Thursday, May 23, 2013

Write, Dance, Hum Through Your Paradox, But Especially Write

The title of this book grabbed me, "Owning Your Own Shadow: Understanding the Dark Side of the Psyche." For about a year, I've been on the verge of finishing another manuscript, and the end of the book is a paradox of light and dark, good and evil. I'm not one for the melodramatic, but I had to pick up this slender book and start a little fire under myself. It's given me much more than I believed it would. It's a quick read but sticky.

The theme is paradox (again that word) of what is positive and negative in the act of being and how the parts of life we don't like are instructive and won't be ignored regardless of trying. The author, Robert A. Johnson, who also wrote He and She (all from 20 years ago), suggests we find meaning in the hard space inbetween.

What stuck with me, besides most of it, which I'll be rereading, is what Johnson wrote about writing:
Every verb makes holy ground. "I will go home" or "I will play music now" imply a special identity to "I" and "home" or "I" and "music." To make any well formed sentence is to make unity out of duality. This is immensely healing and restorative. We are all poets and healers when we use language correctly. One makes a mandorla* every time one says something that is true.


The mandorla is the place of poetry. It is the duty of a true poet to take the fragmented world that we find ourselves in and to make unity of it. ... All poetry is based upon the assertion that this is that. When the images overlap, we have a mystical statement of unity. We feel there is safety and sureness in our fractured world, and the poet has given us the gift of synthesis.

Great poetry makes these leaps and unites the beauty and the terror of existence. It has the ability to surprise and shock -- to remind us that there are links between the things we have always thought of as opposites.

*A holy circle or bounded place that is a representation of wholeness.
No compensation or free copies of this book were provided as an inducement for this blogpost.


  1. this is something of the "gap" that emerson writes of and that melville seems to enact as well.

    both leap and their work, though in longer form, operates within the frame of a romantic lyric. a dancing among thoughts--there is an aim perhaps, but it is the dart that matters, both the throw and the preparation for the throw alongside the actual instrument thrown. These are Pascal's infinite spaces but faced with not only the natural fright of the fragile being but with also the wonder of the mind's eye that reveals the all in connection.

  2. This concept of the inbetween is everywhere in art and perhaps the reason we have art. Johnson uses as an example a line from a T.S. Eliot poem: "The fire and the rose are one." Johnson writes, "We are pleased ... that the fire of transformation and the flower of rebirth are one and the same." The poem is "Four Quartets."


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