I released this Reflection on February 21, 2019. It is a meditation on the ups and downs of life, on enlightenment. I hope you enjoy.
Sometimes our own lives feel like they have been going on for a very long time. At other points, we might feel like there is barely a breath separating us from our distant pasts or the promise of the future. Still others are timeless, so swept up in the moment are we. In those slices of mental experience, the meaning and purpose of time drops out of our consciousness. We feel the kiss of eternity and melt into the present utterly.
We usually don’t anticipate this loss of time when it approaches. Sure, during sex it can happen. And it can happen during our great moments of triumph, when we are on a high so high it cannot get higher. It can also reach us when we are at our saddest, when it feels like we have been suffering forever. Or it can be felt during our most blasé and mundane moments. Whenever it happens, whenever we do touch eternity, there is something beyond experience that occurs. Something that simply is, without any necessity for thought.
It is unity, as far as I can see. There is a total unity of mind and moment, no slipping into the past or anticipating the future. And these experiences are of such depth and value, we tend to spend the rest of our lives trying to either talk about them or re-experience the beauty. Eternity is frequently associated with catharsis, when something troubling us one way or another finally gets integrated into our consciousnesses. It is a great release, a sloughing off of cares and worries, even just for a moment.
Release of what, then? We live in a world of poles: of light and dark, of up and down, of left and right, of good and evil, of right and wrong. There is a word for this: syzygy. It means a conjunction or opposition, particularly in reference to the sun and the moon.
Hmm, there is a concept: the sun and the moon. The sun is light incarnate, the thing that gives us life, light, day, food, energy. It is the very source of our life, in a real way. It gives of its bounty and asks nothing in return. It will be with us for time nearly incalculable. Certainly, none of us will see its end.
The moon is similar, yet unique. It is not a source of light, rather it reflects what light the sun offers to it. It bears the shadow thrown by our planet, and at some parts of its cycle it is completely covered over. Other times, it is bright and yellow and casts enough light so that (on a clear night) we can see everything around us easily.
And yet, the concept of light and shadow would not exist without the light of the sun and other stars. There would simply be nothingness. It is impossible to even conceive of such a world - tantamount to something like division by zero. Could shadows exist without light? Light certainly can do so without shadow. And a shadowy figure like the moon can only reflect light that is shone upon it. Given this truth, all that shadow really means is an absence of light.
I suppose that we can take some illumination from this concept. It is trite to consider the darker parts of our psyches our ‘shadows.’ That was coined by Carl Jung and is no accident. The shadows are those parts of us that seem ugly and undesirable. Fear, anger, lust, envy, greed. There is a reason that they are typically buried within the psyches of human beings. All human beings. They exist unexamined because, consciously or unconsciously, we avoid shining the light of our mind upon them. That is the case, at least, in these ‘civilized’ modern times.
Some of us are ruled unconsciously by our darker proclivities. They invariably separate us from our fellow human beings. Fear others our fellows. Anger drives a wedge. Lust reduces love to a pleasure transaction. Envy makes our own lot bad and another’s good. Greed is a hoarder that does not want to share with others. Giving in to shadow rarely, if ever, leaves a lasting satisfaction with our lives. Just ask Ebenezer Scrooge.
But what happens when we do pay attention to our shadows, when we use the illumination of our consciousness to look deep within ourselves? This is a question we each answer in a different way (like dealing with three ghosts in our bedrooms overnight), and pain is almost always a guarantee when we commit ourselves to seeking it out (again, look at Scrooge’s avaricious agony in A Christmas Carol), but there is something of the moon and sun within the answer. We eventually pass out of pure shadow, and strike something that reflects the light back at us. In effect, we look at our darker parts and, with some effort and suffering, reach a point where the light of the observer and the light of the observed become the same thing. Our ignorance of the true measure of things evaporates. Compassion tends to flow, because we suddenly see that same shadow in all those around us and recognize how it is making them suffer. In essence, the parts that once separated us are now a pathway to love and understanding. The poor get sacks of gold, Bob Cratchit gets a goose and a raise, and Tiny Tim survives. It sounds a bit like unity, doesn’t it?
I believe that is the kiss of eternity that we all seek, in one shape or another. A reminder that, in spite of the illusion, the dark parts of us, the ones that seem wrong and evil, are perfect. In the same way that our light parts, those parts that we deem good and right, are equally perfect. And if you don’t think shadow is perfect, in its own way, what kind of a story would A Christmas Carol have been if Scrooge started off as pleasant as his nephew? What would life be if it was just one unstoppable ‘on’ button? If we were all immortal beings who never experienced hardship, could you even call that life? Art like A Christmas Carol certainly imitates life, and life requires a syzygy. And yet, it is the light that demonstrates this perfect union of light and shadow. The ghosts compelling Scrooge to use the light of his consciousness to examine his whole shadowy life - past, present, and future - is what causes his redemption. There is a reason it is called ‘enlightenment.’
Perhaps that is the lesson of unity, of eternity: the perfection of all can be seen when we view the world through the lens of light.