Awakening the Shadow

Here’s just a morning rumination before a long day where I am honored to teach in a room full of friends.
We awaken to find that the shadow is real. America with Trump is not unexpected, not only because so many share these ugly feelings but because so few have learned how to address them. We all have them. But what we learn to do if we want our humanity is to create a conversation with them, and with each other.
The shadow is all that is hidden. And yet in this season of “telling it like it is,” we are discovering what happens when we allow that darkness that we _all_ possess to possess us. There is no way to cease those voices that cause us to fear or feelings that project upon the “other” our deepest anxieties. We have learned, quite ably, that we need to repress the shadow because we need to learn our civilities, to _make_ some goodness for ourselves and others. But what happens when we fail to address the savagery that comes from the wildness within?
Some of my favorite writers and artists help, I think. You know, deep in the mines of all of our souls in Moria, where it’s 3am all the time as F. Scott Fitzgerald so ably put it, and Hopper’s Nighthawks sit in their all night diner, where the Lord known as Ayyappa keeps vigilance over the dangerous forest, and the matrices of menace hold us in shadow and terror, there, in that place we must venture to create a richer confrontation. We don’t break through to a place where there is no horror or where any of us are relieved of the burdens of racism, sexism, and other forms of self-made terror that we project upon the other. But there, inside our souls and in the conversations we can create with each other, we can come face to face with those feelings and thoughts.
These feelings that lead us to our hidden fears will not subside or be vanquished, they cannot be defeated by even the better angels of our nature: but they can be continually confronted, challenged, and put back into their dark and marginal realms. This we must do for ourselves, each of us, as we take up Baldwin and Coates who remind us that what lies within is collective, endemic, structural, and real: we are all perpetrators of that shadow, all Sauron _somewhere_ and the sooner we find that place where we run into the fire rather than away, the sooner we can gather together to resist its facticity and its incorrigible resistance, then we begin to attest to our humanity. We are not decent people looking for decency, we are people struggling in every breath to be decent. And only when we can make that into conversation, face each other, talk with each other, then we can create the alliances and the possibilities of a greater diversity where we need not agree but agree to create decency. This shadow is as inherent as any other feature of human nature and no light, no repentance, no absolution or transcendent claim will relieve us of its presence in each of us. We are not sinners who can be saved. We are human beings who can save each other from each other. We’ll need a good conversation for that to begin but we are always in the middle.

Leave a Reply