Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Not Charon's Barge

This small vessel plies regularly up and down the Grand Canal from the Mespil Hotel to the Barge Pub or thereabouts. I think there should be more of these vessels. They would provide a resource for what could be a more of a scenic asset for this part of Dublin. Maybe the reticence reflects an ambivalence about water, since Irish epic literature is a little short on boats and ships except for getting us to the mythological Otherworld. That said, nearly all civilisations have a boat of the dead. However I do note the presence of the barge in many mythologies. Certainly, Egyptian art and literature with its Underworld of haunted Canals and towpaths is alive with barges. So too Greek legends. But this is not Charon's barge, steering pilotlessly towards Hell. It's a cradle for the relaxation of the passengers - and hence it is a womb. Here, the ferryman is compassionate. He aims to carry passengers safely away from their earthly misery and bring them temporary joy. They can also feel cosy in the knowledge that the boat is very unlikely to suddenly sink. Yet ships, boats and barges share one thing for certain. Like individuals, they have a goal and steer towards it. Maybe psychotherapy is like a ship. It carries its passengers on a path of discovery in a safe container. There's a voyage out and a voyage back and change will doubtlessly occur on the way.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Echo's Haunting Reflections

My route home took me through Herbert Park and to my surprise, the pond was half drained. What an opportunity for a photograph I couldn't normally take! A woman throwing food brought the birds and they took up their place in the image. The remaining pools in the pond reflected the blue sky and the gulls picked up the colour from the water. The reflected world is the conquest of calm, says Gaston Bachelard in his seminal "Water and Dreams". Narcissus stares at his reflection in the water but to be fair, he sees more than himself. His reflection is surrounded by a forest that stands in for the whole world. so Bachelard ascribes to Narcissus a creative imagination in which his reflection engages with the cosmos. Narcissism also brings beauty, concludes Bachelard. Yet it does depend on the season. In spring and summer, reflections are crystal clear compared with those of winter. Objects just can't get sufficient purchase on the pool for a decent reflection. But are objects responsible for their own reflection?  In mythology, Echo was punished by losing her voice. She could only repeat the other's words.  But she falls in love with the beautiful self-admiring Narcissus. Hearing Echo in the forest, Narcissus calls "Who's there?" But Echo can only respond likewise and when she reveals herself, Narcissus recoils, wanting to be left alone with the reflection of his beauty. Rejected, Echo pines away in the forest until nothing is left of her voice except crying. Maybe Echo is here, haunting the reflections in the Herbert Park pond.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Killiney Relief

The plaque on the obelisk at the top of Killiney Hill tells much of the story. "Last year being hard with the poor, walks about these hills and this were erected by John Mapas, June 1742."  The park was always intended for the people and so it remains. It was purchased and made public by Prince Albert to commemorate Queen Victoria's Jubilee, having been private property for a while. So much land is in private hands and it is a shame that people cannot always tread the soil of their country or access the sea. But in this case we can all enjoy magnificent views of Dublin's coastline. I was lucky with this shot because the previous one has no people in it. But suddenly father and daughter walked into my shot, bringing a lovely splash of red. And a dog appeared in full flight (on the far left)  -  again I was lucky because I had no idea they were there! An obelisk is a kind of tower so in this case it would symbolise watchfulness. Killiney  Hill was used to communicate news of invading forces and the obelisk with its small room and windows does remind me a little of a lighthouse. It's interesting that the buildings and walls in the park were originally intended as relief work for the poor following the Famine and it's also interesting that such public works continue. But these days it's usually roadworks!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Saintly Truth On the Ceiling

This is a decorated ceiling in Castel d'Angelo in Rome and I did like the centrepiece. But again, I couldn't track it down. There was a similar image on the Internet but no further information. This was was the apartment of Pope Paul III but who was the figure in the painting? Again I had to search by describing the image and this has to be the Archangel St Michael. Only he has the boots, wings and unsheathed sword and interestingly he is one of the few saints common to Christians, Jews and Muslims. According to my source, the Lucky Mojo Curio Company, he is the Patron Saint of Policeman and if you boil up some bay leaves and write a careful prayer to St Michael, you will be successful in sports competitions. In one old painting St Michael is depicted with his foot on the throat of a wrongdoer, poised to eliminate him with his sword. Importantly for psychoanalysts the sword often denotes the Word and in Christian philosophy, the sword can mean speech and eloquence, possibly due to the double edge of both sword and tongue. Psychoanalyst Lacan said the only desire of the psychoanalyst may be that the client communicates with him in words. Freud talks of the "sword of speech" and following him, Lacan speaks that "Truth hollows its way into the real, thanks to the dimension of speech." So what is St Michael saying I wonder, up there on the ceiling?