Monday, June 1, 2009

Square 11: Ged's shadow

Square 011

My favourite novel since childhood has been A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin, but it took me years to realize its central theme.

The wizard Ged, in a youthful display of prowess, unwittingly releases a shadow from the realm of the dead into his own world. The creature nearly kills Ged and scars his face before being driven off. Eventually Ged must go in search and undo the evil he has unleashed. His long quest in a small sailing vessel is, for me, one of the most potent images in fiction, an allegory of life’s journey. In the end Ged realizes the shadow is an aspect of himself.

In my youth I, too, was a zealot and tried to prove my worth by an act of wizardry: I repressed my true sexuality and other aspects of myself that accompanied it. I got involved in the ex-gay movement and learned how to go through the motions of being someone I was not. Supposedly living the straight life would bring me closer to God.

Why do people believe it is healthy, moral, spiritual and useful to glorify misery? Unbridled desire can lead to selfishness, greed and abuse, but to deny our natural inclinations altogether only puts us in conflict with ourselves. Evil is not the dark side of the self, but the harm it inflicts when we lack inner harmony. Ged’s shadow itself was not harmful, but once separate from him it waged a war of suffering.

Everyone has a shadow self. It works behind the scenes but often rises to the surface when we experience stress, grief or pain. When you say, “He was beside himself,” you mean he seemed to be acting out of character, but it is really a deep part of the person, vulnerable and alienated, that behaves strangely.

Rejecting my gayness did not make me a better person. It split me into two parts, and both became weaker. At my worst I was compulsive, angry, judgmental and full of despair. Fear of my own shadow led me to a life or death decision. To choose life, I had to accept the shadow as a vital part. Doing so set me on a path of genuine healing.

To depict Ged’s voyage I chose sea-green handspun yarn from The Black Lamb in Port Hope, Ontario. The black and white threads depict the dark and light that must be united within him.

Most of us are afraid of our shadows. What parts of you do you try to hide or push away?

No comments:

Post a Comment