At my recent birthday redux dinner, an exceptional artist and friend, Sophia Wallace, asked an insightful question. She wanted to know if all of the “positive” news and sound bites we put out via Social Media create a false sense of reality. Perhaps there is a sense of distortion as the picture is all light and no shadow to contrast.
Rule number 1 in blogging is to stay on the upbeat side. Your blog post is supposed to either inspire, educate or entertain, if not serve all three purpose. It’s hard to fulfill any of those requirements when your post is filled with negativity and gloom. When you utilize Social Media as a part of your business, not only is doom and gloom out, but so it bitching about other people.
Yet darkness and light are two sides of the same coin and to pretend that our lives are always filled with cotton candy and rainbows is deceptive and false. I would like to ask you to indulge me for today and allow me to go into the shadow and talk about darkness for a bit.
My dear friend Simon took his own life last week. When I related the news to another friend of ours, she replied, that is awful, he was troubled.
Simon had a great capacity for darkness, perhaps more so than others. Peace was always a little harder to come by for him. I think some were unsettled by his darkness. The darkness in others reflects back as our own shadow self, and the reflection is part of the same impulse to keep our Social Media output cheerful that can quickly become alienating and false. But Sophia is right, can you really be that happy all the time?
What I am interested in is why we are so afraid of the darkness? In others and in ourselves? Is it because we are told that its bad marketing / no one wants to be depressed / made aware of their own mortality / no one likes a downer?! Help me out there and fill in the blanks.
I understand the marketing principal in keeping things on the upbeat side but the irony is that it is the posts where the writer is honest and vulnerable that get the most feedback and engagement (as confirmed by myself and other bloggers).
I believe it is our humanness, our mortality, our flaws and our weaknesses that makes us interesting. Our individuation from one another comes from those characteristics, from the our battle wounds and shadow selves. The question is not whether we have darkness within but how we transform, transmute and translate the darkness that gives our lives and our art depth and meaning.
There is no light without shadows. Without contrast the image fails to take form and is only a monochromatic block of singularity.
We should embrace our darkness, explore it with curiosity, and discover it in earnest. If we didn’t shy away from the shadow, perhaps those of us who are prone to more darkness would be more at ease in reaching out, our lives would be richer and the art we create would have more depth and significance.
There will be a memorial for Simon today. Many of our classmates will be there to celebrate the amazingly incredible person Simon was and how fortunate we all were to have shared various adventures with him. Simon was a faithful, loyal, steadfast friend, incredible actor, brilliant writer / director, insightful scholar and a courageous warrior who never shied away from his own darkness and always embraced the darkness in me. I would like to dedicate this post to my dear friend.
I remember the first time I was completely vulnerable with friends after struggling with something in college. I learned that vulnerability brought out vulnerability in others! There is such freedom in living open broken lives with one another! 🙂
vulnerability in one’s self certainly brings it out in others, as much as the darkness that I am talking about in this post. I think there is a slight difference between vulnerability and darkness though. I think others are as much afraid of one as of the other but the reaction is often different. I think vulnerability makes other not sure what to do, it can render them helpless somehow, where as our shadow self could just be rejected outright or feared. I don’t think we have to live broken lives with others. I think to be whole is to embrace and understand all parts of one self, the vulnerability, the shadow self as well as the light and the strength. Strength and wholeness comes from not shying away from any of it, in ourselves and in others.
I have also experienced loss recently, in January. For me it was as if I was cracked wide open, feeling everything with such such intensity it was overwhelming, exhausting and at times unbearable. Darkness and light, I believe exist simultaneously. We experience our humanness with what I like to describe as “bipolar thinking”. You have mentioned honesty and allowing ourselves to express vulnerability . I think that is the key. Our experience with each other as a people relies on that
above all and it cure us from our bipolar thinking disorder. I believe your friend’s act bathed in honesty in the face of his adversity.
Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. I agree. We as society have gone too far in this “bipolar” thinking as you aptly described it. We are being trained to fear the darkness yet that will only be to our determine in experiencing any real depth. It takes courage to be vulnerable. It courage to sit with pain.
I am so sorry for your loss, and for the passing of Simon, who (it sounds like) could fee the depths of being human.
An important post and topic! Thank you.
I don’t follow rule #1, so I didn’t even know it existed.
I write about the awakening feminine: the feminine principle in both men and women, and all of life; and how the sacred feminine is embodied in women.
One of the aspects of the yin side of yin/yang (yin->feminine) is the dark, darkness, destruction, death… you get the picture. In Chinese medicine, neither light or dark are good or bad, nor are these energies static, meaning they only exist in relation to another energy.
One thing I see is that in a culture where masculine qualities are celebrated and the feminine qualities are denigrated and hidden, we can unconsciously live out these tendencies to embody and express one side, while tucking the other side neatly into the shadows of our psyches. But, all along we know they are there.
In my experience with death and difficulty, when I felt the deep emotions such as grief, anger, sadness, etc., I felt a kind of beauty that comes from being real, being with what is here, and being willing to feel it all, to express it all, to embody it all.
At some point in our lives, we all feel the darkness, some more so than others.
Thank you, again, for writing on this most important topic.
I read you and I love reading your writing. I love the poetry that you bring to some very challenging topics. As you may be able to tell, I try really hard to not shy away from that which is hard, depressing or difficult. But in the age of the youtube generation where everyone’s attention span is so short, I often get the impression that the harder topics that you and I both like to tackle are not always popular. The top bloggers tends to write of “10 ways to..” “5 steps for… ” and so on and so forth. A reflection of the masculine in many respects.
I know its not always easy to stand up and confront the darkness but if our goal is to be fulfilled…and I mean in all respects of ourselves, the dark, light, masculine, feminine, all of our archetypes, then we must embrace that which is not always easy.
Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments and affirmation in my writing about the darkness. It means a lot!
Thank you and I look forward to your posts as always.
Thank you for this post. I agree with you it is our authentic self people respond to the most.
Thank you for your courage to share the loss of your friend I hope the memorial for Simon was all you needed it to be.
We fear our darkness because we have been taught to fear it. There has been no understanding no education no learning around the dark. With that brings ignorance, denial and lack of ability. Much in the same way as if we were never taught to use our legs.
I always hope through honesty and authenticity we can find a world we want to live in and within that souls to whom we can befriend.
“Of this moment you’ll be sad but that passes too”
Thank you so much for your wonderful comment. I too hope that through authenticity we can find a world where we live in balance of darkness and light, never fearing one and always loving both.
My friends best friend died in a car accident on the 4th of July, I met him once, when i moved here to Ohio he came to help unload the truck, and i went to his wake and funeral and it made me cry listening to his sister read a letter she wrote to him. Sometimes having the chance to feel someone else’s darkness brings a connection with them, even if only for a short while, like at a funeral, you connect with their loved ones and learn about the life they lived.
I didn’t know there was this blog rule about only talking about happy things, I personally couldn’t follow it anyway, I have too many things to share that lean towards the darkside of life that have brought me to where I am today and I use them for reference and plan to use some of the darker times in my life to help other people. I don’t understand why there are people who don’t go there, but maybe its just not for them.
I am sorry to hear about the loss of your friend Simon, I think this post is a wonderful outlet and outreach for you right now. Creating platforms for conversation are good ways to share experiences also.
I am actually really surprised at all the comments and views I’ve gotten on this post. I am deeply touched.
If the readership and comments are any indicators of if such a rule exists, then I say the rule makers have just been over turned.
I do tend to write from a slightly darker, melancholic and philosophical place than many popular blogs out there. But irrespective to what the “authorities” say, it would appear that my words, coming from the depths of me, has an audience. For that, I am thankful!
Thank you for this. Darkness and light and opposite sides of the same earth…the same truth. It doesn’t make love any less sweet or suffering any less painfull but instead they each make the other more certain and real. We can’t educate (or understand this crazy life) without both.
The sun is out today. 🙂
here here! we can’t fully understand life with out embracing both.
thank you for your thoughtful comment. both myself and Simon appreciates and loves it! 🙂
The sun has been out since I wrote to you above…
“Summer is a dream in my little girl’s eyes…” http://wp.me/p1l5Wz-8C
…and my windows just filled with dark grey when I saw you post this story again making this last week so much brighter.
“Summer is a dream in my little girls eyes….”
that just brought me such joy! thank you.
Bon voyage, Simon. Charlie, thank you for breaking rules.
Thank you for reading. It really means a lot to me of all the people who have read this post, responded and share it. I think Simon would be really happy to know that he is still an inspiration.
I think it’s an old eastern philosophy that cites “Life is 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows”. It’s so true; and to avoid or embrace one above the other is to deny the fullness and vitality and integrity of our own humanity. Thank you for sharing Simon’s story; a poignant touchstone.
That is a beautiful quote.
I think our Western, Developed, Modern world has forgotten much about the duality that is life and have used consumption and escapism to ease the darkness….hence making many shallow and one dimensional.
Wonderfully insightful post. We all have a dark side within us and it is good to know it and understand it. Sorry for your loss!
Thank you so much for reading and for commenting. I think Simon would love the fact that he is still a frequent topic of conversation and point of inspiration.
I am so sorry for your loss … HUGS
Having struggled with a desire to commit suicide … I have come to the conclusion that being out of balance with darkness & lightness was what the raging river overflowing my lifeline … bouncing from one side to the other … once I got those balanced within myself through therapy, I could explore the pain to understand how I could grow from it into being a better person and a better artist.
People appeared to feel violated if I shared any of my struggle … as if I were holding up a mirror to them to see things about themselves they were hiding from themselves. They seemed to feel blind … helpless … out of control.
Instinctively, I paint “happy” even when at my darkest moments … it is what I am searching for within myself … when trapped in darkness I claw my way through it looking for lightness 🙂 so far, I just have never given up on finding that light within myself … sadly … some people never find their way through the darkness back to their light … while others just close the door leading to that room and pretend it does not exist.
Fantastic Words All,
Many indigenous societies believed in both ‘good’ and ‘evil’/ destructive/dark spirits. They did not try to kick out the dark spirits. They respected that they were essential to everything. Yes, they would ask them to be at peace and stop their destruction, but not ask them to not exist.
Often, the seeds need to gestate in the darkness before they can sprout.
With the work I have transitioned through in my life, I have thoroughly learned that I, and thus all people are perfectly imperfect and magnificent exactly as they are, no matter what they have done or not (‘good’ ‘bad’ stuff), no matter where they went or not (‘good’ path ‘bad’ path), no matter what.
With this knowing, there is always a thread of joy woven into the ‘darkness’.
Sending you all your favorite things…
I believe there is a lot of value in the old myths, before we’ve shifted into a uber monotheistic society. What is worst, we are shifting towards an all right all wrong reality where there is no room for discourse or subtly or shades or gray. Which is why I felt like I was not “supposed” to write about my friend’s death and more.
You are absolutely right that seeds sprout in the darkness. There is always a thread of joy in the “darkness”
I think we believe the fairy tale that if we are good and do what is right then life will turn out exactly the way we dreamed it would.
It didn’t work out like that for me. My husband committed suicide eighteen months ago today.
There is pain and pleasure in equal measure. What we learn is that our core essence and our capacity to live a meaningful life is not determined by our circumstances.
Life is imperfect and so are we. It’s how it’s meant to be.
Thanks for celebrating the darkness, it’s what we all need to appreciate the light.
First off, virtual hugs for your loss, Charlie Grosso. And thank you for writing something that I’ve always been mulling over lately. It’s quite confusing, these “rules”. There’s the basic belief that writing needs to be authentic thus a combination of Light and Dark is necessary. Then there’s the “rule” of upbeat, all the way, up-up-upbeat and happy,happy,joy,joy or bust. Pffft! So one-sided and monochromatic and blah indeed. It’s only recently that I’ve chosen to break the rule too. Maybe it’s Natalie Golberg’s teachings finally coming through to me, maybe it’s the reality of life being so full of darkness these days, (hello, flip-side of holidays, the classic home away from home story, I live) perhaps it’s simply age=wisdom=truth-telling and coming to terms with the sacred reality: It’s okay. Good, bad, up, down, they’re all really okay. As for the “rules”, deep down inside, you and I knew they were always meant to be broken. Overall, I’d like a nice mix of all of you, both the Light and Dark and everything in between, as life I find as I get older, is full of the in-betweens. Peace.
Glad you made the distinction between vulnerability and darkness, or perhaps sadness or even hurt. Darkness seems to be a tendency toward destructive or damaging feelings where one does not seek resolution. Many of the comments I’ve read in response seem to speak to the differences. I think we all know people who seem dark or at least, consistently depressed. I was there – boy was I there! I can tell you that was a few years too many, where, yes, I might have a good time, laugh with family and friends, but for a while, it seemed more comfortable to consider my existence a waste. Darkness…those were some pretty dark days. As far as the rule of blogging, yeah, I’ve been breaking it, since almost day one! I know in me there exists a capacity to consider the darkness, to contemplate it and at times ‘handle it.’ Yet I consider myself very hopeful for wonderful days – today and forever! This was an important post, especially for the sake of Simon. Again, my days were fairly dark and there, but for the grace of God, would I have gone. I’m thankful for the gift of expression, even if it’s been on paper with ink or pencil or paint. My therapy, my release and if something untoward comes out, I’m okay with it because it is who I am.
I don’t think I can add much to this dialogue, except – a simple “thank you for sharing”.