“The Beast in the Human, and Vice Versa”

For nearly four decades I’ve been intrigued with Karl Jung’s notion of the shadow and discourse here about the subject often. The “shadow” was the term Jung used to refer to the forbidden dimensions of the human heart which we all have but mercifully are filtered out for most of us. The dilemma, however, according to Jung, is that sometimes the filter is too rigid and leads to compulsive denial of this shadow side leading inevitably to projection on other people.

Creative people are the voices of this forbidden region, giving a voice to our brothers and sisters whose “filter” has not been so successful and whose lives have been hampered or even devastated by these forbidden haunts. One contemporary artist who was featured today in the New York Times is South African artist Jane Alexander whose art is now on display at a Catholic Church in New York City, St. John the Divine. (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/26/arts/design/jane-alexanders-work-at-st-john-the-divine.html?_r=0) Her sculptures depict the grotesque, the misshapen, the ugly and I’m impressed that this church is giving expression to that macabre dimension of the human heart. And, of course, this church is not glorifying that dimension but merely recognizing it and announcing, “Here it is, people. This is you. And some of our brothers and sisters articulate this ugliness for us in their daily lives.” And when we are willing to recognize this truth, and embrace it in our own hearts, we can be a bit more forgiving and understanding for those who are less fortunate than ourselves.

The article concludes with a description of one gripping sculptured image from the display and then concludes about the image and Ms. Alexander’s work, “In Ms. Alexander’s art there are no good final answers, no clear comforts. What there is is moral gravity — political, poetic — and a deep, peculiar beauty that doggedly clings to margins, where the mysteries are, and soars.”

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