Sometimes I read a friend’s status updates and am stricken by the “in presence” of the person. Often he is ruminating over canned tomatoes or the feeling of apple cider vinegar in the stomach, or she is opening her heart to a world of pain and suffering with a streak of righteousness and anger. They are “present” to What Is, and sometimes I feel indicted in my own mind by comparison.
You see, my blogging career has led me here: to the fourth post in a brand new blog, Brave New Words. And I am attempting to stay present to the moment, but it is taking me back in time.
It is telling me: you cannot go on, you cannot take up the mantle of writer and poet and philosopher, unless you resolve the issues from your past. These are issues so intricate and dense and thick with peril that you have avoided doing so for the majority of a decade.
Writing as shadow work: it is retracing the paths you have avoided and letting the process of creativity itself — however it is conceptualized, secularly or as God’s active mind — interact with the tossed off stuff. It is telling the world what you don’t want anyone to know. It is being brave, braver than you have ever been, so as to reveal the ugliness and unloved parts into the light.
So you see, you have stumbled into this new journal today: and I am only on post four and deeply mired in shadow from the past, and just beginning to allow Creativity to sloff it off. I need to own publicly the complex self that I have allowed very few persons to witness. It is the only way to explain my past activity and inactivity (the riddles of my published work with the riddles of my absence from writing). I have to take you into the past because I’m attached to stuff on my path there, and perhaps I can let it go or transform it so it is more tolerable.
I envy someone so free from the past that they can revel in just being “present” by opening a jar of canned tomatoes and drinking in the flavor.
On the other hand, I don’t envy them. They think they stand in pure sunlight, unblemished by shadow, simply because they aren’t thinking of themselves in a complex enough manner.
Because my shadows aren’t merely the shadows of my particular self. They are, in part, collective shadow. It is the collective shadow that is most vexing, and most hard to spot, and most hard to shed.
If I stay behind closed doors and locked gates, and never let you see my shadow work, the collective shadow will go un-witnessed. You will think that whatever is troubling Joe is his business alone, his duty alone, never acknowledging that it is YOUR work too because you share in the collective issues.
I need to blog my shadow work — at the intersection of individual and collective — and allow the world in. If the world enters into the drama, it can do its part to heal the collective shadow.
I wish there were a phrase more evocative than “shadow work“. I’m afraid that phrase fails to inspire or give me reason to join in.
Really what I am asking of myself is to be a sort of World Shaman, as I understand the term, taking my life story over the past 16 years as the malady to be restored to health through a meta-shamanic process. And I am calling others to be their own World Shamans, enacting a wild transformation of the old into the new.
It isn’t time yet to explain the meaning of World Shaman. The phrase frightens me and fills me with the memory of horror and terror and amazing states of consciousness. You don’t know what I am asking of myself, and you don’t know what I am asking of you.
It means attending to the words of my story — and the story itself in all its contexts and overlapping significances — as a story for the ages. One. With. EVERYTHING. In. The. Balance.
That is how I experienced it, as you will see soon enough.