Pop Culture is saturated with the old story of a Hero’s journey. The Hero is a great person, capable of so much good, but their strength also leaves them capable of great evil. They undergo a journey of great struggle and are tested, seduced by the darkness, the easier path. In the end they always come out on the side of good. Star Wars was a perfect example of this, but you can find the same lines of thought in most heroic adventures.
But our fascination with the light and dark sides of the self are because of our intimate knowledge of them. Every single person is deeply aware of the struggle within themselves.
We all feel it, and sometimes we feel that we can’t control it. Some days you wake up and feel amazing, free, strong. you work hard and have a clear path in your life. You want to help others and make the world a better place; you want to be a driving force for positive change; you eat well, sleep peacefully, work hard, exercise, and meditate.
Other days you feel tired, lonely, sad, angry at the world and the way it is. Its cold and dark and dreary outside. You don’t care about anything except for hiding from the world. You could care less about what you eat, sleep is a waste of time, exercise is too much work; You are frustrated, directionless, drifting. You care only about yourself.
An old Native American tale sums it up perfectly:
ONE EVENING, AN ELDERLY
CHEROKEE BRAVE TOLD HIS
GRANDSON ABOUT A BATTLE THAT
GOES ON INSIDE PEOPLE.
HE SAID “MY SON, THE BATTLE IS
BETWEEN TWO ‘WOLVES’ INSIDE US ALL.
ONE IS EVIL. IT IS ANGER,
ENVY, JEALOUSY, SORROW,
REGRET, GREED, ARROGANCE,
SELF-PITY, GUILT, RESENTMENT,
INFERIORITY, LIES, FALSE PRIDE,
SUPERIORITY, AND EGO.
THE OTHER IS GOOD.
IT IS JOY, PEACE LOVE, HOPE SERENITY,
HUMILITY, KINDNESS, BENEVOLENCE,
TRUTH, COMPASSION AND FAITH.”
THE GRANDSON THOUGH ABOUT
IT FOR A MINUTE AND THEN ASKED
“WHICH WOLF WINS?…”
THE OLD CHEROKEE SIMPLY REPLIED,
“THE ONE THAT YOU FEED”
Can we control the Darkness? How do we choose?
We all feed one of the wolves within. But we have to understand that even though there lies a struggle between these two forces, we have the power to choose. I think that the Chinese concept of Yin and Yang is a method for keeping them in check.
The concept; the symbol of Yin and Yang is that the opposite and contrary forces of good and evil are actually complimentary. One cannot exist without the other. To embrace the fact that both will always have a hold of us; To know that we will never completely defeat darkness, nor will we ever fully accept light, is the way to ensure that we keep ourselves in check and make the right choice.
There is no light without darkness and no darkness without light. We must feel the lowest lows in order to experience true happiness. In other words, it’s all relative. Ultimately it comes down to choice. How do we choose to feel about the things that happen to us, and how do we choose to act based on those feelings. This is the essence of self-mastery.
I’ll leave you with one of my favourite quotes from The Count of Monte Cristo, which explains this philosophy perfectly:
“There is neither happiness nor misery in the world; there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more. He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness. We must have felt what it is to die, Morrel, that we may appreciate the enjoyments of living.”