The Shadows Reveal

We see the light because of the darkness. It is only in shadow, that we can find a path to the light. When we get there, let’s remember what led us forward.

A couple of weeks of global pandemic has made ordinary every day actions seem like unattainable joys – wantonly touching our face, engaging with the world, sitting in cafes, travel, visiting others and hugging family, friends and even strangers. We did these things routinely without thought, without concern and without enjoying them because in the light of endless sun everything was bleached and unremarkable. Now we sit in shadows we can see these joys clearly again.

The same holds true of our work. The human, the social and the collaborative we crave as we work away in the shadows within our homes. We did not appreciate these things in the bright sunshine. We were too busy on the dull mechanical parts of work, the process, and the dreary annoyances. Most of these continue to annoy us, but we now see that they can be removed, adjusted or even ignored.

I have spent the second part of my life

breaking the stones, drilling the walls, smashing the doors,

removing the obstacles I placed between the light and myself

in the first part of my life

Octavio Paz, from ‘Eagle or Sun?‘

Teams are working with new freedoms, autonomy and new levels of support in our new distributed life. Meetings go faster and there is less wasted time in our conversations and days. We aren’t mucking around when lives are on the line. From our shadows, we crave the light.

The bright sun will come again. This dark isolation is already bringing it forth slowly like an inevitable dawn. The shadows will be darker, sharper and longer before they are gone.

Like chiaroscuro, we can use the shadows to illuminate us, to help us better see the form and perspective of our lives and work. In the darkest hours, what remains bright should guide us forward.

The challenge is to remember the brightness we craved in the dark when the light returns. Sooner than we think our lives will be awash in sunlight and the pressures and challenges of distinction will return. The work we need to do is to ensure that we spend more time on these bright spots and allow the shadows and mundane distractions to whither from lack of attention and effort.

But man a second shadow throws

Beyond the visible he knows:

The mind, untrammelled, can outfly

the nets of mutability

And shake the shade that hugs him close.

Theodore Roethke, Second Shadow

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