At sunrise this morning, the day of what is being called the Total American Eclipse, I woke up thinking of the Shadow–my shadow, the shadow of my beloved Quaker community, and the shadow of my country, which was created to be a powerful experiment in human freedom and equality. The shadow includes everything about ourselves that we don’t want to know or acknowledge, whether “bad” or brilliant. Fear drives our lives more fully than we know, and we don’t see how that’s so. We don’t see how the deep need to conform to social norms shapes and limits us. We don’t acknowledge how fully our desire to be comfortable keeps us from seeing and confronting the enormous challenges facing us, keeps us from truly addressing the real danger we face of making the planet largely uninhabitable for our species, in the lifetime of our grandchildren.
On this day when millions of people in the USA are watching the total eclipse–either through solar glasses or on screen–on this day when a 73 mile-wide shadow crosses North America from Oregon to South Carolina, may we become willing to face the shadow in our individual and collective psyches. May we allow the divine Light which can illuminate reality show us truth, teach us the path toward true freedom and the way to live from love, rather than fear.
For many of us, the social and political events of our time have increasingly revealed the fear, greed, violence, racism, misogyny, and other conscious and unconscious limiting forces that are influencing us. The presence and power of the Shadow becomes more frankly and horrifyingly visible as we read news of violent murders of unarmed people, as we see images of Nazi flags waved in our city streets, as more and more people around the world face drought and famine because of climate change, as the current administration overturns environmental protections, as we read of marine animals choked to death by our discarded single-use plastic bags and packaging, as a majority of congressmen attempt to deprive the poor of health care and maximize private profits for basic social services, as the Washington DC hotel bearing the name of our president rakes in money from political influence, and we learn more about the influence of the very wealthy in determining our national politics. Will we look directly at the forces in us and society that are moving us toward greater social catastrophes and unthinkable environmental destruction? Will we look not only for the specks in the eyes of the other, but at the plank in our own eyes? Will we invite the divine Light–the Light that “lighteth every [hu]man that comes into the world,” the Light that shines in the darkness–to show us what is blocking the Light, what is concealing Truth, what is stifling Love? Or will we continue to distract ourselves with busy-ness, entertainments, and superficial conversations?
A prime reason we don’t face our shadow is because we are controlled by fear. Our fear inhibits us from experiencing the divine power that is available to us if only we turn toward it. The Shadow hides negative forces within; it also conceals the immense spiritual potential and powers that can guide and shape our society. It blocks our vision of the radiance that we were created to shine.
Today, as we view in awe the eclipse of the sun as it crosses the United States of America, may we pray to face the Shadow that is being revealed so starkly in our time. Today I am asking myself, how is fear constraining me from telling the truth to myself and to others? How is fear holding me back from generosity, compassion, and courage? How am I distracting myself from the precious opportunity my life provides to discover God at work within me and make Truth and Love visible and palpable in everything I do and say?
Looking at how our shadow obscures the Light can be a blessed event, an opportunity for the freedom that comes with truth-telling and the greater love made possible when we recognize our true unity with one another, with the planet, and with God.
© 2017 Marcelle Martin
Our Life is Love: the Quaker Spiritual Journey, by Marcelle Martin, is available from Inner Light Books in hardback, paperback, and ebook. An excerpt and a study guide are also available on that website. Reviewed by Friends Journal, the book was designed to be a resource for both individuals and groups to explore their own experiences of ten elements of the Quaker spiritual journey of faithfulness. It’s also available from QuakerBooks, which provides free shipping on orders of six or more books.
Eclipse photo found at https://eclipse.aas.org/resources/images-videos