Center for Sacred Psychology

Soul Food Archive: Guest Caterer Specials


Harlem Renaissance Party (detail)
Story Quilt, © Faith Ringgold 1987*
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Guest Caterer Specials are side dishes that complement our main courses. The experiences of many spiritual seekers are forming a "cookbook for a sacred life" (Ram Dass' phrase). Might some special delicacy from this potluck meal become a staple at your table?

Please sample our current Main Courses menu, as well as our tasty Desserts & Snacks and earlier dishes in the Soul Food Archive. And, do send your personal comments to our busy kitchen staff. View others' comments here.

 

 

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Our Current Guest Caterer is Jackson K., of Portland, Oregon

To the Center,
I’ve been following your comments about visual images that call out to us and how those can be clues about something to attend to within. What would you have to say about this picture? I first saw it somewhere about eight years ago. It caught my eye at that time. A couple of years later, a book on propaganda posters from Maoist days in China caught my attention as I was browsing in a bookstore.* The same picture was in this book and it surprised me—"Oh, haven't we already met?"

In fact, after a few days when I just couldn’t forget this picture, I went back to the bookstore and bought the book. It’s filled with colorful posters, almost all very upbeat, that glorify Red China's regime of the time. The artwork puts happy faces on daily scenes—home life, children playing and in school, grocery stores—all saying in effect "Look what Chairman Mao has done for us." Several of the other pages were interesting, but this one kept drawing me to look at it.

Well, I’m assuming that there's something in me that's like the girl in the picture—a young feminine energy with dignity and strength. She seems ready to serve, or perhaps teach me about her area of expertise (soul food?). If I didn’t know the origin of the picture, I wouldn't necessarily assume China—but would have guessed mid- to late 20th century east Asia in general, or even an Asian community in the U.S. or Canada. I have no personal connection to China. She seems familiar. I came across these old fruit crate labels that also use girls for p.r., but neither of them speak to me like "my girl."

So, the origin of this picture isn't what caught me. And it's not what she's selling. It's more about the expression on the young woman's face.  She seems open, intelligent, knowledgeable about her job, friendly.  Have I met part of myself in a poster that was created many years ago? Part of me thinks this is silly, but I still keep the picture where I can see it. After all this time, I still can't forget her. What do you think?
Sincerely,
Jackson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dear Jackson,
First of all, thank you for sending us your story and the picture.  What a great example of meeting yourself "on the outside."  We wonder if this part of yourself—as you say, young feminine energy with dignity and strength, surrounded by fruits—was ready to become conscious, and took this round–about way of becoming known.  The more we do the inner work, the more we get used to being surprised like this!  We never know when or where we'll meet the psyche. 

The fact that you focus on the qualities in this young woman that appeal to you, and are also aware of what's not important (the context in which she's painted, and the fact that she's one of a genre of ads using girls and women to sell fruit) is interesting, isn't it?  If, for example, what stood out for you was the propaganda source of this picture, you might play with the idea of advertising for governmental purposes.  But, no, this wasn't what hooked you.  It was the young woman herself, her expression. (Are she—and her sisters from the Spanish fruit–crates*—stepped-down versions in modern–day dress of the ancient fertility and harvest deities?  Remember, Jung speaks of how the archetypes keep changing clothes.) 

We can explore associations to items in a picture just as we do in dream-tending: For example, does her white coat signify anything to you?  And what do you make of the scales she’s using in her trade?  Also, we might note that her wares are not packaged foods or other grocery items, but fresh fruits—would the impact of this scene be different for you if she were selling fish, or pots and pans?

The book translates the Chinese characters on the wall.  They describe the very qualities you sensed in the young woman: initiative, enthusiasm, patience, consideration (Zhudong, reqing, naixin, zhoudao).  So from “far away”—i.e. deep in the unconscious—comes this interior picture (if your family had Chinese origins, or if she was identified as being from a Chinese neighborhood in the western hemisphere, her energy would seem closer to consciousness).  What a gift!

            What matters most is that you found her—or, that she found you—and have stayed with her.  You couldn’t forget her when you first met, and, after years, she's still so important that you want to share this picture.  Introjection is a term for taking back parts of ourselves we meet in projected form.  We do this by recognizing what’s going on (the clue: strong affect, either positive as in your case, or negative), then building relationship with what we’ve encountered.  For example, do you know this young woman's name?  If not, could you ask her what it is?  Can you think of places and areas in your life where you need the energies she pictures?  Can you ask her to lend her qualities to one or more of these?  All this internal dialogue—Jung's "active imagination"—leads to expansion of consciousness (or, put another way, reduction of unconsciousness).

As you're probably aware, the idea of a man’s inner feminine side is important in Jungian psychology.  Often, men meet faces of this anima in dreams; they also meet her via projections onto human women (in person, on the screen, in pictures).   (Good classic: The Invisible Partners by the late John Sanford [New York: Paulist, 1980]).

So, Jackson, thanks again for such an excellent example of how a picture can grab us—and why it's important to Pay Attention when that happens.  Perhaps you and others will let us know your reactions to all this.   Blessings, the Center staff.

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We're interested in ways this Soul Food may have touched your life.

Click HERE to send us your comments...

 

Read Others' Comments...

Dear Jackson, Sounds like you have a special lady in your life. I thought you might be interested in the following: in Mayan lore (Guatemala) there's the legend of the grapefruit girl. A prince wants a bride from the plant kingdom, "a wife straight from nature." He finds her in the form of a grapefruit, which becomes (of course) a lovely woman.
Keith A.
Buffalo, NY

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* Credits for this page:

~ The quilts of American fiber artist Faith Ringgold hang in museums around the world.  Harlem Renaissance Party, #2 in her "Bitternest Series," is in the collection of the National Museum of American Art at the Smithsonian, Washington, D.C.  Acryllic on canvas, 94"x82", it pictures eleven guests and their exuberant, mask-holding hostess, Cee Cee.  From lower left around the table, the guests are Celia (or Ceclia), a doctor; Florence Mills, singer and comedienne; Aaron Douglass, painter; Meta Warick Fuller, sculptor; W.E.B. DuBois, organizer and writer; Cee Cee's husband, a dentist; Richard Wright, writer; Countee Cullen, poet, novelist and playwright; Zora Neal Hurston; novelist, folklorist and anthropologist; Alain Locke, philosopher and writer; Langston Hughes, poet and writer.  Gratefully used with permission.  See more of Faith's work at www.faithringgold.com.

~ Jackson's picture is dated 1978, and titled "Selling the fruits of a bumper harvest in a friendly manner" (Shanshou fengshou guo).  Image taken from Chinese Propaganda Posters: From Revolution to Modernization, by Stefan Landsberger, published 2001 by The Pepin Press, Amsterdam (www.pepinpress.com).  Many thanks to Pepin Press for permission to reproduce this unusual poster for our viewers. 

~ Fruit crate labels from Spain found in Old-Time Fruit Crate Labels in Full Color, Carol Belanger Grafton, ed. (Mineola, NY: Dover [Pictorial Archive Series], 1998).  Used with permission.


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