Only the Cracks Are Different
When I talk to people these days, they often say, glumly, the
world is going through a bad patch. And if I ask them what they
mean, they reply, the bad side of people is coming out.
Ah. The good and the bad, the dark and the light. In our tiny
mental model of emotions, of mind, of people, we seem to weigh
these things equally. As if people have two hearts, or two sides to
a heart, each perfectly balancing the other on the scales of the
soul. And yet. Something feels like its missing in that way of
thinking, isnt it?
By a dark side, we mean: our anger, fear, shame, guilt. Our
impulses to hurt and to harm, others and ourselves. Those emotions
that we conveniently call negative, because they imply suffering.
Yet there is something very different about the light and the dark
in us. The dark is an effect. It is caused. It is always a result
of something. Sometimes, its a result of childhood trauma. More
often, I think, its the consequence of little hurts and harms,
planted like seeds, in the soil of time. Either way, darkness is
Darkness in this sense isnt real. It has no substance, reality,
fundament. Because its caused, effected, its unnatural. Our fear
and guilt and shame and anger are in this way the falsest parts of
us. They are not really human nature at alland that is one of the
greatest mistakes that Western philosophy makes.
Now, of course, darkness doesnt feel that way. It feels
like the most real thing of all. When you are suffering, when you
are wracked by depression, guilt, shame, anger, nothing could be
more alive. After all, they feel more alive than you, and their
point often seems to to be to kill you.
Ive been there, you know. I talk about economics, changing the
world, doing good and noble things. Abstractions, numbers,
equations. I built a wall for a long time to keep people out, and
those were the bricks. But in every little cave, darkness laughs
and blooms. If I think back on my life, the darkness was right
there in me, too. It whispered unkind things in a sweet, kind
voice: Give up. Youre not good enough. Youre a failure. And so on.
Maybe youre surprised to hear it, in some way. Ah, but thats the
trick the darkness plays on us, isnt it?
The darkness stops us from seeing. Thats why its there. We need
it, more than we think, suppose, know. In that darkness, then we
can twist and shape people into whatever we need. Heroes, monsters,
scapegoats, villains. I think of all the things Ive been made into.
All of those and worse. You can think of all the things that youve
been made into. Thats why you and I need the darkness. Because the
light is even more painful, sometimes. It shows us...