Our shadow life

“The story says then that when we put a part of ourselves in the bag it regresses. It de-evolves toward barbarism. Suppose a young man seals a bag at twenty and then waits fifteen or twenty years before he opens it again. What will he find? Sadly, the sexuality, the wildness, the impulsiveness, the anger, the freedom he put in have all regressed; they are not only primitive in mood, they are hostile to the person who opens the bag. The man who opens his bag at forty-five or the woman who opens her bag rightly feels fear. She glances up and sees the shadow of an ape passing along the alley wall; anyone seeing that would be frightened.” — Robert Bly, A Little Book on the Human Shadow

Good morning.

Tis early here in Devon.

Still (as normal), I’ve got the coffee poured, music playing and the time to write these few words.

And that’s more than enough for now.

How are you?

No, I mean it. How are you?

It’s been a rough year — and that’s putting it mildly.

Wrecked, perhaps. That’s certainly how I feel. A feeling of repression mixed with sadness but then again, I’ve had it easy by comparison to many people and it doesn’t take much to remind myself of that.

Still, I think it helps once in a while to put it out there.

But being pissed off isn’t the same thing as expressing wisdom. More self-torture, than self-nurture.

As to our shadow selves, even to talk about it seems a little self-absorbed but it’s still in the mix — at least for me.

What do I mean?

Living with regrets?


Not dealing with our sh*t?

Of course.

But mostly, at least in my case, feeling a sense of alienation from the person I am at the deepest, most profound level.

My heart bleeds for you Summerhayes (*laughs inside*).

I’m not looking for sympathy, but simply, as is my way, to be troubled out loud, not especially about the horns of my dilemma but for everyone I’ve ever known who feels that their life is out there waiting for them but they can’t, for whatever reason, journey forth, let alone find the path of (re)discovery.


Money, mostly.

Mixed with great gobs of fear.

And that, dear readers, is mostly, if not exclusively, a product of our culture — a neoliberal, capitalist ideal that says you’ve got to play by some very predictable but not very edifying rules. Of course, I grossly oversimply and/or generalise but you only need look at the focus of our lives to understand that things that might bring forth our greatest gifts, namely the arts, music and improvisation, are not deserving of the same amount of attention as (inter alia) exams, success, stuff and of course the damn money.

And my solution?

I don’t have one.

That’s not completely true. I’m sure if I was squeezed I’d sing like a bird but my shtick now, such that it is, is to invite a more beautiful question, chief among those, or certainly a very important one, is what does a more beautiful world look like?

And in my bailiwick, that’s replete with sensemaking, wisdom and the gift to touch others with your work.

But you can’t eat that Summerhayes!

No, I see that but perhaps there are other ways to live where said gifts might give rise to support, help and shelter.

I know, it sounds so ethereal and out of touch with our hard-headed world but I remain convinced that until we change the conversation away from the norms of the last few decades, of which I’m a sullied product, we’ll never escape this moribund way of seeing the world as something to exploit. Yes, that’s it. To begin to explore our shadow selves we need to find a way to connect more deeply with our true selves, and then to find a conduit into a more beautiful world where they can be nourished, cherished and loved for something more than the sum of their production capacity.

Happy days — or at least happier days.

And your take away Summerhayes?

I don’t have one.

For now, I’m just sharing a few words that arose this morning before the day started to overwhelm me.

Have a great one.

Much love, Julian

sianez.scarlet@mailxu.com winterbottom_339