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The War in the Human Character

The teenaged Shirley Temple

Jan. 8, 2011

I was going through an awakening this morning – I usually awaken at 1:00, 2:00, 3:00, etc. – and turned on the TV for a little relief.


I answered one of the nagging, persistent questions I had of life: Whatever happened to Shirley Temple when she grew up? There she was in Fort Apache alongside the barely-upright, hard-charging John Wayne and austere Henry Fonda.

And she remained the same Shirley Temple she was when she was a child. The war of the human character between the shadow and the light was still raging in her. Her “character” as a child-actress seemed founded on a slight pout when the shadow side suddenly threatened to emerge.

Her trademark was to overcome that pout and let the light shine through, so to speak. I find her performances delightful, by the way. The light always wins out in the stylized movie representations of life in the Thirties and Forties and in Shirley’s stylized character.

And so I imagine it is with most of us. The light wins out in our own stylized characters and dramas too, but barely. It wins out because we mould our characters along the same lines as Shirley: we keep ourselves to a character laid down along lines we think it “should” be laid down. We follow the rules. We be as we think we should be, do as we think we should do.

But I can’t help thinking that a character laid down along these moulded lines won’t work for us soon. The rising energies seem to be squeezing us like a wet sponge. We may no longer need to shoehorn ourselves into an idealized pattern. The energies may provide the means that Shirley Temple had to use her willpower for.

But how will we tame the residual shadow if we don’t use willpower any more? I place my bet on experiencing the shadow through. I bet on the fact that the shadow is a learned side, not a natural or native side. I bet on “passive awareness” providing the means of emerging from the shadow into the light that we always were and are.

I don’t think we have to learn love or peace or joy. If we did, I think we’d fail more times than we’d succeed. I think we can safely bet on love and peace and joy being there when the dross is finally experienced through. And I think we can also bank on the process of completing it becoming easier over time.

I don’t think we can bet on everyone knowing about this wonderful process of being with our shadow and watching it lift and disappear. And I think a lot of people will be wanting to know how to emerge from it.

Meditation is a process of being with and observing, or, as Krishnamurti called it, passive awareness. It’s as if we are being encouraged to be in a meditative state all the time. Along with the rising energy, we’re also being give massive reassurance by the sources we follow that all will be OK – not only OK in the final reel, but also OK throughout the show. The price of admission appears to be a modicum of trust in life and faith in our allies.

The shadow side of fear and the enjoyment of an excitingly-close scrape and a clean getaway, etc., may soon yield to an appreciation of peace and self-composure. What will we enjoy then? There was a quality to Thich Nath Hanh’s video that seemed to capture it: beauty, harmony, peace. Perhaps I can post that video again here, compliments of Benedick.

I don’t think we’ll need to shuck our shadow side. I don’t think we’ll need to labor or exert ourselves to watch it pass. I think the words “let go” capture what is needed: dropping our shadow as we’d drop a hot spoon. Just to watch the shadow without reacting, knowing that it isn’t us, settling the question once and for all of whether we are good or evil by seeing that our divine natures are in fact undeniably and eternally good, as God is good.

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