Shadows of life

Children everywhere find shadows a delightful source of entertainment.

This reflection accompanies you wherever you go; you can make it appear at will and also change its form as you please – long or short, fat or thin. It lends itself to many games. Who has not indulged in making silhouettes or doing shadow plays? The possibilities are endless. However this fascination fades with the passing of years. Thrown into the battle we call Life, one hardly finds any time to look at or play with shadows.

 Unless the shadow interferes with clarity of vision, few give it much thought. Then either the chair is shifted or the light adjusted in order to get the shadow out of the way. It is a mere impediment.

The adult world is not without its own shadows. They live in the mind and possess greater significance. They have the power to mould our thoughts. One may classify them under three headings – worries, loss and doubt. Whatever one’s station in life, the treadmill of making a living brings the individual face to face with anxieties, insecurities and disappointments. There are duties to be done, bills to be paid and obligations to be fulfilled. The grind of everyday living can cast a shadow on one’s sense of freedom and happiness. It erases the shine out of living, causing sleepless nights.

It can affect physical well being, making one prone to illnesses of the heart, ulcers and hypertension. The demon of worry can get such a vicious grip on us that release seems impossible. As Dr. Alexis Carrel has pointed out, ‘Those who do not know how to fight worry, die young.’

Bereavement and financial loss too have similar effects. Feelings of sorrow and despair can plunge us into an abyss of darkness that offers no chance of escape. Less acknowledged but equally potent is existential despair. Of all living creatures, the human being is perhaps the only one to yearn for or seek meaning to Life. Unlike the others, we have the gift of abstract thought. But it is a double-edged sword for it brings up many questions that have no answers. One sees cruelty but cannot stop it, knows injustice, but cannot fight it. It can throw the person into a spiritual vacuum. As human beings, are we then doomed to eternal suffering?

The answer fortunately is ‘no’. Each person is capable of letting in light and using it to illumine his own life and of those who surround him. There is relief in knowing that no shadow, whether physical or mental, can be cast without the presence of light. It is when we turn our backs to the light that the dark images fall in front.

Shadows arise when we place impediments in the path of light. Problems are inevitable, but worry is an option. By remembering that all things pass and facing difficulties with faith, courage and hard work, we can let light enter our lives. All shadows vanish when light pours in from all directions. As the Greek philosopher and mathematician, Pythagoras put it, ‘Above the cloud with its shadow is the star with its light’.

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