Saturday, December 20, 2008

Assimilating it all - A Prose Poem

I do not wish to live in the land of denial; in the country of delusion and especially not in the city of self-delusion.  I want no tawdry trinkets, no bright lights, nothing fast at all.  Instead, I want the slow acceptance of a body breaking down into age, letting go of all the surface sham.  I want to lessen the desire for boyish toys, not to kill it.  Oh yes, I still want the odd toy, the odd present, the odd comforting soft-centred chocolate, the odd gift that says I'm loved.  Oh yes, I still want, and even need, some of these things, but not them all, and certainly not to excess.

I want to tame the Ego, send it back like a naughty boy to its unique place where it can play its proper and only role, to diligently study for success, not to strut upon the stage of its own importance like a self-obsessed peacock.  Nor do I want it to become so power hungry that it will walk over those who get in its way.

There are so many things about my Body-Soul or Soul-Body or my total-self that I'm learning.  I am diving deep into the murky waters of the unconscious - individual and collective.  I have learnt so much and am learning so much more.  I am at one with Jung and Storr that my unconscious is no mere stinking cess pit of repressed, denied or stymied desires, sexual or other.  Sure, some of those stinking bits are there in those murky depths.  Sure, sure, sure, and they float about like rotten meat, but with Jung and Storr and so many others, I realise that deep down there is more than that smelly, sticky, stinking and sweaty Id, that there is so much more - great colourless and shady creatures who, when they swim into less dark waters, show such bright colours.  Oh yes, there are beautiful surprises deep down there, like David slaying Goliath or like the hero Bond abseiling down the cliffs of hurt and disappointment; door after door leading into room after room of self and deeper self, treasure boxes, most surely, with such mixed delights, not quite gold or silver coin, yet there are some of those, yes, but mixed with some of Pandora's bitter and evil delights.

There are smiling tears there, oh yes, even the tears of the very young, and even bitter laughs and so much more.  There are also the bright robes of academic success, the darker robes of vested priests making their rounds as Blake would have it or preaching from the pulpit heights of Superego.  But there are also the damp sheets of pain and enforced rest, the damp sheets of post-operation and recuperation, the great pens that drip their medication into my veins and the surprising images of great ships upon even greater oceans and I captain, crew and ship and all, yes all, all rolled into one.  Oh yes, Jung was so much more correct than Freud, even though I love this latter's work for its richness of insight.  Deep down all these images, which come almost randomly but often with synchronistic purpose, surprise, shock, frighten and even sometimes terrify me, though often, too, they make me smile and nod my head in mature acceptance.

Once I used to swing between those extremes of Good and Evil, Black and White, ever so polar, ever so extreme, but diving down has taught me more, has taught me so much more about all those false dichotomies, all those false and polarised opposites.  I am no longer willing to swing between the happy high or the sad low.  No, I'll travel ever more willingly, ever more consciously on the road between, the rocky road to self-awareness.  I fully realise that I cannot dwell on a mythical Tabor or some idyllic mount of blessed happiness for any extended period.  I also fully appreciate that neither can I afford dwell for any extended period in the tormented depths of hell (unless, of course I am suffering from  horrible endogenous depression or some other psychiatric illness like schizophrenia.)   No, no, no.

I am travelling on a road far more complex, far more colourful, far more intricate and ever more interesting the stark polarisation of Opposites; ever more gripping that the extremes of Black and White, ever more realistic in the owning of their healthy tension within my very self.  In short, what I'm getting at here is what Jung termed the acceptance of and the incorporation of our Shadow nature into our whole being.  And so we swim in murky waters.  We may not like it but we do get covered in slime.  I am reminded of that wonderful film Shawshank Redemption where Andy Dufresne has to swim through a huge sewer to attain his freedom/salvation/redemption.   Life is full of sweat, dirty work as well as clean work, full of frustration and pain on the one hand as well as occasions of clean success, beautiful holidays, and all that money can buy on the other.  It is a complex admixture of joy and pain which must be taken whole if we are really to heal ourselves.  One good friend of mine often reminds me that we have very little or no problems at all in changing a child's nappy while on the other hand we recoil at the thoughts of having to do it for injured or invalided adults or for the aged.  Doing all that - caring for those who are dependent on us - is soul-making work because in doing it we are symbolically cleaning up our own spiritual mess. (I am reminded of John Keats' letters and his references to soul-making) In short we are preparing for our own death.

Life has taught me that we sanitize living  at our peril.  Yes, yes, yes, we do need to keep our homes and places of work and all those public spaces that we frequent clean and free from contamination.  However, there are limits and those limits are written in our very genes - that our very bodies are born to grow old and die, to sweat and secrete.  Existentially, there is much we simply cannot sanitize and must not sanitize if we are to grow in acceptance of the very essence of life, that to live is to die and to breathe the air of life is to learn to live and to learn to die. 

There is much war, hatred and pain, too much greed and too much suffering from want, want, want in this oftentimes sad world.  The sadder fact is that there is more and more and more of it because people fail to look within, fail to integrate the good and the bad in themselves, the white and the black within.  In desperation of integration, or in fear of that very task, they prefer to project their evil or black pole onto others, especially upon their enemies.  In so doing they accept the Light only within themselves and they project the rejected Dark upon their foes.  Again, they are sanctifying themselves (High Moral Ground) on the one hand and demonising their opponents on the other.  Again and again, this is a sort of schizophrenic reaction, a sheer denial and a real splitting of the centre of the self, a fragmentation of the self, a dissociation of factors and elements that go to make up the essential and real person.  How can we sanctify the Light without accepting and embracing the Dark or shadow side of ourselves.  The Light needs the Dark to be Light and the Dark needs the Light to be Dark.  This is perilously Manichaean, I know and fully realise.  As I grow older and older my Body-Soul or Soul-Body or total-Self tells me that deep down I must needs be so if I am to be whole and integrated, if I am, as my title puts it, to assimilate it all.

Above I have uiploaded a picture I took of how life lives on/off life, how from possible stagnation beauty grows. I took this picture from the banks of the Garravogue River, Sligo 2005

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