I am honored to share a guest post written my brother, Jarrett. It is meaningful for me in this time, and I hope it will speak to you. May we find refuge in the Shadow of His wings. Mandy
Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
The world is a different place from the last time I put a late night thought down. That’s how the world goes though isn’t it? Shadows, so many are cast around us…eastern cultures see Shadow much different than we westerners do. To the traditional Japanese, Shadow is very important.
“Were it not for shadows, there would be no beauty.” — Junichiro Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows
Eliot explored the eastern culture and philosophy extensively, he knew very well what Shadow means to the east.
Interpreting T.S. Eliot is beyond my pay grade, but somehow it seems that every critical analysis I have come across casts this “Shadow” of Eliot’s in the negative. The oppressive force that exists between us and “reality” or “action”. Calling to mind Plato’s shadow in the cave. How do we crawl out of this cave enlightened and perceive these Shadows and their makers? Aristotle questioned this and birthed the scientific method…where has that lead us?!?
The realities we perceive, the actions we take never really seem to change all that much on the whole. In our attempts to analyze and understand we sanitize everything yet we have no answers.
“But the progressive Westerner is determined always to better his lot. From candle to oil lamp, oil lamp to gaslight, gaslight to electric light—his quest for a brighter light never ceases, he spares no pains to eradicate even the minutest shadow.”—Junichiro Tanizaki, In praise of shadows
Never satisfied we of the west push ourselves willingly over the cliff into “a clean, well lit” (Hemingway) madness. Not realizing as Ursula K le Guin did that “to light a candle is to cast a shadow.”
Not so long after completing his famous poem “The Hollow Men” Eliot converts to Christianity, yet I still don’t believe that Eliot’s Shadow represents a malevolent force. We have forgotten that the Shadow also exists in our western, Christian culture as well, Eliot also knew this. There are many scriptures in the Old and New Testament describing Shadow in relation to God and creation.
One of my favorites reads:
“How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.”— Psalms 36:7
We can find refuge in God’s Shadow. Christ is the light of the world, but he wraps us in his wings as he casts out the darkness before us. Shadow is not complete darkness. Shadow is the buffer zone between the reality of our complete unworthiness (“light”) and the abyss /separation (“dark”) we have with each other and our creator.
Where are we left today, what are we to do in what seems this spiritual “Wasteland”? My only answer can be that we must become refugees in the Shadow of God’s wings.