Looking away from the light to see reality as shadows.
I walk a lot in the various towns and cities we visit in North America. In both Canada and the U.S.A., my wife and I have noticed that the vast majority of the houses we pass as we wander these communities, have their draperies closed during the daytime, especially on bright and sunshine filled days. I realise that there are a a number of good reasons for this in the opinions of the people living in those houses. The majority want privacy. Some want to protect their furniture from becoming faded because of the intense sun’s rays. Some simply want to escape the distractions of a passing world. And then there are others who simply prefer living in the shadows.
In my home, draperies are opened when we wake up in the morning so that we entice whatever light that exists to fill our home. The draperies stay open until after sunset and the darkness returns to the land. Then, we turn on lights within our home until it is time for us to go to bed, and to sleep.
So how does this play out in the larger world, this hiding from the light? When I look at my home community, province, and country, I see that logic and common sense seem to be almost figments of imagination. We all have our polarised ideas and ideals to which we cling to with fierce determination in spite of what might be considered opposing facts. Of course, we can’t see or hear anything clearly when our filters are engaged, not even the things we do or say are evident to us.
In the world-at-large appears to be spinning out of control, we seem to be digging shelters that are purposely hidden in the shadows within which we can sort of protect ourselves from the forces of darkness and the forces of light. We need to hide. There is conflict and that only means pain. We want to build walls to keep out the world. And that need is reflected in our communities and countries. Trump wants to build walls to keep out what he perceives is darkness. In the U.K., the same sentiment is being enacted as a wall of nationalism is being erected to keep out their perceived darkness. The drapes are being closed in the hopes that the problem goes away if we somehow just stay out of the light.
Plato’s cave as described in his book, “The Republic.”
We don’t want to know the larger story, we feel much more comfortable looking at the shadows which we then project as reality. I think here of the shadows in Plato’s story of the cave. In his writing, Plato discusses:
“And if some one were to drag him violently up the rough and steep ascent from the chamber, and refuse to let him go till he had drawn him out into the light of the sun, would he not, think you, be vexed and indignant at such treatment, and on reaching the light, would he not find his eyes so dazzled by the glare as to be incapable of making out so much as one of the objects that are now called true?”
As Plato notes, humans have an aversion to light. We get angry when what is exposed by light contradicts what we hold as our truths. Of course, this is not just about humans in the past, this remains as psychological insight for today. As a culture we are fleeing from awareness – of self and other. We are fearful of being exposed and vulnerable, so we hide in the shadow imagining and hoping to be saved by the light that is filtered. The hard reality is that we need to be dragged into the light to expose to make ourselves vulnerable. Carl Jung had this to say, words that are more important now than perhaps ever in our human history:
”One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light but by making the darkness conscious.”