Darkness Within, Darkness Without

Yesterday was the shortest day of the year, and it was a rough one for me. I thought that creating my illustration last week (Begetting Violence) had helped me work through some things, and maybe it did, but yesterday I allowed the full weight of human suffering to bear down on me. And then I got hurt feelings over something stupid, and then I felt mad at myself for having hurt feelings when I’m not dealing with loved ones missing or dead. Perspective, I had it in spades. So I went to some very dark places. And while I’ve always been drawn to the Disney song “Candle on the Water” from Pete’s Dragon, taking it as an almost anthem at times for helping other people find their way internally, maybe I just was finding it difficult to shine on the longest span of darkness of the year.

As an aside, I wonder sometimes if people who suffer from chronic depression are focal points for all the negativity of the collective unconscious. Or that they are maybe super sensitive to those streams of energy. If so, how grossly unfair a burden it is, and how dangerous that we don’t take those issues more seriously.

I have no interest to live my life as a martyr or a kind of seer, but it seems so strange to me that others can’t see what is to come. We are collectively reaping what has been sown for a very long time. And while it was our forebears that laid the seeds, protesting against this fact loudly that it wasn’t us, that it’s not our fault, will do us no good as a society. The violence is growing, destruction of all kind is reaching higher and higher points, people are getting sicker and sicker physically and mentally, and it is getting closer to home here in the United States so it is going to be impossible to ignore. We may still be decades away from the breaking point, but we can no longer follow the example of previous generations and keep pushing the burden of payment on future generations. That game isn’t going to work any more. Things are going to get worse, and whether or not they get better afterwards is the only unknown variable at this point. So that is where I have to pin my hopes – that there are enough people who care and who are strong enough to withstand the ensuing brutal storms and rebuild afterwards.

I hope I’m proven wrong. I hope that somehow, some way, humanity finds a way to pull itself out of the downward spiral. In the meantime, I will continue to do what I must to survive and thrive. I will love fiercely and dance with wild abandon if I feel moved to and create and I will shine as best I can to let others find their way. I will do this because I feel like I have to. I just wish it didn’t feel like a futile effort at times.

Feeling the Darkness

My current side project with the arts organization I work with, aside from being the largest and most complicated thing I’ve ever done, has, in the course of my research, forced me to confront some of the very darkest sides of the American people in terms of sheer blind hatred and vitriol. And that has been really difficult for me to deal with. It felt very much necessary for the project, but having the weight of all that knowledge pushing down on me made it that much more difficult to solve the problems I needed to solve logistically while simultaneously making a statement artistically.

I am not someone who shies away from the uglier parts of humanity. It is, after all, a very real part of who we are as a species, and to ignore the reality of our inherent chaos creates very dangerous situations both personally and on a societal level, in my opinion. So when I discover new (to me) lows, I wade right in and immerse myself in the muck. I experience the darkness as fully as I can, coming from my particular upbringing and background, and attempt to come to terms with it as it is. I know I can’t manipulate it, can’t zap it away, but I have to somehow be able to wrap my mind around it. For my creative projects, if I block away the ugliness, it makes my work feel inauthentic. In life, acknowledging and accepting that part of humanity makes me more compassionate and empathetic, and it gives me the occasional opportunity to help draw others out of their own darkness. But the process is exhausting and emotionally painful. The biggest risk is losing all of my hope, but it is in those very fragile moments that the most growth and understanding occurs.

I’m moving forward now. I’ve got my direction for the project, and I’ve come to at least a temporary understanding of the darkness again. I may need to reflect some more after I get through my contractual obligations, but for the moment, I’m back to my usual self.