Seasons of the psyche

Camus says,

“In the midst of winter,

I finally found there was within me an invincible summer.”


However, Wu-men says:

“Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn,
a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter.
If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things,
this is the best season of your life.”


Sasha, finally, says:

Settling down to observe the seasonal cycles in a small rural town has probably been the most useful thing I could have ever done to come to a rudimentary understanding of negotiating the relationship between darkness and light.

A great part of (contemporary; though perhaps universal?) human endeavour seems to be aimed at fixating, capturing, pinning down the spring and evading the autumn (fall). Universalising the fullness of summer, escaping the emptiness of winter.

* * *

For a long time, I couldn’t escape the darkness.

I was younger than I am, and I applied what I had learnt – what probably every person in a halfway Westernised society, and many others, too, learns: white is good, black is bad. Avoid black, seek white.

These two are separate things: like, perhaps one is a heap of peas, the other a heap of buckwheat. You can grow and shrink your heaps however you like, emptying one and piling the other up until overflow.

However, this is not how human experience (or the psyche) works; at least this is what I have gradually come to learn. Although numerous books (and people? I don’t remember any) have probably told me that; but either the message wasn’t clear enough, or the soil wasn’t ripe for it.

This is far from original.

The way the psyche works isn’t too far from the way of the seasons. There is no sprouting of spring without the decay of autumn and the hibernation of winter. On the other hand – if you shed your leaves, and rest in a cave for a while, easefully abandoning your consciousness to depth and darkness – it will unavoidably and perhaps surprisingly (if you haven’t noticed the way the psychic seasons work) … come. Somehow internally, intrinsically, like a planetary force unrelated really to you or your imagined strivings.

And, again on the other hand, winter is cosy. Autumn, in a way, is romantic and ripe. Why is spring or summer any better?

(Although, yes, some people just like it better. Perhaps my northern heritage allows me to enjoy the frost. But perhaps I simply cherish the spirit of journey, especially when it’s shared.)

* * *

Finally, there is a cliche that I’ve always found either incomprehensible or shallow. It’s about how you only appreciate the good after you’ve had the bad.

I’ve always thought that’s obvious nonsense – of course I can tell, even since my earliest childhood, when something is good. When I experience love, joy, creativity, witness beauty or goodness. I don’t need – in any way – to go through any sort of nightmare to appreciate and value all this, and deeply. This sense seems innate.

However, what in my experience actually does take place – on another level – is that an increased capacity to feel and “be with” emotions and sensations that are initially very difficult to be with, does something to the psyche’s flexibility, sensibility – it creates more space, allowing it to become more agile in movement; it also increases colour depth and  image resolution. The emotions turn from a frozen statue into a nimble swallow, to be poetic (well … very gradually, approximating that over many, many steps).

When this depth and agility of feeling, once developed, is finally incidentally applied to something that is not the darkness, whoa, yes, ever new and new levels of emotional, aesthetic, perhaps spiritual appreciation emerge; not appreciation as in (just) “hey, this is great”, but appreciation as in slow, almost deliberate, mindful awe. Like sensing more and more flavours in an infinitely complex gourmet-dish.

Yes. Perhaps the darkness is needed to un-freeze us, sometimes. Because we may not make that effort in order to get to a level of appreciation that we may not even know exists; but to escape (and realise that the way is cultivating a respectful relationship with) despair and pain – is a stronger driving force, once the decision is made to get through to the other side.

* * *

On the other hand, isn’t it also the darkness that in the first place freezes us?

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