From birth to death, life is steeped in paradox. Like the diamond, we begin as fairly humble material. As human beings grow to physical maturity however, the depths to which one may be moved in acts of loving kindness is matched only by another’s capacity for venomous hatred. The creative expression of a Michelangelo and the destructive acts of a Hitler can melt our hearts with joy or sorrow in their turn, as we are ultimately confronted with our own proportionate creative and destructive potential. Most of us live somewhere in the muddy middle, though we all experience thoughts which constantly draw us to and fro, back and forth between right and wrong, good and bad, love and hate. Yet as surely as a lump of coal quietly strives to become the diamond, we are drawn to the refractive brilliance of the polished gem within. For the human soul, transformation holds that kind of allure.
We live in challenging times. Figures such as Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden personify our collective Shadow. The war on terrorism uses fear and aggression in an attempt to eradicate these undesirable elements and, in the process, becomes a representation of the Shadow, itself. Patriotism has become just another excuse for righteous anger, but there is no such thing as a holy war. War itself is the most unholy act on the planet – the taking of lives, many of them innocent, in the name of justice.
We might discover common ground with our enemies, but this cannot happen until enough of us face the harsh reality of our own inner foes. The Shadow is part of collective consciousness. We cannot eradicate it; we are dealing with a primal force. We can, however, face it in ourselves and work on accepting, loving and integrating our denied qualities. At this point in time, might we break the tension of extremes? War feeds Shadow elements of hatred, oppression, prejudice, racism and more. When we chase that Shadow outside ourselves, we collectively energize leaders to point fingers at.
How might we encourage transformation on a daily basis? Fear of our own quixotic nature may be the single biggest obstacle to the changes we so desperately seek. How might we unconsciously sabotage our own noble efforts? The process of disentangling threads of fear which intersect the fabric of our lives is onerous as it is rewarding, and there are few shortcuts. We can only face what comes to us and do our best. Like a lump of coal, we are imperfect. Remembering the potential of that coal however, we refine our character over time by meeting ourselves and others as honestly as we are able.
Goethe asserts that behavior is a mirror in which everyone shows his image. All human beings share common emotions. If someone’s behavior triggers us, our power lies in being able to sit with feelings that emerge, rather than blaming that individual for possessing elements denied within. Labeling another may ring true, but searching inside for these traits gifts us with the power to transform them. As we heal through acceptance and unconditional love for ourselves, we are able to witness character defects in another with greater compassion and unconditional reception. As we practice this skillfully, the most resistant among us opens to communication. We become examples for others to follow. We become what singer/songwriter Carole Isis terms diamonds in the heart of all life.