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shadow play

December 22, 2009

In the recent dark days of my life, I was reminded of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave from the Republic.

Without going into a long commentary on the allegory, I will say this: at St. John’s, where I spent a fascinating year delving into the great books, learning Greek, struggling with Euclid, and finding myself humbled by the mysteries of life and humanity, I heard that people were either Platonists or Aristotelians.

I was the former.

I adored Plato, stayed up until the wee hours poring over passages imbued with hidden meaning. Unraveled the Truth (yes, with a capital T) from the design of translated words on a page.

I even designed some translated words myself, as I conjugated verbs and parsed sentences to learn the true meaning of the Old Testament.

Well…at least the first few sentences.

Along the way, I not only threshed the Truth from ancient words, I threshed my soul. My year at St. John’s was one of the most difficult, challenging, exhilarating, breathtaking, agonizing years of my life.

It was the year that triggered the unraveling of my own identity.

I learned a lot about myself that year, and brought to light things I not only didn’t know…but things I didn’t remember. Old trauma that had held me captive for too long, much like those fabled prisoners in that mythic cave who are forced to stare at shadows…who accept shadow as Truth because that is their only experience.

Since my St. John’s days (eleven years ago now) I have opened, reconciled, and closed many shadowed parts of my psyche. I have come to know myself more deeply by degrees, and through lots and lots of counseling. The Great Books helped me embark on that necessary journey for personal truth and, along the way, my kids have consistently (sometimes painfully) shown me deeper, darker parts of myself over and over again. In doing so, they have given me the continued opportunity to know myself. To loose the proverbial shackles and begin the trek out of the cave.

I have come to think there are few goals more lofty and necessary than learning who and why we are. Further, this quest for personal truth must necessarily lead to a place where self is not the main guiding force in our lives. A quote I recently read elucidates this goal precisely:
To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be enlightened by all things. To be enlightened by all things is to remove the barriers between one’s self and others. -Dogen

Now, on the brink of a new year, I am going inward bound once again in the hopes of loosening the stranglehold the current incarnation of my self has on me.

In so doing, I have started contemplating resolutions for 2010.

The first two are simple: slow down and write every day.

On New Year’s Eve I hear there will be another full moon–a blue moon–along with a partial eclipse. Astrologically, I was told, this will be a time to exhale to the universe. It will be a time for wild, unfettered wishing. 2009 was a year to hold and protect…something. It certainly was for me. It was a time to inhale. A year during which I held my breath.

2010 is the year I will learn what it means to breathe again.

I am thinking of a few more resolutions. In the meantime, please comment here and share your wishes for what I hope and suspect will be a fantastic new year!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 22, 2009 8:40 pm

    Great post. Earlier this month I was imagining ideal situations I could potentially find in exchange for renting a house (this was just in my imagination, mind you). One I came up with was a landlord who wanted me to paint them one painting a day in exchange for rent. The paintings didn’t have to be masterpieces, just anything. My reaction to that thought was, “but I’d probably come up with some amazing paintings if I painted THAT much, and I’d have to give them all to the landlord!” So, after I realized how silly that was, I thought, well why don’t I just paint a picture a day, and I can do with them what I want! Genius, I know. So, there’s one New Year’s Resolution.

  2. ana june permalink
    December 22, 2009 9:10 pm

    I love it Lucy! Wild, out of the box thinking. I’d like to get back to drawing, myself. Maybe one day tackle painting. 🙂
    Here’s a blog I heard about yesterday…I love this idea, and your comment reminded me of it!
    xo

    http://jillstodayisaw.blogspot.com/

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