“Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again”
In the course of one’s life, many paths of temptation open. I do not speak of temptation as an old preacher of a Southern Baptist Church, with the threats of everlasting flame and guilt-filled shame tarnishing any deviation from an acceptable behavior, but in the simple manner of choices which distract our attentions. A temptation not necessarily of inherent evil, but of a loss of self. There are the obvious temptations of golden booze or dream-altering drugs, but there are also the subtle temptations of conforming to some vague ideal of professionalism, or decorum, or acceptance.
The Goth teenager in black jeans and ripped shirt grows into the suit and tie wearing accountant. The sex-crazed twenty-year old transforms into the straight-laced parent who demands chastity. The former drama participant has become the jaded critic of movies and television.
Often it is the darkness of our selves which we try to deny… repress… remove. Society, often wearing the mantle of Faith and Righteousness, browbeats us into accepting truths without evidence and rules without structure. Aggression, fear, selfishness, vanity, laziness, desire, and dozens more, both minor and major, are to be controlled or eradicated. “Do not yell in anger.” “Do not waste your time.” “Do not swim after eating.” “Do not think too highly of yourself.” “Do not have large hickeys visible on your neck when you come to work.” I ask why, and am often met with blank looks and given vague answers.
It is rude. But how did we decide it was rude?
You should do something important with your life. But who determines what is important?
It is dangerous. But why is danger something to avoid?
People will think you are conceited. And why does it matter what other people think?
It is unprofessional. Shouldn’t the quality of my work speak for my professionalism or lack thereof?
All I hear now when I am given those ambiguities is the phrase, “Because I don’t like it.” At best, someone might try to pass the buck to some deity and say, “God doesn’t like it,” but until the Almighty Bitch Queen of Reality comes to me, punches me in the arm, and says in her booming no-nonsense voice, “DO NOT DO THAT,” he or she is simply guessing at the will of said A.B.Q.R. I am not advocating moral nihilism, but moral mindfulness and growth. I am supporting the idea that we should throw out rules of behavior which exist simply because they have traditionally existed. I am supporting the idea that our darkness can bring our light into greater focus and clarity.
As an example, if you cannot point out your own beauty (vanity), how can you point out the beauty of others who may need to hear a friendly voice through their inner darkness of low self-esteem? “I am ugly and fat, but you are gorgeous,” is not as convincing as, “I have these beautiful brown eyes, but wish I had your red lips.”
The trick is balance. Using your darkness to accentuate the light, not cover it. I have struggled with this concept recently. I have an inner aggression that I sought to control. I have a knack for lying which I believed could harm. It was easier to shove those dark impulses deeper into my psyche than to accept the occasional mistake while learning balance. But pushing my aggression and deception away simply ate at my own core. Losing touch with them made it easier for people to abuse my lights of helpfulness and trust. My lights were almost extinguished because I did not allow my darkness to protect them.
Enough metaphor. Put bluntly, I gave more than I received from friends and family, and instead of using my aggression I tried talking softly and rationally. They would apologize, and go right back to taking more than they gave in our relationships. Instead of yelling or screaming or getting even, I simply lost interest in giving. Now I am changing that. You take more than you give in a relationship with me, and I will let you know it and I will do so in a clear, no-nonsense, aggressive manner so that I can move on and spend my time, energy, and money on those who repay those gifts with equal gifts. My anger protects my charity and directs it where it will bring the most happiness to the most people… including myself.
Beware of the temptation to conform. Think well and wisely about what you try to change about yourself, so the change does not affect your core self. You are responsible for your life: not Society, not some A.B.Q.R., not the gardener. Choose your battles, choose what is important to you, and never relinquish it.
And maybe take your business office needs to a company which lets employees show off tattoos, flaunt sexual bites and bruises, and wear whatever they find comfortable. If the work gets correctly done, why should appearances matter?
“But my words, like silent raindrops fell
and echoed in the wells of silence.”
Sound of Silence lyrics by Paul Simon