30 Days of Jung — Day 18: #Consciousness #Darkness #Society #Light

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Hello! If you have been keeping score, you would have noticed that my post yesterday on chaos and disorder actually posted twice this week (once Monday sheerly by user error and again yesterday “on time”), per the cosmic irony that out of all disorder, there is order. I came away from that little experience not at all ruffled in the least, but laughing actually at the premise that I really have no “control” over anything and that my our concept of control has always been an illusion.

I thought to myself, “Self, so it’s a few days early — it might be just on time for someone who reads it today instead of on Wednesday.” So true.

Welcome to Day 18 of “30 Days of Jung,” my series, wherein (soon, I will start repeating myself, like now) I take a famous quote of Carl G. Jung‘s and try to make sense or refute or invert or disembowel it or where I turn into a heaping pile of mush because of it in 1,000 words or less.

If you don’t know who Jung is, he formulated the theories of introverted and extroverted personalities, the stages of individuation, the basis of the “Meyers-Briggs” personality (INFJ / ESFJ, etc.) tests. He’s the “father” of modern-day psychoanalysis. In short, he’s a badass. But he’s dead, so he can’t be with us today.

Here is today’s:

“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” ― C.G. Jung

Dark and light. If you’re even the slightest bit beyond “point and shoot” photography, this quote will strike you as essential when composing a good photo. I have seen too many “using the flash pics,” too many “get everyone in the photo” pics, too many “make sure everyone is looking at the camera” pics where they don’t tell the whole story.

So often, we strain to make life perfect, beautiful or endurable or “just so.”

Don’t. Please stop.

I’m not perfect, I’m opinionated as hell when it comes to what I’m about to say, but it’s really just my booming (it can boom) voice in the cacophony: I hate studio pics. I can’t stand the pictures that the kids bring home from the school to raise funds. I pay for them, yes, to give the school money, but the whole practice of it makes me yecch inside. My mother loves them: she loves to model for pictures, she loves to be prepared for photos. I don’t see life that way.

Now what I’m suggesting flies a bit off the cheek of what I said about “perfect photos”; I say off the cheek because I’ve not said it all, so here we go: in those so-called, not-perfect, unposed, candid moments is the truth of life, caught wonderfully by our cameras, but only one dimension.

We have a picture of our lovely Thing 1 at a family event about 13 years ago. He had to stop what he was doing to get in the photo. He was shy then and he’s still soft-spoken today, but he did not want to be in that pic. But it was Easter and it’s seldom that all the cousins (my in-laws’ grandchildren) are present so we mandated that he be in the frame. He was madder than a hornet! His eldest cousin is holding him, he’s sad in the photo and all that, but he did it. He groused at the camera, but he was in the frame, as well as his cousins either trying to cheer him up or the one who was holding him was showing her strain. The moment lasted for 10 seconds, setting all that up. A couple people debated: “Don’t put him in there, he’s so upset… it’ll ruin the picture…” all that, and I said, “No. He needs to get used to this and also, this IS LIFE, there is no ‘ruining’ of a photo… this is the truth of this moment” and I took the shot. My camera, my shot. No one else had their cameras.

The whole thing is a juxtaposition; there’s the attitude that leaving him out was the reality of the moment; but my in-laws requested a picture. Then there’s the part about being natural and unposed, but I used the phrase “setting all that up” above. Then I hear myself straining to make sense of it all, to twist it into a persuasive argument that candid shots are more real than posed. But in order to get a picture of all the kids, there had to be some posing (in the sense of fitting them all in the frame, but I didn’t ask them to put their chins in their hands and think of butterflies).

Argh. Moving on.

It is the “darkness” of that moment, I suppose, that made some of the onlookers uncomfortable. They didn’t like the reality, they preferred we gloss it over with a story about why my son wasn’t in the pic, “He didn’t want to be in the photo” doesn’t work for me. I so rarely ask for moments like that, where everyone stops what they’re doing that my stance is “deal with it.”

I love the pic and so do The Kids. They remember that shot, they remember setting up for it and how T1 behaved and they laugh about having to hold him and look at the camera and say “cheese!” in unison despite the raging hornet in their midst. I don’t know if they’d remember all other staged pics like that with quite as much fondness, so to me: mission accomplished.

Photos are so important to me. I have a bajillion on my my cameras and on my computer and in albums. They show us EVERYTHING if we are willing to let them. They show us what we chose to include and not include; they show us what we might’ve enhanced or touched up and what we could deal with or not deal with. For instance in mostly any interior shot of my home, there’s a laundry basket. There just is.

These are the darknesses, the realities of our lives. We must face them, without a flash, in natural light and let our eyes adjust to show us our own truths. I might even be so brazen as to add that in order to figure out some of this stuff we must “feel” our way out of it, use the emotions to settle it all; let it all pass through.

Life is not ever “just so.” To retouch it, to use a flash to see it better, to change its history completely either by omission or revision does NO ONE favors.

I loved this quote. It is replete with hope.

Thank you.

ps – if you’re in America, happy 4th of July.

13 responses »

  1. Yes!!!! Jung was absolutely right on this one. Most people do not have a clue regarding the inner rage, fear, sadness, and scorn that runs them. A good psychotherapist can shine light on some of this but it is so deep that a meditative path is probably the only way one can release this congealed mess. And it takes a lot of grit to stick with it.
    Your insight about photos is well worth thinking about. I’d hate to see ones taken of me in my ugliest moments. No wonder why many people are really uncomfortable about being photographed.

    • cameras lie. the lighting (ha!) can be off. no it can’t. this is who we are. the cameras — movie video or still photography — are like math to me: they are reasonable; rational, real.

      talk about crafting your reality to eff with everyone: i can’t remember if i included this or not, so forgive me if i repeat myself: my mother loved being photographed, but she hated looking like she loved being photographed, so most of the pictures of her, even those in a photo booth (!!!) were of her profiles, of her looking away, looking distracted or into the middle distance.

      as a child whose father loved his cameras, those were hard moments for us. few of our family pictures were of us all looking at the camera. she liked looking … enigmatic? lost? ethereal? “caught”? i dunno. that’s a slice of my story, wayne. i crave(d) reality because of all that…

  2. I love the photo metaphor too. I am constantly trying to pose my family for photos and do wacky things. We’ve never been professionally photographed. I’ve never taken my daughter to one of those backdrop places where the kid sits and stares at the photographer shaking a toy. They seem so artificial. I think this quote is all about being a whole person. We all have light and darkness. Of course, I know people who dwell too much in the darkness too. I suppose if you only pay attention to one or the other you get the same outcome: A very one dimensional life, artificial life.

    • yes. some of my favorite photos are Ansel Adams’ — I know I’m not alone there. what he did with shadows and contrast shows us the depth of nature and since we are parts of nature, we are deep too. dark stuff, deep stuff. is it always bad stuff? i don’t think so. but we have to move on from it… that’s the only way “out.” 🙂

  3. I loved this one too, especially because my mother and mother in law are all about the perfect picture. Ironically or not, the only “perfect” family picture that hung in our house was one taken before I was born.

    • Hmph. I think you’re pretty perfect, M.

      As for photos / light and dark, I didn’t say this but maybe I should have although people need to make their own conclusions: without the shadows and the contrast, we have no “depth of field” in the aperture — the part of the photo composition which makes it “reach outable” (if that makes any sense); that makes it “real.”

      Life and photos and paintings and cooking and love is full of depth and shadows. It’s what makes life rich. Not always awesome… just rich.

      xo

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