I must confess I see the darkness more and more in the world around me; it’s quite disconcerting when you stop and have a good look.
So it was refreshing to hear someone describe the children in my daughter’s new class as ‘angels’ the other day. I can see why we think children are divine (I don’t mean in any sense to do with a bearded supreme white male in the sky). Perhaps it’s how their human magic lies so close to the surface; even when my kids are being horrid, they at least do it with total honesty.
Children aren’t entirely divine. They have shadows. Ask any legless daddy longlegs or salted slug. By thinking of them as angels (“so innocent”) I find that there is often the implication that something is lost when they grow up, that adults are rotten and dirty, fallen from grace. There is lots of evidence suggesting that’s what we do think: self-improvement courses, overzealous religions, the quest for worthiness through Facebook likes.
What I have been growing to understand is the existence of that ‘divine being’ in everyone. It surely doesn’t die with childhood. But in an unhealthy, unbalanced environment I guess I can get obscured by my shadow sides, creating a more developed version of the petulant squabbler from my early years. Alternatively I can present a glossy exterior to the world instead. It’s still a shadow though – a shiny one, that plasters over my lovable, “childish” sides.
Divinity and darkness – both part of the same thing surely. One doesn’t disappear as I grow up, the other can’t be extinguished by meditation or a new year’s resolution. The two of them make up the whole, and the challenge must be for me to make it wholesome.
Do battle with the darkness and conquer evil? Sounds good, but laziness, selfishness, greed and ignorance can never be put to the sword; they are me.
Maybe I can instead be more gentle on myself and other people, and trust in the natural process that lets the light out when I stop thinking about shadows and lost innocence. Everyone desires to give to the world, it is every bit as human as laziness, but seemingly more easily obscured. Hand me that torch.