Being an enigma

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A photo from the Seattle Underground

In preparation for my show at the Jung Center, I’m rereading “Undiscovered Self.”

In the chapter entitled “The Individual’s Understanding of Himself,” Jung writes “Man is an enigma to himself.” He discusses the difficulties of relying on religion, politics and psychology to probe into identity. He outlines how humans struggle to see ourselves, because we have few other animals that closely resemble us. We turn instead to our relationships with other people to try to gain insight into who we are.

I’m preparing to tear down my installation “Life, Examined” which has been up for about two months at a gallery in Issaquah, WA. The piece is a lab that serves as a stage for exploring emotion and memory. The title is from “The unexamined life is not worth living,” a quote Plato attributed to Socrates during one of his lectures.

Putting together the show required me to do some life examining as well. I read old letters, leafed through journals and searched through the boxes of memorabilia, which usually remain tucked away in a corner of the closet.

Jung says that people are afraid of diving into the unconscious. They worry perhaps they will find something buried there that they do not like. He says that often it is easier to follow the masses than to discover the basis of your individuality, to remain a child with a parent figure to tell you who you are or what to do.

He urges his readers to take another path.

“It is, unfortunately, only too clear that if the individual is not truly regenerated in spirit, society cannot be either, for society is the sum total of individuals in need of redemption,” Jung writes.

A few sentences later he adds that the “salvation of the world consists of the salvation of the individual soul.”

And when talking about salvation and redemption, Jung is addressing the need for greater understanding — of ourselves and each other. If allowed to develop our own inner strengths, and band together as authentic individuals, imagine what a world we’d live in.

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