The Darkness Inside
It’s been an intense and heavy week, with the suicide of one of the most ebullient, brilliant funny people ever to walk the planet and the senseless killing of a young man by a so-called “lawman.” Of course there’s always plenty of difficult stuff going on at any given moment, but this week, for whatever reason, it feels like there is even more of a call to action around these happenings.
We can never know what was in Mr. Williams’ thoughts and feelings that caused him to lose all hope or will to go on living, and we can certainly not imagine what was going through the mind of the officer who shot the young man in Ferguson, MO. What we do have to work with, though, is our own shadow. So many of us wrestle with our shadows throughout our entire lives.
Of course if we kill our shadow, we cease to exist. Yes, this, if we kill our shadow, we cease to exist. And this, right now, seems the ultimate challenge we are facing in the world (and maybe always). There is an historical fear of the darkness inside and outside of us. And of course the darkness outside of us is merely a reflection of the darkness inside. As Carl Jung said, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” And on one level, I interpret this to apply to what I am saying - that our shadow, our darkness, our inner demons will appear to us in our “outer world” if we fail to address them within us.
Of course we project our own darkness on all manner of scapegoats “out there.” And of course it is the imagination that fuels the fires of fear. When we truly meet ourselves and each other we can only always come back to God. Our own true essence is merely that. And we really are all the same in that way. It is only in our imaginations that we stray so far from balance and become separate, unhappy, better than, lesser than, afraid of, angry at, anxious about, fearful of and so on. So long as we keep drawing a line in the sand around us or our family, our property, our territory, our country, our….. So long as we keep this imaginary line around whatever it is we call “us,” we are feeding the fires of war - internal, external, local and worldly.
And it seems the more smug the masks we wear, the more extraordinarily out of balance we become. If I am struggling with my inner shadow in a locked embrace of war and I wear a painted face that presents a wholly different visage, then I am only adding powder to the keg with a long fuse. The consequence becomes more dire because I must overcompensate for the image I am trying to portray.
So in the case of those like the “lawman,” perhaps we externalize our shadow so we can take aim and shoot it down, only to find out that now there are even more shadows everywhere we look and this continues a viciously dangerous cycle. And in those of us with depression, we keep trying to kill off the parts of ourselves that keep stirring up the trouble, and in some cases that becomes suicide. The problem is, these places that we are trying to kill off are the wounds that most need our love and acceptance. And it is only in learning to love these hurt places, these scary shadows that we have any hope to survive moderately intact.
I was talking with a friend in St. Louis last night after hearing about looting and riots and SWAT teams and tear gas in Ferguson, and all I could think was that if only the police department’s first response to what happened was to gather the community in grief and support of each other, some kind of healing could begin to occur and there could be some grace. This morning I am happy to see that a captain from their state patrol (i think) was walking with the protesters. And we begin again.
We all have shadows to struggle with, and many of us are always seeking escape from them. We can keep running from our shadows our whole lives long, and we can keep attacking them when we cast them onto others. But again, killing our shadows - be they the shadows we cast in our souls or those we project onto others - we are killing our selves. Each murdered child is me, each soul who falls to suicide is me, each fallen soldier is me, each innocent murdered by police is me, each civilian killed in a senseless war is me - and so are all the killers, me.
And so I must remember, shadows are cast by light - that ephemeral thing we are all made from - and if we can remember that there is texture and detail in the shadows (just ask any seasoned photographer) and that it can be quite beautiful if we learn to explore it more deeply, and in fact all we need is to adjust our lighting or focus to better see it.
This reminds me of a poem I wrote the day I received a call from my late friend Joe, telling me he had been diagnosed with the cancer. Joe, of course, had many demons that he was managing quite nicely by growing organic vegetables, throwing pots and working tirelessly for our environment. The poem is in an earlier blog post:
It is light that defines us
shadow refines us
solidity is only an illusion
we can only see our shadow
from our delusion of self
our true Self contains us
while the ego just claims us
as different, as separate, as whole
our Oneness becomes us
as we see the wholeness
that mostly eludes us
when we look as from loneness
we’ll continue this dance
with our shadows
as long as we walk in the light
and just as we dream
in the nights in between
it’s ours to keep our life bright
Thoughts to walk away with...
The brighter the light, the darker the shadow.
The length of a shadow depends on the angle of the light source.
Our shadows move when we do, and sometimes they pass us by.
We can appear to disappear when covered by the shadow of another. The temperature changes and everything feels different, but we don't have to change unless we let our imaginations get the better of us and throw us into fear.
Our shadows can be diminished by additional light from other sources that act as "fill."
AND SO, please, let's keep shining our lights for ourselves, for each other, for our precious planet hurtling through space. And let's try something different with our darkness inside - how about we make shadow puppets and give voice to the darkness made visible.
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- Nicola's Art Room
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