William Blake, in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, said, “Without contrary/Is no progression.”
Jesus said, “Love your enemies.”
The work that saves us and saves the world is the work of recognizing, accepting, integrating, and reconciling our contraries, contradictions, polarities and irreconcilable differences, within and without.
White/Black, Light/Dark, Good/Evil, Right/Wrong are all dichotomies begging to be integrated, reconciled, harmonized and made whole.
Consciousness is ideally suited for the work of holding opposites together—seeing connections, finding similarities, making peace. But it is difficult work, requiring not only that we pay careful attention to the conflicts and contradictions that swirl around us, and through us, but also that we contentiously, and faithfully, feel the agony of being pulled in different ways—and live within the tension without trying to force resolution or solution, but allowing the way of things to slowly work its own way to a shift of being that transcends anything we could think to do, and transforms our life and our world.
When consciousness—awareness—shuns its responsibility, goes over into unconsciousness, and lives without awareness of its living, the light becomes dark and that’s that. This is the easy way out, and we opt for it on a regular basis. All of our addictions of choice are ways of numbing ourselves to the conflicts of our life. We don’t want to think about it. We cannot bear the pain. So we make ourselves unconscious, and pretend there is no problem.
Consciousness exists to make the unconscious conscious. It is not a matter of consciousness extinguishing the unconscious. The wellspring of the water of life is inexhaustible. We learn to swim consciously in the waters of the unconscious by learning to interpret our dreams, and reading the clues that open the inner world to exploration and realization, and aligning ourselves with the unconscious drift of soul that leads us to confront our conflicts and live the life that is ours to live.
Our work is to expand, deepen, enlarge, and broaden consciousness by listening to the unconscious, and reconciling, integrating, the opposites that make up our world. We feel strongly both ways—or several ways—about a lot of things. What we want is canceled out by what we also want. Ambivalence is a primary factor of everyone’s life experience.
I want to be the best father in the world, and I don’t want to be a father at all. The same thing can be said about every other role I play, have played, or will play—and, in all probability, about you and your roles. Our opposites, contradictions, and polarities are thresholds to awareness, awakening, maturation, grace, mercy and peace. We only have to recognize them for what they are, bear consciously the tension of their opposition, and allow them to shape us into who we need to be in order to live the life that is ours to live.
And all we want a shortcut to soft and easy, and happiness everlasting. Sitting with the agony of ambivalence is the first thing on our bad list. Getting rid of—or denying—our conflicts is what we do best.
We come from a long tradition of killing our enemies—of running roughshod over that which stands in our way, blocking our path. Killing our enemies seems to be simpler than entering into conversation with them, and becoming friends and allies. But, we never run out of enemies to kill. The history of the world is the history of warfare, and it has gotten worse, not better, over time. We are past the time of finding a better way to manage our conflicts.
The answer to the old Biblical question, “What does light have to do with darkness?” is, “Everything!” Light and darkness are one at the heart of life and being. Rumi understood darkness to be the cradle of light—the source of light. The Lao Tzu says, “The source is called darkness. Darkness within darkness. The gateway to all understanding.”
Darkness is the enemy of light, because it strives to bring to light more than is seen to be light. Light doesn’t like to be enlightened. Enlightenment expands understanding, deepens realization, transforms what is known. We like things to stay as they have always been.
Darkness needs light to see itself, and exists to expand light, to deepen light, to become light—and light wants none of it. Darkness is the enemy to light because light resists enlightenment.
Light is attracted to darkness. Darkness is unconscious of conflict, of discipline, of opposition, chaos, mess. It’s easier to not know, and light yearns to not know what it does know, to know nothing, to become unconscious. Consciousness wants to shirk its duty and be unconscious of the pain of finding its way through contradiction and opposition.
Darkness is attracted to light. Darkness seeks to see, hear, know and understand—to experience itself and become itself. And yet, there seems to be within darkness itself a darker-darkness that likes things as they are there—murky, shadow, chaotic and chthonic. Perfect in every way!
Darkness is conflicted over light, light is conflicted over darkness. Both seek each other and are repelled by the other: “Love Me! Leave Me Alone!”
We are paradox to the core—opposites and polarities at the heart of life and being. And truth is found between the hands: On the one hand this, on the other hand that, and on still other hands, that and that and that!
We have to come to terms with how it is with us, and how it also is. We have to make our peace with the opposition at the heart of things, and consciously take up the work of integration and reconciliation.
The path to reconciliation, to integration, harmony and wholeness is conversation—dialogue with the dialectic—listening, hearing, understanding—with compassion for how things are (which includes how things also are), and patience with how things change.
Rumi says, “Be grateful for whatever comes/because each has been sent/as a guide from beyond.”
Jesus says, “Love your enemies.”
The enemy is our shadow, the darkness within seeking light, the light within seeking darkness.
Walt Kelly said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us!”
And it is up to us to work things out by placing ourselves at the midpoint of our polarities, and bearing the pain of the opposition, through transcendence and transformation to peace and harmony of life and being.