Black and White

Today I saw the movie Black Swan with Natalie Portman in the starring role of a ballerina who is cast in the role of Swan Queen in Tchaikovsky’s classic ballet. A young woman who has strived hard for perfection in her dance, and in her person, by being cast in the role of both the white swan and the black swan, must encounter completely unexplored parts of herself in order to convincingly play the passionate role of her evil, seducing, conniving and manipulating twin who betrays the white swan.

I have written lately about a dream I had in which I heard the words “There is a crack in everything” which I later realized to be a line in a Leonard Cohen song. This dream caused me subsequently to write on the theme of Ways of Imperfection. The movie I saw today amplified these themes and my reflections around them hugely.

I could, and might, write a book on this subject, not that the world necessarily needs any more of them. But I feel there is so much to say. The Greeks, who laid the foundation for Western thinking and philosophy, expressed the messiness of human and divine nature genuinely. The gods they loved and revered were just as lusty, mistaken, malicious, prone to impulsiveness and failure as were the humans. The idea of questing for perfection came sometime later, and led to the psychological problem of idealizing others or the self , projecting the idea of perfection into them. Holding oneself or any other to such a standard becomes an unconscious pressure, cruel, torturous and impossible. a set up for devastating and on-going experiences of failure and excuses for cruelty to others.

I often reflect that the story followers developed about Jesus reflects this problem and impossible standard to us in a dangerously charged way. He was divine and human, so that got translated into some extraordinary idea of perfection. Everyone and everything is divine and human, but nothing is perfect. Not even the divine. It is always changing at evolving. It is us. We are it. That was Jesus’ message too. The crucifixion theme is mixed into this – it’s a bloody mess.

And still the theme of the quest for perfection seems to remain and sustain itself in Western psychology and ideology. It is a latent and mostly undiagnosed psychosis in the collective psyche. Because of our general lack of acceptance or forgiveness for imperfections, we try so hard to deny or hide the pervasive looming flaws of nature in ourselves and each other. Self punishment abounds, as well as unapologetic abuse and torture of others. The literal and physical level of these abuses and tortures are often the least destructive. Those at the psychological and spiritual levels can be much crueler and more enduring.

The movie The Black Swan is genius in portraying this struggle, a story of the split that has developed in all who have been trained to split off rather than integrate the dark side of nature, of God and of the Self. Whether this or another story in scripture, literature, psychology, art or poetry is your catchiest entry-way into this theme, I do believe the time is good, is now, to do this work of awakening from denial and moving toward integration. It is a difficult and laborious work, but why live life without such primal challenges? What else could be the point?

2 Responses to “Black and White”

  1. Joy Parker Says:

    I really enjoyed this blog and think you are definitely on to something when you say that we Westerners have a hidden psychosis about needing to be perfect. Why else would they airbrush models and set standards of beauty no one can reach for more than five minutes if they’re lucky, to name just one example.

    I also like the idea of your book. I’m still working on getting my voice back and building up my strength following my gallbladder surgery. It’s going to take time and I need to be patient. But I do want to talk to you in the future and brainstorm ideas for your book.

  2. Tayria Ward Says:

    Joy, Good point about the models. And plastic surgery. Etc.!
    What a year you have had. When you feel the time is right I will be thrilled to have your brainstorming help with the book ideas. Thank you so much. Happy New Year to you. xo

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