feelings of disconnection are common. Men in particular have feelings of disappointment about the recognition they failed to achieve, the friends they don't have, the status and power that did not come. And last - but hardly least - they may mourn the money and material goods they failed to gather. In mid life, the persona of youth cracks to pieces and it may be replaced by hopelessness and depression. One day, a message was left on my mobile phone from someone who wanted to see me for psychotherapy. I called the number back and was surprised that the message came from Shelbourne Stadium. I may never know who it was, but I wondered whether they felt they had literally "gone to the dogs". If you have feelings of depression, it's a good idea to speak to someone and there's more about that on my professional web site.

Passive Waters?

There are many such shots and quite often they win competitions. I don't know why, because there is no mystery to them. I did change the sky and with a background of trees that's quite some work. I like it though, because it gives the picture a "pop-up" look and, in consequence, the whole image starts to look artificial. I called it passive water because canal water does not flow "naturally". It is compelled to go where the human-made channel determines. And even at locks where the water can be at its most active, it is nonetheless persuaded to accommodate the demands of the canal. Like the sea, psychoanalysts don't have much time for canals. Whilst they prefer inland water, canals can't go where they want. They may not babble round stones and carve a meander from a field. For the most part, canals are waters which take a set course for movement of cargo. So they are very predictable and denote peace and order. That doesn't mean canals are totally safe. In 1792, 150 Athy-bound passengers forced their way onto a Grand Canal barge, many of them drunk. In spite of the Captain's warning, the barge capsized near the eighth lock, with the loss of five men, four women and two children. At Portobello Bridge in 1861, a horse from a horse-drawn bus reared, causing the other horses to back the bus through the rails of the bridge. All the horses and six passengers died. That's part of the ambivalence of symbols - passive or not, water can be either life or death.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Exist with the Self for Lamp

"Exist with the Self for Lamp" is a saying attributed to the Buddha, meaning that we should exist in the Universal Spirit. Certainly a lamp is the symbol of divine souls in many cultures. When I was in Turin, it was the 150th anniversary of the Italian Republic and this decorated square was just one of the many displays that accompanied celebrations. The symbolism of the lamp really derives from light - the lamp is the framework for diffusion of light in Buddhism and in Islam, light is the manifestation of the lamp. I would say that this careful display gives some expression to these beliefs. They look a little oriental don't they? Lamps were set at the top of Buddhist pagodas and were called "the lighthouses of the Dharma". A red lamp represents the truth in lodges of many Chinese secret societies. In the West, we also associate the lamp with contemplation and holiness. But the custom I like best is that of the Berbers. They set a lamp near the new born's head and maintain it for ten nights. Now that same lamp was carried in front of the bride and kept burning through her wedding night. The light represents a person.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Church Steeple in Pluto Park

The Church at Piero della Francesca in Turin is quite spectacular. I am not over fond of new church buildings - they seem a bit utilitarian to me. But this one catches the eye. Of course, the structure is the equivalent of a steeple, but a steeple is also a tower. Churches are for the most part "set into" towers. And taking the outside view. the tower seems to constitutes the main deal. You can see them from a long way off and, more often than not, they are the highest points in a small town or village. In symbolic terms they connect heaven with earth. Together with the rubble works and cellar that is often beneath them, they include the Underworld too! This tower is different in that it's set apart from the main building. Standing beside the church in an inviting open space, it also provides a mounting point for exterior bells. It's altogether quite different from what one might expect. I spent a pleasant time there, just walking around and framing images and thinking that this offers a public space so often lacking in church grounds these days. Symbolically, towers are often considered unfinished. They simply don't reach the sky and although the builders can keep trying, they are doomed to failure. In the Tarot card, "The Tower", builders are cast down by a bolt of lightning and the whole structure seems about to crumble. The Tower is an ambivalent symbol denoting the spiritual rather than the material path.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pluto Park and the Forbidden Planet

Here's that same water pipe in Pluto Park from two blogs previous. I call this place Pluto Park, because the iron girders remind me of the way old science fiction films depicted the urban landscape in far-off colonised planets. An industrial look was common but deliberately "made strange" to connote the future. I do recall that the the classic film, Forbidden Planet, itself a take on Macbeth, displayed a kind of industrial-technological look. In maybe the same way, Pluto Park has retained elements of the old factories on who's site it now stands and so provides continuity for a once dynamic industrial area that has seen considerable degeneration. An amble along the elevated walkways, surrounded by marching ranks of industrial girders can be stunning. Yet iron suggests strength and harshness, especially since in this location it has been allowed to retain its rusty orange colour. And although iron is associated with darkness, the girders lend power to whatever scene they grace. It's a nice counterpoint to the lawns, trees and ponds that nestle beside the large housing projects in this part of the city. When I was looking for a photo feature to portray a gateway to another planet, I used one of these iron structures in a collage. It looked rather fitting - a proper Stargate. So perhaps it's Planet Earth that's colonised by ourselves and we paint our future in terms of our own symbolic past. Maybe this is the Forbidden Planet.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Hospital Fence and Sacred Space

I said I was going to get back to Pluto Park but more of that later. This is part of the CTO hospital in Torino - that's the Centro Traumatologico Ortopedico, which specialises in serious trauma. Those involved in road and skiing accidents may end up here, often helicoptered directly to the front of the hospital. The location is meat and drink to a photographer and the hospital has the best snack bar ever. If you have to spend a lot of time waiting around, there is plenty to occupy anyone interested in sandwiches and photography. Yet the matter of interest here is the chain. Imagine the picture without the red chain and it would be so much less. Chains bind and this one is binding a specific area to make a barrier or boundary. Not much of a boundary one might think? Well, it only needs to be notional here. No serious harm will come to transgressors, but it does say "Keep Off". In our psyche too, we do do fence things off and often it's absolutely necessary to make boundaries to protect a part of ourselves that we feel is special. In particular, this personal space is prohibited to others. Jungian psychologists sometimes call this "sacred space" - a bounded area which is so personal to the individual that no one else may tread there. Temenos (τέμενος) is Greek for a cut off piece of land designated for an official function and it has become associated with the immediate area around a temple or altar. Jung transposes the term and the concept to a personal psychic location.