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“The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection.”
Happy Halloween! Blessed Samhain! Wishing you a celebratory Day of the Dead.
Yes, I’m a fan of these holidays and even more a fan of the human drive to celebrate the dark months by reflecting on those who have passed while eating lots of sugar.
For Halloween last year, I wanted to be Blanche from The Golden Girls (I tried)*, but my costume contained the wrong wig, so I was a Blanche/Dorothy hybrid. This year, we’ll see . . . And while I’d like to claim I dress up for my nephew, I do it for fun.
These holidays bring with them celebration, and if you’re me, a bit of goofiness, but they also invite us to slow down and pay attention to the shift of season and mood.
In the Northern Hemisphere, there is no more birdsong or crickets to be heard; there is darkness earlier, and the air begins to bite. With this, we have more time with our thoughts. We can bundle in the quiet and reflect. Many people begin to assess their own lives while thinking about those who came before them.
How has the year gone? Where have we succeeded or failed? Where are we shining and where is the shadow? Ah, the shadow. What a delicious topic.
Carl Jung came up with the concept of the shadow self, which is all that we like to hide or run from that exists within us. It is often associated with unsavory emotions such as greed, envy, fear, or shame. The very concept can be uncomfortable to some people. Others might think they’ve reconciled their shadow—done, thanks (see: lacking a bit of self-awareness). But I tend to think the shadow self is here for life.
Part of the human condition is having a variety of emotions—the positive, the neutral, and the undeniably maladaptive. Facing what hurts and what doesn’t make sense will always be difficult.
The shadow material itself might change form but there will always be thoughts and emotions that are less than ideal, and within them just might be a storehouse of creative energy.
In art, shadow is how an object appears to be 3D. Shadows can be used to express emotion and contrast; without contrast, there is no story or dimension. In writing, you might say the same is true. Without shadow, where is the story? The premise to explore in an essay? The question that drives poetry?
“To light a candle is to cast a shadow.” —Ursula K. Le Guin
Prompt: Think about the thing or person who most triggers you, who brings out your less-than-ideal self. The defensive, the petty, the angry. Write about that thing/person for a minimum of ten minutes. Then write about that same thing or person from its or their point of view. Go for ten minutes. See what happens.
*Here is a short meditation and talk for paid subscribers. In the meantime, my Dorothy/Blanche failure is partly captured below.
My shadow side might have peeked out when I opened that wig — ah, to have expectations destroyed. I ate some Reese’s and got over it though.