Have you ever noticed how resilient a shadow can be? They’ll follow you with fluidity wherever you go, molding and adapting and adjusting and morphing and shapeshifting themselves with ease to the landscape you travel through, whether it be down a rocky trail or crossing a creek or stepping into a corporate boardroom. Yep. They’re hard to shake, so to speak.
It was while taking my walk through a brilliant sunny southwestern landscape yesterday that I experienced a new visceral level of understanding regarding this. It came into me as I followed my shadow down the road and it fell upon a freshly flattened whiptail lizard. I stopped. My heart sorry for the morning’s death and then I got the gift, with the pancaked lizard’s innards and all laying there in my shadow:
“I only get to see my shadow if I am not walking into the light. It is as if walking directly into the light blinds me to what my tail is up to! If I want to see what my shadow is up to I have to be willing to turn away from the light for awhile, or to at least walk informed and guided by both the light and the dark….”
No wonder it’s difficult for people to see the shadow of resiliency, that it has a dark side. I’d like to explore that territory here, of how it is the self can be its own worst enemy through a tenacious commitment to “staying the course” of familiar habits and perceptions of the world. It is an entangled web we will enter and so this will be an ongoing exploration which I would simply like to introduce with this post.
The bottom line is this: I don’t believe we can fully engage with the wellness, hardiness and wholeness (The River of Life) we desire unless and until we are also willing to engage with life’s sorrows and griefs and complexities and paradoxes and yes, our nightmares and shadows too.
I’m going to close this post with a couple of quotes that captures something of what I am speaking of, from two different perspectives.
I had reverted completely back to type. Congratulations, Miss Wurtzel: you are the same as ever. Your resiliency, your ability to bounce back to your old habits, is admirable. You are to be commended for your stubborn desire to stay the same. Your uniqueness has made you a common idiot. — from the autobiography More, Now, Again by Elizabeth Wurtzel, on her struggles with addiction
and this, from E.O. Wilson’s The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth, pg. 12
Granted, many people seem content to live entirely within the synthetic ecosytems. But so are domestic animals content, even in the grotesquely abnormal habitats in which we rear them. This in my mind is a perversion. It is not the nature of human beings to be cattle in glorified feedlots. Every person deserves the option to travel easily in and out of the complex and primal world that gave us birth. We need freedom to roam across land owned by no one but protected by all, whose unchanging horizon is the same that bounded the world of our millennial ancestors. Only in what remains of Eden, teeming with life forms independent of us, is it possible to experience the kind of wonder that shaped the human psyche at its birth.