Essay and Watercolor by Mary Reddy
Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.”
“Darkness rises and Light to meet it,” says Snoke, the Supreme Leader and super villain in The Last Jedi. This Star Wars tale and a thousand other legends are steeped in the eternal battle between good and evil. And the ultimate goal is eradication of evil, right? Oh boy, do we human beings struggle with that one. “Good has to win!” we worry, “but will we see that in our lifetimes? Or can evil actually prevail?” We must stay in the Light we think, but what good does it do if we armor ourselves in it and depart from the world? Throughout the ages, countless folk tales and magical legends have obliquely touched on this difficult conundrum of life on earth.
I’ve been considering the ways the Star Wars movies have satisfied (or failed) my craving for a good magical story. One thing I love, that repeatedly happens, is that the good guy goes to meet the bad guy. He goes into the very bowels of hell, into the Death Star to stand face to face with evil. In other stories, say, a classic Western shoot-em-up, the hero goes to meet the villain in order to stop him and destroy him. But a different ethic comes into play in the Star Wars stories. Though stopping the bad guy is desirable, going to meet him is first and foremost a crucial step along the way of the hero becoming fully himself. Standing in the power of the Force, the good guy must confront and acknowledge how much he has in common with the evil one. Fearful of what will ensue, the good guy nevertheless musters his courage to go and face himself.
In this latest Star Wars episode, the classic struggle of good against evil morphs into a different kind of story. No longer requiring exclusively male pronouns (hurray!) to describe the hero’s tale—the story pluralizes into a number of tales of diverse heroes. As I watched, I followed two new threads with growing fascination: the overturning of beloved icons and the waves of ambiguity washing over the dichotomy of good and evil.
That we live in time and experience change over time almost ensures that inevitably some beloved person, truth, manner of expression, cultural practice, or favorite way of seeing ourselves must pass away. What feels different about this time on earth is a growing sense of urgency around that necessity. We almost need to take apart and recreate what we love best (democracy, community, our place in nature) in order to avoid losing it (and ourselves) entirely.
We all instinctively understand the hero’s journey. What’s more difficult is how to see the path in the midst of the storm and fog of daily life.
I was privileged, in my life, to experience a complete breakdown. It was hard to go through, it was hard on my family, and at times it was hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel. But having emerged from it more whole, more balanced, I have a deep appreciation of the prize at the end of a descent into the shadows. I met myself. I now have an increased appreciation of all the elements that came together to form my life. And I feel deep gratitude for the love and assistance of the ones who stood by me as I fell apart. And even now, years later, I am better able to love and appreciate people who appear to be acting from a place of darkness.
My life is no longer about a dramatic descent and upward climb and it’s trickier to see the path toward dramatic growth. These days, I find my growth pushing me toward more engagement with others, with community wherever I find it. I see so many of us (and our communities) living with uncertainty. We watch as the world wildly careens from one threat to another. Understandably, we may find ourselves instinctively holding fast to old icons.
I’ve been trying instead to entertain that uncertainty. How can I pause before rushing to judgment? I wonder if the unquestioned duality of the moral universe needs re-examining. Polarization, the duality, the either/or, the extremes, they overwhelmingly claim our public discourse and infect our ability to imagine solutions. What once worked as a dialectic (thesis, antithesis, synthesis) never proceeds to the synthesis. Maybe it’s because we need more than just two sides?
What if I were to go into the bowels of the earth to find myself by confronting the dark? Maybe my shadow is not so extremely dark; what if I am so many shades of grey? Instead of struggling to surface The Shadow, what if I discover a collective of lights and shadows that spin kaleidoscopically into consciousness and out. What if our imagined victory over the present crises cannot take shape until we crush the iconic opposition of two sides—why only two?
“Good has to win! Or can evil actually prevail?” Erase that blackboard. Let’s start with a clean sheet and the first thing we write on it is Love. Inhabiting a cellular, systems-drawn, neuron-firing, sometimes wave/sometimes particle-based, complex Gaian being such as ours, how many “sides” will Love call forth?
On Saturday, February 17, join Lorian Colleague and Subtle Activist leader David T. Nicol for Sacred Destiny: A Revolutionary Method for Serving OUR Collective Liberation through YOUR Personal Healing. During this free online event, David will guide participants through a sacred process of group healing for the purposes of collective liberation. David will also share about the power of unified group consciousness to bring next-level personal and ancestral healing, while also being a genuine force for change in our world. This call will involve a potent group practice to transform our personal and ancestral timelines. Learn more and register for this free online event here:http://sacred-destiny.net.(Click here to read an interview with David Nicol and Lorian blog writer Susan Beal.)