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The Unbearable Light-ness of Shadow

November 24, 2014


Once upon a time there was a shellfish, dwelling, together with all the other coastal creatures, in the intertidal zone between the ocean and the shore. Its world being a tiny area of wet sand that it could claim as its own, the shellfish did not have lofty goals and was resigned to its lot in life.

One morning the Sun was shining brightly and the mollusc prepared itself for another ordinary day in its ordinary existence, stuck on the beach and nowhere to go. It was directing its gaze downward, for everything of importance happened on the ground. The only thing bothering the shellfish, as usual, was its own shadow, for the blackness obscured a clear view of the sand.

It was then the mollusc noticed something that had never occurred to it before; the shape of its left shell combined with the left shell’s shadow was the spitting image of a wing. Exactly the same was true for the right shell.

The shellfish thought, ‘What if, instead of being exasperated with my shadow as an ungainly encumbrance which has always hindered my perspective, I could use it instead to my own advantage? For if I were to merge my body with it, I would then turn into a butterfly and soar up to the heavens, breaking free from the grounded existence which has imprisoned me for so long now and taste the mysteries of the sky for the very first time!’

This thought both frightened and excited the mollusc. It would be such a risky and uncertain change from the normal way of life that it has grown comfortable with over the years. For even though its existence was dreary and tedious, there was safety and security in the predictability of the daily routine. Yet the pull of exciting adventures, the lure of experiencing a world it and its fellow coastal creatures had no inkling of, the temptation of leaving its old life behind and starting completely anew were irresistible to the mollusc.

And so, with a decisiveness it had never displayed before, the shellfish fastened itself to its shadow and soared up to the sky, beholding the world, in all of its glory and splendour, from an entirely new vantage point.

The other shellfish could only look on with envious astonishment as the mollusc-butterfly flitted effortlessly, in ecstatic rapture, across the heavens, a new existence of wonder awaiting it.

I think there is a lesson to be learned for all of us from this true story, for which one of us is not ashamed of their shadow self? Which one of us does not try to heal, hide or eradicate their doubts, insecurities, fears, delusions and anxieties?

But, rather than denying our neuroses and seeing them as defects in our make-up, we should, instead, recognise and embrace them as an essential part of who we are. Rather than seeking remedies for psychological “disorders” from therapists, gurus and self-help books, take a look at your “problems” from above and you will see that they are actually wings attached to your body!

And so, accept your shadow self as a vital element of your identity, for only then will you become whole, reach your full potential and acquire powers that would enable you to achieve impossible things.

Let your darkness be the light that lightens the burden of your being! Harness your shadow to your shoulder blades and soar up to the sky, above all the other oyster-people stuck in the mud of life – a new existence of wonder awaits you!




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  1. Lovely fable!

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