For me, it begins and ends with the shadow. All the brilliant and displaced aspects of our nature. For a long time, I had no idea what that word meant. Like many others, I associated the shadow with the dark. I latched onto ideas of violence, suffering, death and in a very narrow way, I associated the shadow with biblical notions of archetypal evil. The restrictive notions of Abrahamic religiosity forced me into a world of high contrast where everything I experienced was cast in black and white, but the world is a much more complicated place.
The world of man exists in a spectrum. On the surface, the notion of right and wrong, good and evil is clear cut. Those who wish to exist in this world must live by the common laws that govern it. Beneath the surface, a swirling ether was ever-present. The waters were murky with all the things that didn’t fit neatly into the box and the people who live here wielded a dazzling power of self that defied conventional definition.
They were beings of the dark water, creatures of the deep. Compared to those who chose to stand firmly on land, they were something completely ephemeral. There was no place for boxes in their world. The ocean was an ever-changing tapestry of brilliant illumination and untouched black. The shadow of mankind lives here.
You see, throughout the years that we’ve populated the earth, we have been redefining, repressing, and outright rejecting the things we feared could not survive on land. We would walk to the very edge of our being and cast these treasures into the ocean with eyes full of tears. We would hide away all of our stunning potential, divine nature, and all of our fears as well. When we had bled enough of ourselves into the sea, we would return to land hollow and false to play the game of labels and boxes.
Light and dark, day and night. The shadow was none of the things I expected. The shadow was the un-illuminated aspect of my being. Dissociated and alone in a place without light. A place where I had put it. Anything and everything about myself that I was too fearful or ashamed to love, too embarrassed to identify with, that was my dark shadow. Thinking about it breaks my heart. I had thrown a piece of myself away because I feared it was unacceptable to others. And, though I refused to let it come home, that shard of soul was trapped in my polarity orbiting in the frigid vacuum like the moon orbits the earth. Moreover, I was expending an incredible amount of energy to keep it at bay.
It’s exhausting isn’t it, not being yourself. The idea of not being yourself is misleading. The truth is, you are always what you are, divine by design. You are not always honest about it. One of the strange and wonderful habits of human beings is that we imagine ourselves as something else. We are shapeshifters capable of molding ourselves in exciting and terrible ways. Transmutation, transformation, transfiguration, they all require a massive amount of energy. And though we may dream of being a bird, we are in fact, human. It’s natural to become something else and then return to the center. Our ability to empathize is deeply influenced by our proclivity to embody the spirit of another. However, the practice of maintaining a gossamer that isn’t authentic is unhealthy and unnatural. It leaves us fractured and spread too thin, our psyche at war with the truth of our nature and the story we told ourselves.
But, locking away your fears and shame isn’t the worst of it. It’s when we stifle our talents and passions that the tragic ballad of the shadow is truly manifest. For every sudden burst of inspiration, for every masterpiece, for every dream we deem too phenomenal to breathe into existence, the golden shadow is born. I weep for all the treasures that will never see the light. I weep for the loss of mankind.