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Friday, September 30, 2016

Degrees of Color


In each of us lie good and bad, light and dark, art and pain, choice and regret, cruelty and sacrifice. We are each of us our own chiaroscuro, our own bit of illusion fighting to emerge into something solid, something real. We've got to forgive ourselves that. Because there is a lot of gray to work with. No one can live in the light all the time.”
Libba Bray

The word, chiaroscuro, refers to the deep variations of light and dark in a painting. I remember an art class I took in Raleigh decades ago, in which we spent several classes simply mapping out the variations in color, shadow & light; how to mix one color of paint to give four or five different hues—light to dark. I was surprised to learn that artists see this way—simply in depth of color and scale. I was young then; what can I say?

I had an interesting conversation with a friend yesterday, about the idea of light and dark in people. Where does it come from? Is it genetics? Is it a product of our early childhood? Why is it that two people from the same family can grow up to be so very different? Why is it that a difficult childhood produces both productive, functioning citizens, and sociopaths in the same cohort of brothers and sisters? Do all of us have it in us to choose what we will become, or is it the luck of the draw? Big questions. Most families must wonder about them at some juncture, because most of us have families like that.

We all have a shadow—that part of ourselves of which we are unaware. Some of us have a very dark shadow, and some of us are completely unconscious of our light. On any given day, at any particular moment, we may be operating from that shadow-self, and be oblivious to it. The thought may cross our minds, “what made me do that” or “why did I say that.” We may wonder why we are feeling angry, or sad, or unusually delighted for no identifiable reason. As Libba Bray says, “there is a lot of gray to work with.”

We can catch a little glimpse of our shadow in the things we project onto others, in the labels we hang on them, or the names we call them. Donald Trump is a classic example of this—Little Marko, Crooked Hillary, and such. It is well to be aware of the people whom we most admire, or can't bear to be around—they mirror a little piece of us. But most of all, know that we are equal in this respect—we have darkness, and we have light, and all the variations in between. We are chiaroscuro—“our own illusion fighting to emerge into something solid, something real.” We can forgive ourselves for being human.

                                                       In the Spirit,


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