Sunday, November 27, 2011

Back Street Code

This is one of the locations I was enthusing about in my last blog. If you go off the beaten track and wander in the back streets, you'll come across this sort of place. Possibly this has been a stable for the richer classes who lived in one of the Georgian tenements in Baggot Street or perhaps in Merrion Square. The photograph had a very dreary sky, so I painted it the exact blue of the sky behind me on the day - just an awkward but well meaning attempt at authenticity! I'm not sure how authentic these window are either but they appear to have been renovated in the style of the period. Georgian houses were rather small and rooms didn't boast the amount of space of the later Edwardian and Victorian buildings. I was wondering what this kind of space was signified. Certainly it's managed to hang on where similar building have long perished. There is some sense of a not too distant past and the knowledge that it constitutes a rapidly disappearing space in our cities. It's a nod to older times, but when it was initially built, would this building have been regarded as picturesque? I doubt it. It's one of the codes we use when we look at older buildings and this involves not only memory but also the received codes about interpreting the past. The latter derive from books, television and film and our expectations are very much driven and shaped by these classifications.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tunnel Through

There are quite a few small streets that go via a tunnel under the Lower Baggot Street tenements. If you want to see a bit of Dublin that has a mixture of old and new, then take one of these tunnel trips and explore a block or two. It's probably not your typical tourist area and it's none the worse for that. If I want a different kind of image, I explore these areas and this usually proves rewarding. A tunnel is a symbol of course, and one that has much to do with the underworld. Tunnels always lead from the light into darkness and then into light again. They offer some kind of obscurity and maybe that's why some people feel impelled to cover their walls with graffiti. And what tunnel worth its salt wouldn't be gloomy? If you encounter a tunnel in a dream I rather doubt that it will be brightly lit. They are usually dark and anguished, indicating anything from hardship to a frustrated desire. So we move to the most famous of tunnels, the exit into life through a tunnel from the mother's womb. Babies must struggle into existence along this constricted passageway. We all go through such a tunnel and it's the initiation rite par excellence. As well as life, tunnels bring death, souls and even the sun can be coaxed along some underground channels. I'm not claiming anything so special for my Baggot Street tunnel, but this I can say. When I stopped to take the photograph, several tourists also stopped to watch. Some of them changed course and walked through the tunnel and into a hidden neighbourhood they would otherwise have missed.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Urban Spring

This is one of these long fountain arrangements that grace public buildings these days, but it was windy and it made a good shot difficult. The fountain is near the top of Leeson Street in Dublin and you have to wander through the gates of the office to access the water. Every so often a gust would shape the water and make it dance, so I tried a few shots of which this is the nicest. I got wet into the bargain so I hope it was worth it! A fountain is always a spring in symbolic terms. It's a symbol for purity and the water that emerges is held to be basic cosmic matter, without which life would be impossible. Springs are also symbols of motherhood and in some cultures, fishing in springs is forbidden - as is the cutting of any trees that border them. I've talked about springs before so I won't labour the point about drinking from the spring of immortality. Nor did I feel like drinking from this one. Nonetheless, when they are in a built setting, fountains are central to the idea of an earthly paradise - no more so than in the Arab world, where sacred formal gardens are stunning. These usually take the form of square courtyards with a circular fountain in the middle. The cult of fountains as a place of healing is common throughout the Celtic World, but especially in Brittany at the Fontaine de Barenton. I haven't even begun to discuss springs and the Orphic fragment that fascinates psychoanalysts. I'll leave that for another occasion.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Moon on the Wall

I found this in the back streets near Dublin's Grand Canal. I was despairing of an interesting image, but the more run-down parts of the city presented me with a few opportunities. It's a funny depiction of a quarter moon with the traditional face - and I did laugh when I saw it. We always talk of moonlight but the moon has no light of its own and only reflects the light of the sun. It's operating on borrowed light! But for me, the moon is about the passage of time. It has very regular phases that let me know how much time has gone by, in a way that a calendar never can. And of course the moon "dies". It disappears for three days in a lunar month and to many cultures this represent the passage between life and death. As readers will be aware, I became very interested in rabbits and culture, so I know the Aztecs associate the rabbit with the moon. For Aztecs, the moon was a crescent-shaped water container with the silhouette of a rabbit sitting on top. I've mentioned the 400 rabbits of the Aztecs previously and in this case, the rabbit is a harvest symbol. They believed that their 400 rabbit gods were completely and permanently drunk. Now it could just be that this graffiti was painted by some drunken rabbit who was hopping out at all hours of the night. I like to imagine it was!

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.

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.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Out of the Blue in Pluto Park

I guess this is the best title since I haven't managed to blog much for the past 3 months. Maybe I seem to have appeared "out of the blue". I have had urgent family matters to attend to and also the demands of another project took me away. All will become clear on the latter in due course. This picture was taken in Turin and represents a feature of an urban recreational park - a regeneration project built on an old Fiat tyre factory. Some of the factory has been retained and this is the bit I liked best. It's just a simple down pipe from which water flowed to a pond - an industrial fountain if you like. I found myself looking at it for some time, because against the clear blue sky and the buildings behind, the flow of water made a very striking and intriguing sight. Blue is an amazing colour and not that common in nature. It offers a deep translucent void that we can very well fall into, whether its sea or sky. Here, the water is infinite with possibility, jumping into shapes that appear random. I think a slow camera shutter speed reveals its mercurial splendour. After initially disliking this industrial park, I fell in love with it and was privileged to spend some time in its embrace. I call it Pluto Park, for reasons that I will explain in further posts. So I'll leave you with with the water in Pluto Park and I hope you find it as relaxing as did I.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Summer shower

It doesn't feel much like the summer. It's chilly for June. Yet someone said to me that it was brilliant weather. I probed a bit and I discovered that he meant it wasn't raining and hence the weather was OK. I was irritated when I was caught in a heavy downpour. The sun had been shining and it looked settled - but that can easily change in Dublin. So I ducked into a doorway and took my camera out. It took several shots to get something that appealed to me. I counted the number of people in the picture and there are eight, not counting the person who's arm alone got into the shot. The reflections were wonderful and I particularly liked the trailing red streaks made by the traffic lights in the wet asphalt. They look impossible don't they? But that's what they were like for a brief instant. The rain disappeared in an instant too, so its a bit of bad luck that I and my eight subjects got caught in the rain. I am always saying that we can't control everything. Not everything can be in the hands of the individual. We might have been born in the Saharan region and many are. But most were not born there. We are thrown into the world without choice and that we have to accept. What we do after that, as individuals, is something we are able to work on. Definitely you could find out more at

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Psychoanalysis - part of the Secret Service?

The visit of the US President was quite the thing in my neighbourhood. Apart from any parked cars mysteriously vanishing at 2 am! The President came and went and for the most part no-one caught a glimpse of him - unlike our experience of the Queen or His Holiness the Pope. But naturally, I couldn't let the event pass without a blog entry. I must say, it's not often I see someone from the Secret Service. That's because it's secret, I hear you say. Well, here's the man with the sign on his back and he looks the part, almost straight out of the movies. Secrecy is a big time symbol and a secret is very much a privilege of power. This image means that such a person shares in that power and partakes in the privileges thereof. The down side is that holding a secret causes a great deal of anxiety. Prometheus shared a secret with Zeus that was entrusted to him by Themus - but not before making Zeus suffer as much as he had. He was then released from his chains. That was a happy event for him, since Prometheus' liver was being clawed by vultures at the time and was not a happy fellow. Sharing a secret is good for the soul. Freedom comes from unburdening oneself of the terrible weight of guarding a secret. The excuse of those in power is like that of the alchemists. One shouldn't reveal a secret to those who would misuse or abuse it. With secrets come domination and a sense of superiority. So at very many levels, unburdening is one thing that can be of immediate benefit for someone participating in psychoanalysis

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Echoes of Colour

This scene worked out well and that's not unusual because this corner generates many lovely images. One could just hang around and watch. It would always be rewarding. I loved the colours in the child's bike, which were rather reflected by the advertising and even again by the Dublin Bus colours in the background. These are sometimes called "echoes" in photography. So I think this blog is about the echo rather than colour. Nonetheless, colour is symbolically about universality and that rather suits the image too - with the older men talking behind the young couple with the child. Echo is not such a positive symbol though. Chained to a rock for a romantic infraction, Echo the nymph was condemned to become a person who could only repeat the last words she had heard. She is the symbol of regressivity and passivity. In other legends she was infatuated with Narcissus, but thwarted, she sought refuge in the caves and forests. Maybe we can hear her calling him in this image. The advertisement might fall neatly into the Narcissus category - calling to us and repeating what we like back to us - as advertising generally does. Advertising wants us to gaze at and fall in love with our own reflection. So that we buy things for the person we think we are and who we recognise in the advertising. Over the years I have become convinced that this is how it works. Narcissus is so obsessed, he doesn't hear Echo and so I rest my case. I'm not so sure about the bus. Its good to see the bus arrive!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Boy on the Bridge

This railway bridge is perfectly adequate for the task - but it's a little depressing I always think when I am there. The combination of that shade of green with the close mesh has a touch of prison about it - restriction or containment of some sort maybe. The symbolic function of the bridge is not so different from its practical purpose here. A bridge allows us to cross from one side to another and in so doing stay away from dangers of some sort, In this case it's trains and electricity, so the bridge is a container too. The bridge takes us from one state to another - the transition to from Earth to Heaven is often represented by a bridge. There is a symbolism of passage. The Pontiff of the Christian Church is a term which originates in the old Roman colleges and means "bridge builder". There is a corollary in Welsh and Irish Mythology with the legend of Branwyn, Daughter of Lyr. In this tale, an avenging army of the Welsh came to the magical Shannon on which there was no bridge. King Bran lay across the river and allowed his army to march over him and to the other side. This is associated with the saying, "The Chief should be a bridge". In dreams, bridges are usually about a danger to be overcome. In all likelihood, some obstacle in the dreamer's life has to be crossed and the dreamer will be in transition from one state to another. The boy in the photograph cuts a solitary figure doesn't he? I can't see his face but the the stance suggests "pensive" - almost as if he does have some important obstacle under consideration. If a client brought a bridge dream to a session, I would certainly ask for associations to bridges. But in the end I would be asking whether there is anything up ahead perceived by the client as transitional and difficult.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Duck Sandwich

It's not that unusual to see ducks in my neighbourhood where they frequent Herbert Park. But this is close to the centre, so I was surprised, not only by their presence there, but by the busy corner they had elected to stroll around. Ducks don't care, clearly. They have definitely been mentioned before in this blog. In the far east they symbolise marriage and felicity because duck and drake will swim in each other's company. American Indians think highly of ducks as spirit guides and use duck feathers in dances and rituals. But of ducks in Welsh or Irish mythology, no mention can be found. They tend to be confused with swans apparently. These days when I see a duck I can't help thinking of the Marx Brothers film Cocoanuts. Looking at a map, Groucho says "I say, here is a little peninsula, and here is a viaduct leading over to the mainland." To which Chico responds "Why a duck? Why that...why a duck? Why a no chicken? " Of course it continues with a typical Groucho non-sequitur "Well, I don't know why a no chicken; I'm a stranger here myself!" That's what come to mind for me of course, not the symbolism of ducks. Psychoanalytically, if I reported a dream about ducks I would have to explain all my associations including Marx Brothers, chickens and viaducts. Come to think of it - wasn't there a viaduct in the previous blog photograph? Why? Why a no chicken?

The Same but Different

Passing this street I thought how much it had changed and how little. It always looked a bit like this even though the only surviving feature is the railway bridge in the centre of the image. To my recollection, there was always a terrace of small houses with larger and grimmer buildings in the background. Perhaps the train has a different livery now. It's not a suburban train, because it's too long - and as I positioned myself for the photograph, the train kept moving through, carriage after carriage. A friend of mine used to refer to this street as "ugly street" and certainly it isn't very pretty. Yet it's full of visual interest on this occasion. The sunshine helps. I do remember that the founder of psycho synthesis, Roberto Assagioli, was clear on the question of things "always being the same". They are not of course. Although there has always been redevelopment, it takes place in different contexts where different relationships pertain. We have to be certain about what is different here and now - and most important of all, what it means for us.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Shadow doesn't Walk

The shadow can't walk under its own steam. It's always someone's or something's shadow. Unless its the pulp fiction hero of the thirties of course. The image above, which features a a kind of portico, reminded me of discussions about the shadow that I have had with Jungian psychologists. Now the shadow as a psychological concept refers either to the whole of the unconscious or to that part of the unconscious that comprises traits and attitudes that go unrecognised by the individual. So the shadow cannot be an entity of any kind and certainly not a human entity. In philosophy, reification is a tendency to refer to an abstract as if that abstract possessed a concrete or material existence. To refer to the shadow as a real thing with its own concrete existence is to reify it. Yet the collective, including government agencies or business corporations, does possess both an unconscious and a shadow that comprises unrecognised attitudes. So we can put the shadow forward as a concept and it has the power to offer explanations for certain kinds of behaviour. You may dislike someone for no reason and it is likely that your unconscious identifies, in that person, traits that you don't like about yourself. That is your shadow. But of course there is no substantial shadow separate from you or from the people that comprise collective organisations. I think the pulp fiction Shadow was rather interesting because although he couldn't make himself invisible, he could shroud his opponents minds so that they saw him several feet to the right or left. When your shadow is in charge of your actions, you are likely to be as off-target as the adversaries of the that pulp fiction character.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Shopping and Floating Commodities

Shopping centres or malls are much the same, but Lingotto is hardly the worst. The new Turin Metro goes there now so it's busier than it used to be. Built inside the old Fiat factory in Turin, it is quite airy and light - as is this photograph. Because of the shiny floor and the shadows, people look as if they have levitated slightly. I particularly like the youngsters chatting in the background. Shopping centres rapidly became a place where young people could "hang out" although not necessarily buying anything. Therein lies a conflict. Consumption of commodities has taken over space. In fact, it more or less governs it. Even television space is all about shopping, buying things, selling things and so on. Henri Lefebvre says that this "sacrifices the future and destroys the present." I feel that past societies would look unfavourably on a world so dominated by commodification. Its a present where even we ourselves become commodities. We have sold our own future and destroyed our personal present. That is what leads many into psychotherapy. They feel and know they are more than commodities but they are uncertain regarding what they may in fact be. For me, the young people in the photograph represent hope, because they are in conflict with the space. their agenda is different. In due course, they may even be moved on. But they will have served their purpose by confronting the adult world. That is their job.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Portico flâneur - the art of strolling

I do like Turin and its porticos. On the one day I had chosen to prowl around, it rained! However this was no problem. You can walk for many kilometres under these arches and look at the many different shops. Turin has managed to hang on to its old traditions. There are small cafes, many with the original period decor. There are hobby shops with all kinds of models and you can order made-to-measure confectionery. Turin continues to be a centre for chocolate making and it's generally small scale. The Slow Food movement began in this region and it does show. What better place to be a flâneur? In order to be a flâneur proper you must have an interest in the city and its ways. You have to be have an affection for the things the city can offer. It is the zenith of participant observation - where some detachment is necessary for full enjoyment and appreciation. Probably my fondness for Turin is showing. It is nice to just walk around with no particular aim and I feel that perhaps we are in danger of losing the art of strolling. In these times, we must always have a purpose - shopping mostly. It isn't necessary. So perhaps we should all try to be flâneurs. Just as an exercise, go out for a walk around the city and see if you can do this without intention.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


This is a much worked on photograph with a few errors that were, in the end, satisfactory. It reminded me of the sixties and seventies obsession with "high flat syndrome". That naturally only applied to the UK and was entirely ethnocentric. Many countries are perfectly OK with apartment blocks - or condominiums are they are sometimes called. If you live in a city, acknowledging the benefits rather than the drawbacks of high density, then you know that many facilities are available to you - including transport, leisure and health. Importantly they are close by. In Spain and some other countries, participation in an apartment block committee is compulsory. That's perfectly sensible you might think. yet it demands a sharing sensibility. It's where collective and individual needs must coincide. In Jungian psychology, the individual is often privileged over the collective. Some practitioners seem to feel that this is means the individual is always "better" than the collective. Yet as existentialist psychotherapists know, we don't have a choice about being social beings. Where individuals benefit from sharing there can be no argument. Both individual and collective values are valid.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sustainable Purification?

This doorway is on O'Connell Street, much of which has seen better days. Particularly at the north end, there are many closed buildings - even a hotel where I once stayed seems quite derelict! The message is aimed at the banking sector and naturally many members of the collective are rather angry about the behaviour of those in whom we were encouraged to trust. Symbolically though, it is the method suggested by the graffito that interests. Fire is about many things. Yet we can be clear that in this case it's about change. Purification is in the very nature of fire and cleansing is what is suggested here. My philosophy hero, Gaston Bachelard would smile at this one. When he wrote the Psychoanalysis of Fire, one of the things he had in mind was the overpowering, elemental force of fire and the dramatic change it produces. When a fire starts it produces a chain reaction by which it sustains itself. Combustion brings fire and a process of change that both continues and is somewhat difficult to stop. Certainly it cannnot be reversed. Although the graffito doesn't go very far - graffiti never can - it's suggesting sustainable change. Change imples some kind of loss and in recent times, losses have been high.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Jason and the Psychonauts

I saw an opportunity to change a good enough seascape into something more particular. In general I don't like the Photoshop excesses, which are everywhere. But the shot seemed to be asking for manipulation. Also it seemed as if my horizon was, for once, dead level and made for a straightforward selection job. It was a very dull day without a great deal of sky detail but the sea looked choppy and threatening. So I opted for wide angle lens and then cropped the image to the centre. The sea invariably symbolises the unconscious, undifferentiated and formless. Terrifying eh? It's shapeless and dark and might have monsters in it. Am I speaking of the sea or the unconscious? A journey through the sea of the unconscious is what we embark upon in analysis. Paraphrasing Shankaracharya's "sea of passions", whoever crosses the sea with its demons and massive waves can be said to have travelled to the ends of the earth and have departed to the beyond. I have always felt that anyone setting out in analysis is a brave person embarking on a difficult and even perilous voyage, so the sea provides a good metaphor. Like the voyage of Jason and the Argonauts, the analyst and analysand must together confront, overcome and ultimately integrate whatever is in the unconscious. That's why some of us like to call analyst and analysand after the Argonauts. We are Psychonauts, forever piloting our ships across the sea of the unconscious.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Down here at the Railroad Station

In this picture, the passenger is arriving - and clearly wants to move forward on his journey at haste. If we dream of ourselves in this position we are clearly in transition. Having said that, I am always dreaming of changing buses, trains, planes and moving between termini. These splendid trains in the background would signify power, luxury and comfort in a dream. They could also indicate a development in your life. But this all depends of course on the context. If you were always travelling on this kind of train, it might signify something completely different. However, when I think of railway stations, they sometimes remind me of the ancient caravan trade routes. Now the caravanserai were roadside stops for the caravan traders to rest and recuperate. Like the old coach inns, they provided meals and accommodation. The railway station is a bit like that. These lines are from one of my favourite poems, Fitzgerald's Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. "Think, in this batter'd Caravansara/ Whose Portals are alternate Night and Day/How Sultan after Sultan with his Pomp/Abode his destined Hour, and went his way." The railway station is, over time, like anything else. It's subject to change. Major railways stations no longer offer baths to travel-stained passengers, like the caravenserai of old. That's a pity. I remember using the service at Euston station in London. It was affordable and briefly luxurious. Chain coffee shops and clothes franchises can never replace that.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Mutual Support

I really like this good fun picture. Nearby a shopping centre, this Christmas ice rink has obviously been popular because it has remained for some time! Certainly there are no indications that it will close. The two young women were having a good time supporting each other and when I inspected the photograph closely, it reminded me of the trust games often used in youth work. One person must support the other and the other must trust that he or she will be supported. I have seen it go wrong but not deliberately! Naturally it also reminded me of some elements of successful psychotherapy. This doesn't and cannot happen without trust. But although one person, the client, can "lean" on the psychotherapist, the psychotherapist may not lean on the client. Yet there is something similar that the psychotherapist might do for a while. The technique is called "holding", which is rather like a continuing version of a supportive hug. Whilst the client is particularly vulnerable, they may need to be "held close" so that they feel supported. There are occasions when that is all that can be achieved, at least for a while. A psychotherapist may have to challenge the views of the client, but that doesn't happen when they are being "held". Child psychologist Donald Winnicott said that the the therapist could provide a holding environment, by being patient. In this way, the therapist allows the client's true self to gradually emerge without defences getting in the way. He said that it was, in any case, the patient, who has the answers. Back to my picture! On that afternoon, for a short while at least, it was the two youngsters who had the answers.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Columns and Pillars and the Rest

If I am in Rome, I always visit this square. It's the Largo di Torre Argentina and it's reputedly where Julius Ceasr met his assassins. Apart from its beauty and antiquity, it is the home of an interesting and much photographed cat colony. Then to the rear is the very old Jewish Ghetto of Rome, where there are more antiquities and restaurants with arguably the best food in Rome. Various columns here have been salvaged - there are four temples - and stood beside each other in this large square. It's quite a sight. So I am going to talk of columns - one of the most discussed symbols. I am sure the Freud would agree. In any case, columns have always been derived from trees and the support structures for buildings were originally made from trees. They were designed, not only for support, but to give vitality to a building. Many architects do not like the current mode of suggesting that a building hasn't much support. This lacks vitality, they might argue. They appear without substance. And many reject the column since to them it implies patriarchy. It is thought however, that the sexual connotation of pillars is that a right hand pillar constitutes the active male principle and the left represents the passive female principle. That is primarily associated with the reproductive organs. It does not imply that males are always active and females passive! That's a question for another blog! I do like the arrangement of the columns in the picture and the deep blue sky at dusk. I could stand there for quite a while, as the light changes!

Reflecting Back

For some time now, the popular rugby bar has featured this hamburger stand painted like the hotel frontage. I've been waiting for a good shot, but somehow it never came. So today I forgot about the empty foreground (which photographers don't like except when they have to leave space for a magazine title). I like the hotel's idea and it gives me the opportunity to talk about reflection. In traditional "counselling", reflecting back is the primary technique. By accurately repeating or summarising the clients' words, clients are reassured that they have been heard properly. In normal conversation this is is unlikely to happen. And in adverse circumstances, some people talk over the words of others, never allowing them the feeling of being heard. Worse still, the utterances of some are snatched away form them by the conversing other and completely transformed in the process. Analyst, Christoper Bollas, regards this as kind of theft. All modes of psychotherapy attempt to counteract this unfortunate phenomenon. Symbolically speaking the reflection is associated with the mirror, which in Latin is speculum. When we speak of speculating, we are referring to that process by which we reflect and mirror things of importance to us. So for me this brings to mind the Vietnamese saying "Like the Sun, like the Moon, like Water and like Gold, be clean and bright and reflect what is in your heart." At the very least, we can set out to be faithful to ourselves.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Through the Big Fridge

For this photograph I was at the limit of what the camera could do and outside the limit that I was myself permitted. In the Museum of Cinema in Turin, one is not allowed to take photographs. If there is a better Museum of Cinema, then I haven't heard about it. This superb building, an old Jewish temple, (Mole Antonelliana) was reconstructed to house a stunning collection of film artefacts and there's lots to do for people of any age. You can kiss goodbye to an afternoon quite easily here. I liked the fun side of things. You can walk through the giant fridge under the giant chicken and emerge to yet another cinema screen. But of course for this blog it was the symbolic nature of food that I was thinking about. Now food is not of itself a symbol whereas various kinds of food residing in a fridge are indeed symbolic. The chicken or at least the cock is a solar symbol, heralding daybreak as it does. Milk is of fertility and plenty and so on. But the fridge made me think about food and the use of energy in the present day world. Useful as it is, it uses energy to keep things fresh for longer than their natural life. We buy food that has often been transported long distances. We freeze it and then quite often we later defrost it in a microwave oven. Then we heat it up. So there is an argument for choosing fresh food, locally produced and in season. Perhaps we wouldn't have to go through the fridge quite so often!

Straight lines at the Bus Stop

Just a wet day at the bus stop, waiting for the right bus that seems to take a while. Taking a few photographs seemed like a good idea to fill in the time. Nor was I going to move from my seat into the damp street! This is what came out with a long lens and some ferreting around. There's an abandoned umbrella that had given up the ghost and I thought it looked interesting beside the lines. The yellows in particular seems to match, so a shallow depth of field and a focus on the umbrella was my choice. This image was certainly the best of the bunch. Yet in the end it was the lines and not the umbrella that were dominant. There are always lines around and usually they are boundaries or instructions. An instruction is implicitly a boundary of sort. Intellectual and moral rectitude says one dictionary of symbols - I suppose that is roughly correct. The furniture maker would not use a crooked line to make his artefacts! We wouldn't want to be crooked. We have to keep the right line, and of course always remember to stand behind the (yellow) line and certainly not not cross the line. In Freemasonry the plumb-line hangs from the arch to touch the ground. As in many philosophies, it joins heaven and earth - the Cosmic Axis. I am quite an admirer of Le Corbusier, who insisted that buildings should always be in the vertical plane. For him this was the "pliant symbol" of the vertical. I'm not so sure. These days it might very well be the pliant symbol of the horizontal and terrestrial.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Planning application (pour homme)

This is just another of these recession images and the centre has much potential for strange images of this kind. They would be amusing if the economic situation wasn't so bleak. Shops normally put up their shutters permanently but this one was a little different. I presume that the advertising had to run its course whilst the display of a new planning application was required. I guess what also struck me was the awkward position of the hand, almost as if it didn't belong to the man pictured here. The symbolism of the hand is extensive. It can represent action, domination or power but it can also indicate supplication or submission. In this image it reminds me of the way current politicians are taught to hold their hands They must not point apparently - or make finger-wagging gestures. What results is a certain distortion, which is no way a real indication of anything substantial. In Buddhism, the hand must not be closed because that indicates the hidden and secrecy. It is not an honest gesture. In psychoanalysis the hand can often be seen as synonymous with the eye. So in certain circumstances in dreams, the appearance of the hand can be interpreted as an eye - hands are use in communication and so are the eyes. The hand in the image does not seem to offer much honesty, does it? What are we being offered by the hand, the advertisement? What is being communicated? Something other than what we might at first imagine?

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Year of the Rabbit God

This is the Chinese Year of the Rabbit. Small, wily and fast, rabbits are underrated and I feel this is quite unwise. Rabbits have staying power and there are always a lot of rabbits around. It set me wondering if there had been a Rabbit deity of any kind - in ancient times perhaps. In my researches, I discovered a rabbit! Unut was a powerful rabbit-headed Goddess who currently stands at the left hand side of the statue of the King in the ancient Egyptian city of Hermopolis. On the other side stands Thoth, God of Wisdom, all discovered relatively recently. Of course, the Rabbit Goddess is of fertility and the spring. Yet ultimately she is celebrated for her speed and she is known as The Swift One. In Celtic mythology, the rabbit can appear and disappear at will. Because of its zig-zag motion, the rabbit can evade predators by changing direction with astonishing agility. It's also a bit of trickster. In one of Br'er Rabbit's adventures, he escapes by persuading his captor, the fox to throw him into the briar patch. "Whatever you do, don't throw me into the briar patch!" In fury, the fox duly does so and of course, that's where Br'er Rabbit lives! It is fitting that Unut should be discovered in a city named after Hermes, the archetypal trickster. But what of our photograph? I took this detail of an Egyptian obelisk in Rome with a long lens and to my surprise, I could see rabbits. Can you spot Unut? I can. Happy Chinese New Year!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Truth, The Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth

Naturally I couldn't help taking a picture of this enormous sign. It's covering a closed down bank - a bit of an ignominious end for a formerly prestigious institution. But I started to reflect on what constitutes the truth. Now early in my training we students were visited by a Choice Therapist who, as an introduction, argued that there was no such thing as truth and that no-one could define it. That was a little relativist for me and I recalled the words of my philosophy lecturer from 1968. He would quip that "truth ... is that, which is, in fact, the case." Now that opens several cans of philosophical worms as he very well knew. Truth is multi-dimensional. There are many layers in a truth cake. Yet when we come to lived experience - and I'm thinking of someone communicating that to me in the psychoanalytic space - it has its own truth, which I would not wish to compromise. That truth might be but a a layer and to that extent, one dimensional. Yet it cannot be reduced to either "knowledge" or "fact". It is not about science. Nietzsche said "... may the will to truth mean this to you. That everything shall be transformed into the humanly conceivable, the humanly evident, the humanly palpable. You should follow your own senses to the end." Maybe there is a crossroads in psychoanalysis where, for a short space of time, truth lives. (Ref: Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Blissful islands: Thus Spake Zarathustra, tr RJ Hollingdale, Middlesex, Penguin, 191, p110)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Please knock

There are many door knockers like this but there was something that drew me across to this one. Perhaps it was the reflection of the church opposite. Or maybe it was the brass, dulled a bit with its patina not altogether removed by polishing. The paintwork lends a kind of impressionist look to the reflected building and it gave me a sense of familiarity which is always reassuring. So maybe its the alchemy of brass that's driving the image. Brass shares the symbolism of bronze and both are copper alloys. Copper bonded with zinc, gives us this solid, lustrous substance brass, which is powerful, even violent, due to its composition of symbolic opposites. Copper is thought of as fire and zinc (like silver) tends to be associated with water and the moon. Bells are made of brass and of course they are sonorous, booming out across cities. Tibetan singing bowls are also made of brass and for the most part, brass (like bronze) is a sacred metal. Here on the door though, I think it is a symbol of power and strength. It's not a jolly, welcoming door knocker. It's rather a big, robust and probably expensive piece of kit. The knocker doesn't have to be a circle, but in so many cases of door knockers, it is. Its presence on the door makes up a circle within a square. This dynamic possibly suggests a change in status levels - but symbols are so ambivalent, we would have to examine the original set of circumstances of the door!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Stairway Down

Well, when I saw this I thought it looked bleak. But it was the complex of bars, rails and steps that took my interest. I also thought that it would illustrate the positive and negative aspects of symbols. (Just for the technically minded, I used a filter to achieve the speckled look although it looked fairly stark anyway.) This is the entrance to an office block that in all likelihood was hastily erected during the boom years and never occupied. Symbolically, stairs have two clear meanings depending on whether they are ascending or descending. A stairway up is, of course, an ascent to the spiritual and to heaven, but down leads to the underworld and the unconscious. Descent isn't always negative but in this case, these stairs speak of negativity and decay. It is interesting that when things are left unused they seem to decay and need repair more quickly than if they had been in constant use. Except for the Pyramids! Now they were well built.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Silent Light

This is just outside St Peter's and it's early in the evening just after Christmas. I was initially reluctant to get my camera out of the bag for the shot. And I wasn't altogether prepared to be persuaded that the shot would work. Nevertheless, a handy fence presented itself and I gave way, committing to a long and very approximate time exposure. I wanted the figures to be blurred in the ghostly way that's typical of old street photographs - and I got half my wish. But I was pleased! Despite the bustle of Rome and its many tourists, these streets had a very particular sound. There were only pedestrians going about their business and somehow the light and the sound in the scene combined in a synesthetic relationship. One could almost hear the light. There are no filters in use, so the starbursts around the street lights are just a dialogue between the street lights and the lens.