Friday, October 28, 2011

Just Leaves from the West Wind

I couldn't let the autumn pass without one decent leaves shot. This is the top of a pile of leaves in Herbert Park, blissfully minus the sound of leaf blowers. It appealed because it had a swirly look, as if a gust of wind had shaped them, then suddenly stopped in mid-swirl! Poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, had a thing about leaves of course - and he was referring to the ordinary people in society when he spoke of pestilent stricken multitudes. Many of us are currently feeling as if we have been swept around, turned over, ruffled up - any number of pictures could describe our reaction to the grave economic circumstances that appear beyond our control. But leaves are all part of the cycle of life and death and they're all about the kind of decay that will lead to new plants in the spring. Perhaps parts of our lives are just like leaves - and maybe that's why children like kicking leaves furiously along the pavement with so much fun. And good gardeners will want that leaf mould if they have any sense - I expect the Herbert Park keepers are creating just that for fertiliser. This kind of change is ultimately for the better. Yet change is hard for all of us. People come to psychotherapy to help them change, certainly not because they want to stay the same. And if all goes well, that change in the person will occur with the same due process as plants and leaves. I like to see it as creating the groundwork for transformation, just like the leaves in the park. "If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?"

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Under Pressure?

The old railway works in the centre of Turin have been retained as a museum and this is one of the remaining features. Constructed in 1885, the Officine Grandi Riparazioni makes quite nice use of an old building for exhibition and museum space. But for me, the real interest lies in the factory's fabric rather than what's on display. This water tower is quite imposing although there's nothing grand or sacred about its humble purpose. It could be straight from an old western, complete with creaking. I wondered if the symbolism of towers actually held, when the tower in question is intended for something so mundane as maintaining water pressure. It may well be that there's a closer symbolic fit with with a waterfall rather than a tower. In practice, it's the pressure in the downward motion of the water that is the point. Yet strictly speaking, the water still comes down from the direction of the heavens, whereas the ladder reminds us of ascension. It’s another of these combinations of opposites. When in operation, the tower features both up and down movement. And there's water and metal, yin and yang. It's only a device to increase pressure which is surely a good thing for a water supply. But when we feel under pressure, we're seldom talking of anything good. Many people come to psychotherapy because they "can't take the pressure any more." Many are worked too hard and in some occupations, burn-out is accepted as an inevitable consequence of the job. If you feel that pressure in your life is out of control, it's a good idea to check out what help is available. The pages at my web site should help.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Rabbits and Symbols

I found this in the Egypt Museum in Turin and took a detail shot. It looks like it's on stone but as I recall the material is painted fabric. Ever since I became interested in rabbits I wanted to have a look at their place in history. So when I'm in a museum, I have a small side project! Rabbits are the third most popular pet after cats and dogs - but alas they are also the most ill treated. Rabbits are prey animals and don't like being picked up - so they are probably not suitable for very young children. Often they are kept in cages that are too small and fed food that is totally inappropriate. Yet they are very companionable, affectionate and rewarding pets, if treated carefully and thoughtfully. Rabbits and hares have been around for 55 million years. They were venerated in Ancient Egypt and throughout the Celtic world they had great respect. Because of their cleverness and speed, rabbits were thought to have the ability to shape shift or turn into people and back again. As moon creatures, rabbits come out at night to play and they can vanish at will. There are quite a few cultural prohibitions on eating rabbits. Shi'ite peasants of Anatolia refuse to eat hare because they believe it is a reincarnation of Ali, who intercedes between the Prophet and his True Believers. Although there is definitely one Rabbit Goddess, Unut from the Greco-Romano period in Egypt, the Aztec believed that not one but 400 rabbits guarded their crops. But like all good symbols, rabbits are ambivalent. They can be either wise and productive or lazy and idle. In other words, they hop from one side to another!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Sunflower Sutra

I took the title from an Allen Ginsberg poem. Ginsberg was a beat poet and didn't mention flowers too much as I recall. The sunflower in his poem was a dead one sitting atop a dump in the city. Our sunflower is very much alive and living happily in Piedmont. It's not so easy taking a sunflower photograph because they seem to turn away from the direction of the light. It leaves the photographer with a perfect sunflower and a featureless white sky. Finally I managed to find one that was correctly positioned for my shot. Here more than with any other flowering, the symbolism indicates a return to the centre since flower blooms are thought to represent the cycle of life and death. I always come back to the story of Persephone, carried away by Hades from the meadows of Sicily when gathering flowers. She would have plenty of work in this field where rows of sunflowers are planted between and around grape vines. She was to be become Queen of the Underworld and so the flowers are the souls of the dead. Lets end with a quote from Ginsberg's poem. "A perfect beauty of a sunflower! a perfect excellent lovely sunflower existence! a sweet natural eye, to the new hip moon, woke up alive and excited, grasping in the sunset shadow sunrise golden monthly breeze!"

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pluto Park Revisited

You may well ask, "what is this structure?" I asked the same question, but could not find an answer. I can tell you what happens there now, but its intended purpose I don't know. I thought that it might be a building constructed for the Winter Olympics. It's a part of the environmental park in Turin - the one I call Pluto Park. This is an enormous canopy - enough to cover an area the size of a couple of football pitches. Apart from the pleasure of strolling around the walkways, there are usually children happily playing team games under the roof. It rather resembles an enormous metal tent because there's very little to the sides, only the big canopy with it's geometric shape. I would describe the structure as an awning which of course takes us into symbolic territory. Traditionally, the King grants a subject the honour of a covering, an honour because the awning or canopy comes straight from Heaven. It represnts rank and power - from the King who is at the Centre of the World. This awning is more square than round so it relates to Earth rather than Heaven. However the stairs and the stepped roof seem to indicate a more heavenly path. Anyone can walk up the walkways or use the many lifts and although it wasn't quite completed when I visited. I always enjoyed walking there.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sign of the (Old) Times

I am fond of my signs, especially if they are made of iron like this one. The company is rather older than the date that appears in the photograph. As far as I can find out, the company was previously called Ross, Stephens and Walpole. an iron and brass founding concern that made railway bridges. The riveting is something we don't see to the same extent nowadays, but a riveter used to be quite a comparatively highly paid manual trade. Symbolically, the riveter's trade would subsume a group of qualities allied to iron - durability, toughness, hardness and hellish strength. Iron comes from the Underworld and is of the unconscious. Some even reckoned that as a base metal it should be kept separate from other more noble elements. There is an active principle in iron that is always connected to change. The plough and the many cutting implements like chisels are used to change substances and of course iron weaponry exerts its own change on the world. Iron has been found in artifacts as old as 3500 BC, probably mined from meteoric iron. So iron came first from the heavens whereas our iron sign has its roots in more recent times - the post Industrial Revolution. But I do like the technical term "passivated iron" because of the active principle inherent in iron. Passivating entailed dipping the iron into a concentrated solution of nitric acid. This formed a protective layer of oxide that retarded further corrosion.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Numbers in Pluto Park

I've spoken of this park before. It's very nice to stroll through and when I do I always notice the numbers on every post. They're very bold and make quite a statement. I'm not talking of numbers as mathematical or their use for listing and categorisation. It's rather their use as symbols that interests us here. There is a view, coming from ancient times, that numbers have power and significance beyond simply expressing quantity. Plato referred to numerology as "the highest level of knowledge. It sticks in my mind in the Book of Revelation 13:16-18 states that "Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six." The number is a person and to address someone by number is like naming them. It's that action of naming. which is said to have mystical properties. In the Fulani culture, it is de rigueur to give numbers to things close to you. Mention of how many children, cattle or even your age is not acceptable. To do so would be to release power that flows without stopping. I'm not suggesting these numbers mean anything sinister is happening in Pluto Park. Whether the iron structures are from the factory that used to stand here, I cannot say, but they all have a number and the numbers seem to say more than mere words.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Castles, Walls and the Inner Refuge.

This is part of the old Roman Wall in Turin. In the sun these bricks are such a warm colour, I just wanted to sit and look at them. In symbolic terms, walls are not quite the same as castles, but since this wall is castellated, I'm going to take a liberty. Because city walls and castles are fortified structures, they represent the inner refuge of the psyche. Even God has been described precisely as residing in such a place. I often hear a line from Psalms (60:9) repeated in reggae songs. "Who will bring me into the strong city?" And that most Buddhist of Christians, Meister Eckhart, also said in his Sermons: "Strive to make your way into the innermost fortress of the soul, into the House of Christ." and "There is within the soul a castle, into which not even the gaze of the Triune God can penetrate." In this he portrays the castle as representing Oneness. Castles are strong, they are high and they are very hard to breach. What better refuge could the psyche have than a kind of castle? You can do this exercise yourself, it's rather good fun. I try to visualise the kind of castle that might represent such a fortress deep within my own psyche. Now for some time it looked like one of these chunky Scottish baronial castles. But now, for preference, this is the one I visualise. It's protective and high and it'll do the job. But it is also an attractive and appealing structure that speaks of its designers and builders. Have a go yourself! What does your inner fortress look like?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

After Market

I like markets after they're closed and workers with lorries are clearing away the debris. There's a sense of open space and very often an opportunity for a dramatic photograph. This is in Turin and L'Antica Tettoia dell' Orologio market is indeed very old. These days, vendors are predominantly Moroccan and you can get any old thing here - it's quite a recycling effort that goes on naturally. It occurred to me that a market is always a social space, even when its cleared away. People will drift across the space on their evening walks and no doubt children on bicycles will zoom around in the evening. It is the complete antithesis of a shopping mall where everything is under control and the whole place can simply be shuttered at the press of a few buttons. Young people who tend to hang around shopping malls are drawn to what sociologists call "centres of consumption". The problem for corporate malls is that youngsters don't necessarily come to buy. It's more that they like to be in the midst of things that are happening - where the action is. They associate themselves with the values of the mall but even so, they tend to be moved on by security, because they don't always buy very much. Unlike modern shopping centres, an old fashioned market has irregular boundaries and temporary structures. Produce is arranged to be examined, rummaged through and even in these modern times - bargained for. I know which kind of market I prefer.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Full Final Jacket

I'm not sure a jacket is a symbol, although perhaps it should be. It's clothes and dress that fall into the symbol category and a jacket is just part of the category. But prior to a fight, don't people take their jackets off? They don't take any other part of their dress off before a dust up. Clothes are exterior but are supposed to demonstrate something that is "other" about the wearer. Uniforms refer to rank, status, occupation and in particular the vestments of religious orders denote the sacred. The colour of clothing signifies something other too, as in white for purity. Yet all clothes also represent something of the interior person, because whatever the case, clothes are not merely coverings, but signs. I'm reminded of the song about the "Dedicated Follower of Fashion". Animals wear no clothing - it's purely a human characteristic and so it's more than just our fur. In this case its about our personality and interior being - but only what we wish to reveal to our community. I came across an excellent saying by Baltasa Gracian Y Morales. "Things do not pass for what they are, but for what they seem. Most things are judged by their jackets." I think in psychotherapy, we start, not by ignoring the jacket, but gradually seeking to divest ourselves of "show" and so reveal our true self. And of course, here in the picture of the window we have the shadow falling on the object. If we took the jacket off, the shadow would still be there.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Donnybrook Shopping

It was a lovely Autumn day and the sun obliged by lighting this corner of Donnybrook. As I've mentioned before, the blighting by an awkward planning application caused many shops to close - two banks, grocery stores, a gym, a video store, a pharmacy, a dry cleaners - the list goes on. This end of the street is like chicane - it's not a good place to try and cross the road. The road narrows to an S-bend that would be the pride of Mondello Park and you have to "throw a double six" to make it safely. The Donnybrook History Society tells of a time when people jumped on and off the bus at just this point where traffic used to have to slow down. No longer! Yet in 20 years, these shops have remained exactly the same. The only thing to change is the ethnicity of the restaurant that tops the pub. So what is it about change? We seem to want change and then we complain when the old things have disappeared. Things were always better in the old days! The old 24 hour video store is no longer, a victim of changing technology. Now you can download an movie in the comfort of your home. But change inevitably means loss. When a client enters psychotherapy they are giving up old ways and adopting new ones. It's hard because old ways are familiar and comforting. But if you want to take the plunge and abandon old unwanted ways of being, have a look at my psychotherapy web site. There just might be something there for you and its much easier than getting across the road in Donnybrook.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Tuttosport - the Last Word

I love passing this building just to see the lettering on the roof against a blue sky. It has a relationship with a recent blog. Tuttosport is a sports newspaper who's founder, Renato Caslabore, died in the 1949 Superga air disaster together with nearly all members of the Grande Torino football team. It's now an immensely popular 32 page daily published in Turin and Milan. My subject isn't sport though, because what attracted my attention was lettering. Now letters don't always function symbolically but in both Hebrew and Islamic traditions, letters are extremely important. Hebrew letters possess powers of creation that only God can know and Arabic letters are wondrously symbolic. And of course, devotees of numerology know letters possess numeric qualities and they are regarded as holding some other kind of truth. All letters are symbols of mystery! But letters cannot be separated from the Word or Logos as it is in Greek thought. Now my old minister was quite a preacher. He gave an address to a religious gathering in which he quoted fulsomely from the bible using memory alone. His critics were both envious and furious. "The Word of God" they said, "should be read." And they had a point. In most religious cultures, letters and the word are first and foremost the property of God. And getting back to our image, there are many who believe that sport is the last word.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Polizei On the Canals

I took my camera to the Grand Canal in Dublin without much hope of finding something different. I have taken many photos there and I despaired of finding anything new. But how wrong I was. The German Police barge was unusual enough for me to take a few photographs. I never did find the reason for the boat being there. It stayed for a few weeks and then disappeared. Perhaps it was purchased as government surplus in Germany and brought here to be refitted. Someone will let me know, I'm sure. Symbolically, anything to do with police is a sign of authority and if you dream of police it's often about the father or at least a father figure. I never heard anyone recount seeing a policewoman in a dream. It's almost always a policeman. A boat on the other hand is rather clearer to understand! It's the symbol of voyaging and this boat has made a considerable voyage. But the voyaging is often about the underworld, where a boat carries dead passengers on their final trip. Occasionally the boat was dragged along a canal bank by a long rope in the shape of a serpent - and that would seem appropriate for our picture. French philosopher, Gaston Bachelard compares the boat with a coffin, bearing the soul to its rebirth. It has to be birth in that case where clearly death cannot be a last voyage. If we regard life as a kind of voyage, the boat can be a sign of security. This barge is very much a secure container and necessarily womb-like inside. So in the picture, the boat is mother to the police father.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Vault of Heaven

Domes are meat and drink to the jobbing symbolist! A dome building is an image of the world and this is delightfully typical. The sky is round, the earth is square and the pillars are rays of sun, flooding down onto the earth. There is even a central hole which denotes the sun. It's a fair bet that most people who look up at this dome know little of this and why should they? They experience it at an unconscious level. But not everyone was looking up at the time I took the photograph. My concentration was disturbed because a rather disreputable individual was taking far too much interest in my camera kit. Even in church the harsh realities of the outside world intrude! I remember him though and I guess he has his own relationship with this image. This is the interior of the very fine Basilica at Superga. It's on a hill overlooking Turin, with fabulous views and a funicular railway to get you the top in some style. The church was built from 1717 to 1731 so that Victor Amadeus Savoy could fulfil a vow he made during the Battle of Turin. The Superga hill is well known for the calamitous 1949 air crash which killed returning football heroes, Il Grande Torino. At the time, 10 Torino players were in the Italian national side and some say it was a tragedy from which the team never really recovered. When I was there, a man and his son, dressed in Torino colours had made a special pilgrimage to visit the memorial shrine and I was honoured to witness an emotional father-son moment.