The Collective Shadow
Article ID: 15321
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 1,601
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Author: Diane Awenydd-Evans
Posted: March 10th. 2013
Times Viewed: 2,560
In a discussion of the “shadow” at a recent conference of people who would generally fit into the population that this resource serves, the subject of the shadows of society was brought up. One person invoked Hitler and another Abu-Grab. While their observations have merit, I want to address the tendency within our culture of seeing the “evil” in everyone else and using that to hide from our own failures… not the failures of the mundane society in which we live, nor those of the neo-pagan culture that we continue to strive to create, but our own, personal failures.
My intention is not to throw stones or to preach guilt, but to encourage personal responsibility. I am not responsible for the bad behavior of others but for my own action, or inaction, in the face of that which I believe to be right. While I believe Hitler was indeed a damaged human being who committed great evil, and was the impetus of even more evil committed by others under his control, he was dead long before I was born. It is comforting to think that I do not have to face such shadows; it is comforting and it is delusion.
I had a Professor in college who was a teenager in Germany during the rise of the Nazi party. He once shared his story about how his father tried to discourage him from joining the army and fighting for the Nazis. He chose to ignore his father and indeed eventually came to understand the error of his choice. He carried the responsibility for that choice into his adult life. It was a heavy burden that taught him the wisdom of considering carefully the nature of those that he chose to follow.
When in my early twenties, I lived under the power of a charismatic leader who controlled a small society of people who lived in a culture of conformity and fear. I had been sent there, not of my choice, and had outwardly conformed to the written and unwritten rules of that place. My second year, a girl that I had grown up with, who was a sister to me, came there. She was devout and genuine but her personal devotion was different to that which was the norm in that place. Because her difference made those in power uncomfortable, she was sent away.
In our culture we like to believe that such a thing would never happen, and perhaps we are accepting of those who are different, although I think there are some who would still find her “style” of devotion to be too odd and would find a reason to reject her. I believe it is important to guard ourselves against “self-righteousness” but that is not the point.
My own failure to stand with her, to speak for her, to leave with her... these are the failures of which I speak. I was afraid. I was afraid that if I were sent away with her (and I surely would have been had I stood up and spoke) that I would be sent somewhere worse. That may have been true, but that was true for those living under Nazi occupation as well. I failed. I was a coward and chose to keep silence because of my own fear. She deserved my loyalty and I let her down. She has been lost to me ever since and I have struggled with the knowledge of my own failure to live up to what I believe to be right.
At that time in my life, I had the joy of knowing and spending time with three wonderful brothers. Their mother had two smaller children at home and very little support. She didn’t have a lot to offer her kids but her love, which between the five of them and a husband who worked hard and drank hard, she was spread pretty thin. She had very little money and even less education. She was generous with allowing me to take the boys and grateful for the help.
I was in college and after a couple of years I lost touch. I got busy and allowed the boys to drift out of my life. The other siblings have done well and have good lives, a little more education, a little less poverty, jobs and girlfriends, wives and children.
The youngest of the three was different from his siblings. He was special. He had a beautiful smile and an untamable spirit and I loved him. He was bright and wild and I believe he belonged to the wild god. At 19, he was arrested for being a part of a drug ring. At 29, he killed two people during a drug deal and has spent the past three years on death row. I am grateful that the State of Pennsylvania is unlikely to execute him. But he will never have a wife, or children, and the likelihood of his spiritual evolution in this incarnation is small.
I am not responsible for his choices. I am not so arrogant as to believe that I could have changed the course of his life but I do believe that what we do for our fellow human beings matters. I do believe that the child I loved was not a person who would do those things from an evil heart, but out of fear. If he had been taught that he was a person who was loved, intelligent, powerful, cherished, beautiful, how might that have changed how he saw himself? How might that have changed his choices? How might that have affected his evolution? How might that have changed the lives of those he killed and the lives of those they might have impacted?
I recognized his spirit and loved him but I also allowed him to drift out of my life, He didn’t go anywhere; I did. I grieve for him and I pray to the Wild God and to the Dark Mother to guide his soul and teach his spirit in that place where he waits.
May I never neglect another child of my Gods, and may I have the chance in my next life to correct my inaction in this one. He is a part of my “collective shadow” What are yours and what lessons can you learn from them? How can they change your evolution? What can you do to change our world? How can you positively impact another human being? What affect might that have on the damage they have suffered, or the damage they might do?
Location: Pottstown, Pennsylvania
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