Thursday, March 16, 2006

You are what you (h)ate.

You are what you hate. And what you admire and love. Those distant “others” responsible for all the evil and all that inspires and uplifts us. That is what we are.

That, as I understand it, is what the Jungian’s call “the shadow,” those areas of personality we’ve banished into the basement of our psyches. The parts that do not belong to the conscious “I” we think ourselves to be.

Recently, my best male friend, whose shadow side is, in my opinion, as close to the surface as mine is, tells me that I am getting “really scary weird.” It’s possible he means it as a compliment. (He was responding privately to my entry, "Bleak City - and I’ve taken his remark out of context.) But the comment made me think about where I am on the Shadow Showing Index.

I’m just not scared anymore. That’s what I think it is. Or at least I’m not as scared of all the behaviors and emotions that I’ve shoved into the cellar. I can at least look at the concept without shuddering too much.

I am what I hate. What I fear most.

And what do I hate and fear? Bigotry, racism, snobbery, misused power and privilege, pettiness, back-biting, conceit (as opposed to confidence). Oh, the list goes on and on. And if I take this theory seriously – in all those characteristics, there is a little of me.

Nice.

Who wants to think they have something in common with what they loathe? But dig around a little and you find that Walt Kelly’s famous line from the Pogo cartoon is right. “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

It’s not fun – but the least we can do is open the basement door sometimes and recognize that it’s there. Not haul it out and put on parade – but recognize it. Haul it out and look, without, for once, judging its’ suitability for existence in the hallowed halls of society’s current dictates.

Sometimes it’s a wonderful antidote to substituting political correctness for actual thought. It’s an antidote to delusions of goodness or selflessness. What was the motive for that good deed, again?

And sometimes, as better writers and thinkers than me have pointed out, along with the “selfishness” or the anger that isn’t acceptable to show, or the envy we sugar-coat, hopeless feelings that no one wants to hear about – along with all the icky, secret, dark urges and feelings we’ve shoved into a coffin and buried alive, we bury also our courage, our confidence, our natural sexuality and sensuality, our right to take up our share of space on the planet, our right to show up and show off and break a few rules.

“You are what you love” is perhaps even harder to accept. Difficult to think there’s a hero residing somewhere in the depths. Who? Me? Not me. Yes, you. Yes, me. Moving to our own rhythms, doing what we know in our hearts is right, defying the odds, having the sheer bloody courage to stand UP, take chances, be determined as our heroes is just as strongly buried in our personal deeps. And most of us would admit our flaws in a New York minute, but steadfastly refuse to own up to our potential.

So, it’s the Pogo vs. Nelson Mandela polarity, isn’t it?

“We have met the enemy and he is us.”

and

“Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure.”

Open the door. That’s my instinct. Truth is, life will open that door for you some day. Better to gather courage and open it for yourself.

7 comments:

Mary said...

You capture the duality of being human very well here. And I'm with you all the way in the conclusion you draw. But it can take a lot of courage to accept the positive.

And it's partly the very fact that we do keep the yucky stuff locked in the basement, that makes it so lethal. Maybe a little light and warmth might actually do it some good?

zhoen said...

When I was younger, I could tell you everything I hated, a litany of perceived injustice and bad taste.
It's a happier choice to be able to list what I now love, and the hate shrivels up and loses much of it's power.

LJ said...

M. - Funny isn't it, that accepting the positive is harder.

And - yet another retraction. I misquoted my friend, who said, that I write "scary good." Which, come to think of it is a lot different than saying I'm scary weird! Apologies then for my sloppy memory!

Teri said...

This has always stuck with me:

"That which inspires you, you are."

I think that whenever I hear/see an amazing musician. It's like the universe is stirring me up, saying "Sing, damnit!"

LJ said...

Arrogantly assuming I can speak for the universe - I'd say you're right about that Teri!

Koru's Daughter said...

Zhoen, what a pity that you are disowning your raw primal power. I was taught by a wise couple to stand in the tension between opposites. Our emotions are not really good or bad - it is our thinking that makes it so.

phlegmfatale said...

Wow. Beautifully stated profundity. I concur.