Friday, July 31, 2009

Clothes maketh man?

I know I've taken a photograph here before and I also know it's nearly impossible not to take a good shot in St Stephen's Green Shopping Centre. The main entrance is quite different from the other centres and there's always a crowd around the outside, this time sheltering from the drizzle. Great for a flaneur! I was thinking that most people seem to be going clothes shopping in the city - at least for the moment. Clothes are something that interest me from the point of view of persona - because they somehow present the inner being of the person and not merely the "outside". Although clothing is open to the dictates of fashion at the level of the collective, aspects of the individual personality can always be observed. Perhaps the Chinese Li-ki is right. When dress is as it should be, the bodily carriage will be correct. Yet dress codes change over the years and informality is now the general rule. Boswell's Samuel Johnson said that fine clothes are good only as they supply the want of other means of procuring respect. So maybe it's a question of whether you're wearing the clothes or the clothes are wearing you.

LUAS in transit

Still on the wide angle lens and no better use can be made of such a device than to take photographs of people in the city. When getting off or on buses, trams or trains, people don't usually care about unimportant things such as cameras! No time to be self-conscious when the object is too important - it might be getting home in the evening or, in this case, arriving for a night in town. What might it be - meeting a friend or an evening class? I can see a passenger with a brief case and another person has already been shopping. As I've observed before, we seldom dream about arriving - more often we are leaving, or trying to get somewhere. But these people have not yet reached their destination so they are still in transit. Doesn't an old saying go something like "It's better to travel hopefully than to arrive".

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Timeless Chat

I took this yesterday evening when I was waiting for an appointment. I had some hanging around time, then it started to rain - so people were scurrying. But not everyone took flight. The group on the right merely sat out the drizzle and continued their conversation. This is the corner near St Stephen's Green Shopping Centre, just down from the Gaiety Theatre. I am drawing on Lefebvre again for this scene. If we look at the space around us, what do we see? Is it possible, do you think, to see time? I had limited time and I had to be somewhere else at 5.15 pm. But this nice little group here has somehow subverted time and space. Primarily, we tend to see movement in the street, but the group has adopted its own space and time - not even the rain is going to shift it. They are in lived time and not the time of the clock just up the road. Their time is apprehended within the space, as is time within nature. The time the rain started.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Lonely Crossing

Somewhere between the road from Greystones to Wicklow is this level crossing. A small road leads down to the sea but you have to cross the railway line to get there. This spot has something of the Western about it, with its old-fashioned train sign, surrounded by flat terrain. The single rail track leads off to a distant but discernible horizon and the odd walker uses the track to walk along the coast. I know I've featured danger signs before so I will reprise by saying that the hysterical child is already imagining himself crushed under a locomotive. That would be unlucky for this is a quiet location and I imagine a train can be heard for many kilometers. The threat of being run down by a train would represent an extreme anxiety state, not only because it is unlikely, but because the psyche is in danger of losing control. It is self destruction that is the concern. The danger of being crushed under the force of the unconscious libido - rather than the reality of being run over by the locomotive. That's not to say one should linger when the real train does pass, but to acknowledge that many can feel crushed by aspects of their own lives.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

In the Wicklow Garden

As symbols, gardens always speak of an earthly Paradise and what better paradise than the garden of Hunters Hotel, Wicklow? It's hardly changed in the twenty years that I have known it. Hunter's is still a very good place for a spot of lunch and if you have a sunny day like this one it's almost perfect. The Chinese poet, Chang Chi wrote, to stroll in a garden! I orbit the infinite. But it is the Persians that are most known for their fabulous gardens. A great source of insight for literature, gardens inspired two famous collections of Persian poetry, The Rose Garden and The Orchard. I think that the Hunter's Hotel garden in Wicklow approximates to a kind of mandala layout of squares and circles - so it can be recognised as symbolically representing the human psyche. Jung might say that this shape brings inner piece and harmony and the contents are symbolic of psychic development and regeneration. St John of the Cross held that God himself was a garden and for Muslims, Allah is sometimes called "The Gardener".

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Just Before the Movie

This is Dundrum and early in the day - a good time to watch a movie if you want to avoid a crowded cinema! This image is on the very edge of possible with no flash. Just 6400 ASA setting , a thirtieth of a second and some luck. Cinema is one of my great loves but movies are not always screened in the best environments. Dundrum cinema complex is good enough though. This is very early in the day and only a few of us took the advantage of cheaper tickets and a quiet audience. I found it hard to get used to the new system - buying tickets from any outlet with a till. No booking office! You can book online but it just didn't seem right. Psychologically, a film is like a dream and often dreams seem to do what films do (or is it the other way around) - they jump from location to location. You know ... all of a sudden in the dream, I was somewhere else.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Flower of the Dublin Desert

Echinocactus grusonii, officially an endangered plant on the red list, but at the same time easy to grow. How does that work? This cactus looks great from the top which is an unusual angle. The top shot is my favourite for plants such as this simply because they are generally arranged to be looked at from the side in botanic gardens. The wide angle lens makes this shot possible - get close, get wide and away with your tripods and macro lens! As a child I couldn't say cactus and always said catkuss. Still do, say some! Sometimes called Mother in Law's Cushion, this is one of my favourite desert plants. Which brings me to my discourse which is all about the desert. I am indebted to Carlos Castaneda for my fascination with the desert and its flowers. The desert was once considered the place to retreat to in order to enjoy the life of the hermit. It is barren and devoid of life, excepting for the life that God puts there. It is the place of Christ's wanderings and temptations and there be also the daemons of St Anthony. For Islam this is quite different, the desert being being undifferentiated and primordial. The caravan moves across its stretches to seek for essence underneath the crust, the appearance of the desert. The cactus, flower of the desert is of course is the stuff of endurance and survival in that wilderness.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Maze Unfinished

Not so much unfinished as not yet grown! This is a sunflower maze in gestation at the Botanic gardens, Dublin. I plan to visit later in the year when the sunflower season is upon us. The poles made for a dramatic shot though and some small children were already enjoying the pathways. The maze has quite an interesting history and symbolic implications. It often wards off the evil spirits (by keeping them out or confounded). It is a preliminary journey to some hidden centre though - replete with dead ends and cross weaving of paths. They were often carved into the floor of churches and cathedrals and is said to have substituted for the journeys to the Holy land. The Alchemists saw the maze as an image of the whole task involved in any Work. To enter is one thing but to emerge could be death or resurrection. In any case, it is of interest to psychoanalysts because it is about the transformation of the self that occurs in the middle of the maze. The direction of travel is through the darkness and into the light.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Herbert Park Flowers

The wide angle lens lets the photographer do this kind of thing. You can get up very close yet portray a sense of space and depth. I had some luck because the Park workers had just been laying these flower beds and they made a stunning sight. Freshly planted and watered, the colours were most vibrant. Symbolically, flowers can give us many meanings and often they are associated strongly with their type. But flowers in general? In the Celtic world they were regarded as fickle in the sense of evolving, fleeting or brief - and ephemeral. Flowers often stand in for the soul - like the Scottish pipe tune Flowers of the Forest, or in that old anti-war song, much played in the sixties, Where have all the flowers gone? Pete Seeger composed it having taken inspiration from a Ukrainian folk song mentioned in the Sholokhov novel And Quietly Flows the Don. It was much popularised by Peter Paul and Mary but curiously it was first performed by Marlene Dietrich. The orange-red colours of these flowers seem to speak of the sun and we just had a brief moment of that today!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Botanic Embrace

I hadn't been to the Botanic Gardens for a few years, but I wanted to try a new lens there. It's wide as you can see. i was just taking this photograph when I noticed the embrace happening to my left. The lens is very wide (10mm) so it could be that the couple didn't know they were in the shot. And who is that interesting figure down to the left? Another photographer! Very close up too. Could we have been using similar lens? I do like the figures embracing because there is some joy being expressed, both personally and for the other. This was an early trip with this lens so I had some joy in taking the picture. It is nice to have so much depth of field and the opportunity for dramatic angles. I guess there's going to be more wide angle stuff until I get the hang of this delightful object.

Glendalough - the Supremacy of Fresh Water

For this shot in Glendalough I rested the camera on the rail of the bridge and gave it a slow shutter speed. Such a procedure gives the water the gloopy look that I like. It seems to roll over the stones and into a womb-like space in the woods. This is what Bachelard would call violent water - and it's fresh, so psychoanalysts can all be happy. Perhaps the nicest aspect of the river is that it can be heard. You can hardly ignore the sound of a fast flowing river. The river, the stream, the cascade have sounds that can be understood naturally, says Bachelard in Water and Dreams. It would be pleasant just to sit by this river and listen to it speak.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Window Shopping

I spotted this scene 24 hours before I took the shot, then had some luck as a family passed. Is it all about the windows? Or is it just a shop renovation? I need to paraphrase Henri Lefebvre when he asks is a window simply a "void traversed by a line of sight". He answers his own question in the negative. A window is a transitional object with two variations - inside and outside. Each bears the mark of the other. So windows are framed differently: outside for the outside and inside, naturally for the inside! This shot is a little confusing because of the transitory nature of the interior. Also because many windows can be seen through the two windows of the corner shop. A transitional object in psychotherapy is a little different - or is it? For a child, a toy - like a teddy bear - can help the child to bridge some kind of gap - a temporary separation from the mother, for example. In the shop window, each pane of glass bears the mark of the other whereas the child's transitional object bears the mark of a significant other.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Retired to the High Street

I came across this vehicle at the end of the High Street in East Sheen. Why it's there or what it is exactly, I have no clue. Perhaps someone can enlighten me. Anyway, nothing else is going through this doorway is it? It is certainly a military field vehicle and I did look at images on the Internet to match it up, but still, I have no certainty about its lineage. And how it made its way to an outer London Borough has to remain uncertain too.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

In the Forest

Although this tree trunk was just on the edge of the much-visited Palewell Common, it had the feel of the forest about it. Early Celts held the forest to be sacred space and so equated the forest with a shrine or nemeton. The forest is a strange place where scenes like this one are commonplace - even if they are regenerative. The forest can evoke panic - a bit like the unconscious. Think of the fairy tales which take place in the forest - Hansel and Gretel, Snow White and the rest. Jung said that, something like fearing the darkness and the deep roots of the trees in the forest, a client could induce panic in consideration of what might lie in his or her unconscious.

The Moving Wall

This is not exactly a wall. I was standing by the cash dispenser in East Sheen and suddenly a lorry blocked my view. This is its side - for all the world like a Jackson Pollock painting. OK, I did use a Photoshop filter called "Poster Edges", but I felt it was in keeping with the subject's paint-stained exterior. So suddenly I was separated from the road by this mobile wall. Walls are all about separation and guard against evil influences from the other side, but the down side is that we are then restricted in some way. If we examine the ego from this standpoint, we can see that there is some benefit in taking notice of the walls, erected by ourselves, that protect us from knowledge and possible action. The ego defences as seen by Anna Freud, ward off unpleasure and anxiety but exercise control over impulses and instinctive urges. They both repel and contain. Sometimes psychoanalytic work can breach these walls which provide "resistance" to analytic work. When the client dreams or is on the couch, some of the ego functions are suspended. The wall, like the one above, can move away to reveal unconscious motivations.

Plough and Wood

The blog continues in London and in this shot, retains a some connection to wood. In this picture, taken by my son, the wood - a garden trellis, seems to echo the plough shape in this pleasing pub sign (and equally pleasing pub, The Plough!). Interestingly the plough was not part of Celtic mythology in any way. Celtic gods did not rate agricultural activity highly. It was seen as either servile to warrior status or as merely technical. The story of Culhwch and Owen features the farmer Amaethon whose secondary title was ambactos or "servant". Ploughs are part of agricultural society and symbolise the male principle acting on the matter of the soil, the female principle. So the plough is very much a symbol of creation in Egypt, China, Thailand, India and was important in Christian thought. It is felt that the wood and iron of the plough symbolises the unity of Christ in the Cross. The plough depicted is not that ancient. The design first appeared in the mid 1600s as the Rotherham Plough and this was later developed in Berwickshire to become known as the Scots Plough in 1763.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Cybele and Attis of Phrygia

Staying on wood for the present and still in London, I was struck by the contrast of this rotting tree on Palewell Common - stark white against lush green. Palewell Common has managed to avoid the "green desert" syndrome beloved of local authorities, by preserving woods along its edge. And current thinking holds that rather than clearing, it is better to leave dead trees to rot and hence use the nutrients to replenish the woods. Now the symbolism of trees would alone fill a rather large book. Yet something - maybe the bleached and rotting tree - made me think of Cybele and Attis, a Phrygian myth, which I know through Jung's hermaphroditic account. Cybele was a symbol of maternal libido but because she was hermaphroditic, she burned with love for her son, Attis. But Attis was enamoured of a nymph and so the jealous Cybele drove him insane. In consequence, poor Attis emasculated himself under a pine tree, which Cybele then retrieves, takes into her cavern and there weeps over it. The cavern is of course the womb and the tree has an essentially phallic meaning. Jung says in Psychology of the Unconscious that attaching the image of Attis to the tree refers to the maternal meaning "To be attached to the mother".

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Gods of Wood

The wood yard just by Mortlake Station presented an interesting image. I looked at it and somehow the planks appeared like starkly carved Polynesian statues. staring down at pedestrians. In many countries, wood stands as an element along with earth, water, fire and air. In India and China it is primordial matter. Wood is "learning" - both culturally and linguistically - in the Celtic traditions. It can also stand for battle, as in the curious Welsh poem, The Battle of the Trees. In Irish tradition, trees could be changed into warriors ready for battle. The ancient Greeks and Romans specified particular deities to woods (rather than wood itself). Each God had a special wood and this place would inspired both reverence and dread. I don't think this wood yard inspires dread for the good residents of Mortlake and nearby Sheen - but you never know. No doubt this wood will be purchased and live out some years as floorboards, cupboards or bookcases.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Monster Truck Derby

The colour combination took my interest here as I strolled round the back of Baggot Street. Yellows and reds abound and the point is that we notice them immediately - associating them with the need to pay attention. There is some anticipation regarding this development since it sits behind quite a vibrant section of our neighbourhood. I recall taking one of my first photographs on the Canon digital EOS when the development was a hole in the ground - that was some time ago, just before Xmas 2007 I think. These giant machines look like monsters don't they? Especially when lumbering. A monster symbolises some kind of guardianship of a treasure and invariably they guard holy ground. Whilst threatening, these monster trucks do have an ordered function - even if they seem to swallow up earth . Like Jonah's whale they are transformative. He emerged a changed being and we hope that Ballsbridge will be changed for the better when the monster trucks have finished their task. In the mean time, it's perhaps judicious to get out their way until the treasure is revealed.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Builders' Stuff

I'm taken by colour at present and maybe what I saw here as its lack. This is nearly monochrome except for the poles which have a patina of rust. Are these the bits the builders rejected? The reason I ask is that some Jungians - archetypalists mostly - argue that the bit that the builder rejects is often the most important bit. What material are we excluding concerning ourselves? It is the case that metal workers were traditionally excluded from society because their trade was felt to have some connection with the Underworld. Blacksmiths were partcilarly affected despite their useful function. Jungians identify metals with libido - energy in the broader sense and the path of individuation can be compared to the transmutation of metals. If you dream of a blacksmith or forged metals, you can certainly consider that there is something happening in your life that it is positive. Re-integration proceeds through fire and destruction, say the alchemists. If you dream of a scene like this though, it is likely to represent a creation of order from chaos in your life. The tools and the raw materials are ever present.

Shoes on the Pembroke Road

The Pembroke Road is a good street for photographs. There's always something going on in that strip. This is around 5 o'clock in the evening and there are office workers, tradesmen, shoppers, joggers and a variety of others going about their business. In the realm of poetics and psychoanalysis, what is to be said concerning the street and the Pembroke Road? Well, when I look at the image I am very conscious of footwear so it's all about the shoes (Freud would be pleased!). The symbolism of shoes is rich indeed and I agree with Jean Servier that to walk shod is to take possession of the ground - as does the woman in red. The jogger hardly does because he is travelling for travel's sake - the jogger travels in all directions at once and the destination is subsidiary. That Freud regarded shoes as fetish, there can be no doubt but he expressed doubt as to why this was. Nonetheless, shoes are often attached to the car of the bride and groom as they leave their wedding reception. I wonder how many recall the old TV series Bronco? The theme tune went like this ...
Once knew a girl who kissed him once, once knew a girl who kissed him twice, once knew a girl who kissed him twice, she's dreaming of shoes and rice. Bronco, Bronco, tearing across the Texas Plain.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Llyr flies!

Patiently did I wait for the seagull to spread its wings - and then suddenly it took off into the air. I hadn't been sure if my patience was going to be rewarded and I had been muttering about the inconsistency of birds in general. So I take that back. Sorry Seagull!. Some seagulls seem enormous and they are quite intelligent - so they can indeed be described as Gods of the Sea. The Welsh Sea God, Llyr was said to have taken the form of a Seagull. In general, birds are transitory creatures that fly between heaven and earth and this is why they are often cast as symbols of the soul. White birds especially are regarded as mediating between heaven and earth, yet their lightness is not always regarded positively. They are volatile and flit about without apparent purpose. They are "airy". Sometimes, a psychotherapist might regard a subject as being airy - which would not necessarily be a criticism. It might be that someone has a need for "grounding" - literally keeping one's feet on the ground. But this image also features a bird perched firmly on the chimney stack. To me, it looks like it's giving the other an "old fashioned look"! We need to possess a judicious mix of both qualities.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Ego and the Spirit

I noticed this pram a few days ago outside a renovated house nearby. My first thought was that no one had taken the wheels - because when I was growing up, they would have been rescued and made into what we called a "bogie". A bogie was a basic wooden platform with wheels and rudimentary steering, constructed and driven by youngsters, who would career down hills at unsafe speeds. Any youngster with basic engineering skills and a Clydeside father would have no difficulty on the technological side. It was getting the wheels that mattered and the wheels almost always came from an old pram. Things have always been recycled! But a distinction must be made between the pram (or chariot, symbolically) and its driver. I should be forgiven for dualist tendencies by saying that the chariot is like the ego but it is driven by the charioteer, the spirit. Certainly there is some mastery involved - as many young chariot and indeed bogie drivers quickly discovered. In many ancient cultures such as China and possibly Egypt, chariot driving was a way in which prowess and skill could be demonstrated, so such a position was the aspiration of young princes. So where are the aspiring young princes of Ballsbridge with their spirit and their egos? These wheels should have disappeared in ten minutes!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Art of Communication

I spotted this tangle in the Ballsbridge Lanes and I couldn't resist. I speculated it would certainly make for a good metaphor about communications. When Bertolt Brecht noted the possibilities for personal one-to-one communication inherent in the technology of every radio (the possibility of every radio being a transmitter) he could hardly have forecast the mobile phone. Certainly he would have been less than approving of the current uses of modern communications. As a colleague once said to me ".. every one's talking and no one's listening!" So how are we all communicating? Much of counselling practice privileges listening skills. The Art of Listening, an excellent work by Erich Fromm, was an influence in my becoming a psychotherapist. Fromm says that the basic rule is to instruct the client to say everything he can and he should mention if he leaves out anything. The therapeutic relationship should, he adds, be characterised by directness and not by polite conversation or small talk. But for Fromm, the kernel of the psychotherapeutic art is the complete concentration of the listener.

The Blue Rope Trick

I had to work a little, to get this depth of field. The early digital cameras were really quite hopeless at doing this and even at this stage I was moaning to myself that there I couldn't get lower than 100 ASA for this shot. I guess I'm fairly satisfied though. The rope is part of a building site behind Baggott Street, which is gradually progressing. It's some 18 months since I took my first photograph of building works there. Ropes have lots of interesting symbolism attached. But the one that takes my fancy is the Ancient Mexican notion of Toxcatl, meaning rope or lasso. I mentioned in a previous blog that in Central American symbolism, ropes hang from the sky as semen, fecundating the earth below so I clearly like this idea also. And even though they are symbols of ascent, in the main, ropes fall from the sky and not the other way round - like ascending ladders. In the Koran, the Prophet is quite sarcastic when he says, "How paltry is it to try to throw ropes into the air." In mindfulness exercises I ask clients to imagine their head is attached to the sky by a slim thread. This helps to keep the body straight and relax neck muscles. Yet somehow I feel that the thread descends to the head rather than ascends to the sky - and that peace of mind makes this possible.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Stripes, Poles and Axis

Dublin sweltered in unaccustomed heat today and the centre was quite airless. Travellers, forced to carry their coats and jackets, struggled a bit. This interesting corner lies off a passageway from Dame Street which leads directly to the Stag's Head pub. I liked the combination of stripes here which is why I took the photograph. Barber's stripes of course, date from the days of the blood-letting barber surgeons. The bloodied sheets would be hung on a pole outside and this later gave way to the barber's pole. The pole was painted so that it looked as if the blood was draining downwards. At a later stage blue was added, but there is some controversy over the exact reason for this. Some hold that it is to distinguish between barbers (red) and surgeons (blue) - others that blue represents arterial blood. So in the image we have the added blue at the side. A pole is a fixed point around which the world shifts - the hub or centre if you like, so the barber's pole is really an Axis - and the World Axis was sometimes depicted by the Celts as a column. There! I've come the full circle.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Black Castle

Sandcastles are weird because they're castles out of place. Castles should typically be in a hilltop or in the middle of somewhere. They are set apart on strong foundations, not languishing by the shifting sands of the beach. Strong and secure they offer protection. But this sand is black and just won't do. The black castle speaks of utter failure and unsatisfied desire. It is completely empty except for the poor souls who walks ghostlike through its lonely corridors and along its gloomy ramparts. It is the opposite of the white castle which boasts achievement and the fulfilment of destiny, the realisation of the desire of the heart. The Black Castle is - as in Kafka's novel, The Castle - an image of Hell. For whomsoever walks within these walls, their fate is sealed. For those in psychotherapy who seek increased awareness we cannot speak of the "castle in darkness" typified by lack of focus and control by the unconscious. For those in psychotherapy are in a lighted castle where there is arousal and intention. And our poor castle pictured here? Well, we know there is no hope for the black castle built on sand.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Dangerous Tides

There are many signs like this in dangerous spots - and they are quite straightforward. The voice of the father speaks and is, psychoanalytically, forbidding - inhibiting no less. It's all about awareness and not about the instinct. No spontaneity here where tides are concerned. Time and tide wait for no man. Because of the tides, the sea itself it transitory. Unlike the fresh waters of a lake, the sea changes its form and a failure to anticipate that change can cause harm. Uncertainty and doubt plague the minds of people who are like the millions of grains of sand that are washed by the incoming tide of the sea. Some things cannot be controlled. The legend of Canute (or more correctly Cnut) speaks of the fallibility of Kings - and consequently all of us. Unlike his portrayal in the legend he was no fool. In demonstrating to his courtiers that he could not command the waves, the drama was a set piece. When the tide washed over his feet he said "Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws." It would be foolish to think one could control the waves.