Friday, July 11, 2014

Driving on the Left Side of the Road

Cathy and I have rented a car to do a bit of touring around western Ireland. This is the third time we have rented a car in Ireland. Admittedly, the first time we drove while here in 2006, I was the one who scrapped off the passenger's side mirror. A common mistake by Americans I was told when I turned in the car.

In 2012, Cathy drove for six weeks down the M roads (the few four lane highways), the N roads (two lane roads with a stripe down the middle), the R roads (supposed two lanes roads with no stripe down the middle), and farm roads (one lane roads where all cars must back up when farm equipment approaches). I too have driven these roads but with less experience than Cathy. This year I am doing the driving because of her knee problems.

I find it off putting when Americans talk about "driving on the wrong side of the road." Personally, I find driving on the left side of the road more appealing and natural. Shifting gears with the left hand has been no bother. The clutch, brake, and gas are the same. All the gadgets around the steering wheel are the same as well. I do pay more attention than when driving in America, something I should take home with me. Being too familiar with driving causes us to take much for granted. Evidently a danger to avoid.

I used to think driving on the left side of the road fit my personality, spirituality, religion, and politics. Maybe in the institutional senses it does because religion and politics define themselves in rights and lefts. Those institutions are linear and most likely to find their end in the near future (next 50-100 years). Regarding personality and spirituality, not so much is that clear. There are no rights and lefts in either of personality or spirituality—the Self, the being of personality and spirituality, is itself, spiral in nature, held in boundaries by the nature of the great Circle, the Mother of the Earth.

The personality, as defined by Carl Jung, is the inherent combination of the pair of four opposites, extrovert/introvert, sensing/intuition, thinking/feeling, judging/perceiving. Because the pairs are preferences, we can move towards integration of the completeness of each side of the pairs into our personality. We can learn to best to be an extrovert while accessing our introversion. An integrated person, Jung would say, does so through the process of individuation, accessing all sides of the pairs. Something that can happen, with intentional work, in the second-half of life. Such work creates a spiral effect towards maturation. We move from our basic preferences as children towards a full acceptance of all the preference pairs into the full action of life. Of course, that could be considered driving on the left. Jung, as well as others, have said that the majority of humanity never moves from the first half of life into the second, nor do they individuate. Too much work, I suppose?

The spiral of spirituality, in my opinion, is less easily identified. To be spiritual, is to seek a relationship with the world of the unseen—where that which is greater than the Self is the Divine of all that was, is, and will be. We know little of the unseen. Some crave to intimately know more. The relationship between the divine and the individual is a dance that can be playful and the same time, extremely dangerous (a pair of opposites). The dance takes place as the individual and the divine reveal their pair of opposites to the other. I expose my shadow and my light to the divine. The divine is equally as vulnerable.

In order to understand all of creation, the divine has the completeness of all the pair of opposites. Not just the personality pairs, but all the archetypal pairs, good and evil, light and dark, male and female, including the pairs of which we have no concept. How else would the divine be The Divine without all of it? As humans we only contain, or relate to, or understand, some of the pairs. We are individuals and have our own pair of opposites, some we share with others—yet we do not have all of the pairs—that is simply too much for the human spirit. We wrestle with our shadow and light in front of the divine—the individuation process of becoming an integrated person. Notably, in Answer to Job, Jung writes that God is in the process of individuation as well, wrestling with God's own work with the pairs. (I'll have to write about his book another time.)

May be, the experience of the spiritual spiral, the self, the integration, leading to individuation and the Self, is the most real of all experiences, the ethereal manifested in the tangible. To breathe, taste, smell, feel, touch the divine is to know the true Self in the second half of life. Such, says Jung, is alchemy of the soul. To begin the alchemical process of the soul, start by driving on the left side of the road.

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