“I was broken in body, soul, and spirit. My natural elasticity was crushed, my intellect languished, the disposition to read departed; the cheerful spark that lingered about my eye died; the dark night of slavery closed upon me; and behold a man transformed into a brute!” -Frederick Douglas

“I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars.” -Og Mandino

“Enlightenment is not imagining figures of light but making the darkness conscious.” -Carl Jung

“If you think you’re enlightened, go home and visit your family!” -Ram Dass

In my “Poetry and Quotes” posting, I have included Adam Zagajewski’s powerful poem “Try to Praise the Mutilated World” for you. If you do or do not know this poem, please take time to read it there, as it speaks to “chiaroscuro,” in the way I am defining it, in the most eloquent of ways.

Chiaroscuro is an Italian term which literally means ‘light-dark’, and refers to clear tonal contrasts often used in the volume and modelling of forms in drawings and paintings. Having experience with sculpting helps. In this blog, I am using the term “chiaroscuro” metaphorically as well; various shades of light and dark give form to our lived experience.

My friend Joyce reminded me that seeds grow in darkness. I appreciated and thought about that for a while and realized that, while this is true, sprouts need air, light, space and water too.

When lost in the dark hole of depressive states, or caught in the grip of severe loneliness, anxiety or grief, there is only that and there is no apparent light at the end of a any tunnel. At our darkest moments, there may be no wish for light either, all that us there is pain, and perhaps the desire to be rid of it. In such times, beauty may feel like an affront, a disregarding of one’s anguish.

As all this is true, there is also the possibility that some light may seep in somewhere in the experience…some way that something beautiful in the darkness itself helps and fuels us forward towards something “more” or “fresh.” Sometimes an ally, teacher or therapist is a helper, and adds the necessary air, light, space and water. Sometimes the nurturing guidance is found right here within our own humanness.

One moment may bring a flash of light to a whole situation. Then, even in the darkness, our capacity to experience something beautiful in ourselves and in life may grow.

Woman with Braid at the Metro Focusing Meeting (Pencil on Paper) © Robin Kappy 11/2011

Photographic Image: Rape of Proserpina by Bernini. Sculpted in 1621. Though called “The Rape of Proserpina”, Proserpina is not raped, which was an archaic definition for kidnapped.

1 Response to CHIAROSCURO

  1. Ina Claire Gabler says:

    The concept of chiaroscuro applying to states of mind and states of being is a profound connection of art with the human spirit and life experiences informed by the human spirit. The concept itself is a form of beauty, written with such naturalness, elegance and depth. The expression of chiaroscuro in life is a poetic concept that also resonates inside me as an intuitive truth brought to consciousness, not mere idealization.

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