Peeping through the shadows
Meditating on the legacy of Berkana
Welcome to Berkana. I love to see many of you understand and support me in this journey of finding enthralling and sometimes bizarre truths hidden in plain sight. I will continue this journey to take you further into intricate layers of cultural revelations like rituals of death, old world religions, or other cultural nuances like symbolism in ethnic tattooing. But before we do that, it has become imperative for me to talk about why I continue to build Berkana, so that you and I remain perpetually aligned on this journey.
The pain of the process
As many of you must be aware, Berkana is not necessarily an inspirational newsletter. Reading Berkana is a subjective experience. It depends on the reader whether they remain shocked by the horrors of human existence or slowly ignite within themselves a hopeful dream of a better world. It is difficult to build a newsletter that dwells on the grim realities of human history. Why is that? It is because my written meditations are my attempts to evoke the distraught experienced by certain human beings under some extreme and heart-wrenching conditions. These things are not always entertaining or casual read. These are difficult things to write about, let alone read. So, I can understand why certain details might upset someone. It upsets me too. It sincerely does. But I have to write irrespective of my mood. I self violate my desire to keep on the rose-tinted perspective of the world. I pressure myself to stay open and understand the disturbing truths and narrate them through facts and realizations. If I am being honest, I hate to dabble in the ugly. It exhausts me beyond belief. But a moment later, you will find me researching another weird cultural anecdote. I feel compelled to look at the ugly by no choice of my conscious mind. I have a knack for scavenging gold out of the muck. And I think, it is as if my job to do truth’s dirty work of revelations.
When I say ‘difficult things’, what I mean is the dark and the unconscious veil of conditioning that often blinds us to our immediate circumstances. Carl Jung used to call it the Shadow of the conscious mind. As per Jung, there are two sides to an individual’s personality, the conscious and the unconscious. In the hidden alleys of the unconscious rests the shadow to take charge of our ego whenever it can. At its strongest, the shadow can unleash some of the most brutal and horrendous atrocities onto the world - wars are but only a small display of its destructive potential.
Why do I write about it?
I feel immense rage whenever I read about the oppression of innocent people. The notion that some human beings suffer deeply in hands of others who think they are inherently superior to others, is infuriating. The rage manifests in two folds - debilitating fits of anger and gnawing pain of grief. They are two sides of the same coin. When I sit long enough with the anger it gradually unfolds and presents itself as sadness. It rises from not being asked about, not being listened to, not being understood. But then I quickly realize that this too is a privilege. To be able to profess anger is a privilege. A lot of people subdue their anger to be able to survive. Because anger when displayed has the potential to challenge the foundation of every well-constructed lie of society. Therefore, understandably, not everybody can afford to be angry. Instead, people put on a smiling face, gulp down their rage, and keep their trench coats off the dirty pits of the world surrounding them. They pretend to be complacent and apathetic while bottling up a fit of volatile repressed anger within their subconscious. This anger eventually becomes a shadow - an unconscious trait of our larger personality that emerges when we are at our most vulnerable state. I have pent it up too, for way longer than I should have. Instead of being angry, I tried becoming more agreeable, amicable, and joyous, and have successfully fallen through the never-ending rabbit hole of spiritual toxicity and many elaborate forms of self-destructive habits. I eventually started reading about shadow work which entails a safe realization and release of our shadows. And the idea for Berkana started emerging from the depths of my shadow work.
The Beauty in Horror
I figured that writing gives me a safe space to release my anger without acting on it. It became a space of healing for me, a protection spell against the tragedy of the world. A coping mechanism to release what was leading me to damage myself. I started to notice that the stories of humans I write about are not so different from mine or anyone else. In our lowest, we all experience similar existential angst and discomfort that changes us for the better or worse. We all are unique in our special ways, yet the burden of pain or bliss of abundance that we experience is the same. We all experience wonder, joy, glory, fulfillment, suffering, pain, abandonment, anger, and guilt in the same way. Maybe under different circumstances, or in different stages of life, but the range of emotions we experience as human beings, no matter our history or ancestry, are fundamentally the same. My actual healing started with this life-changing realization. The more I write stories about someone else’s power and courage, the more I experience their strength. The more I meditate on someone else’s pain, the more I feel their passionate anger and be in solidarity with them. It is as if through this journey of exorcising the ghosts of pasts, I heal myself a little bit too. And in the same essence, I try to offer you an extended part of that borrowed healing. So I dream an extraordinary dream, that using compassion as my compass, I will shake awake what is fundamentally human within all of us.
By bringing the past into awareness, I intend to shine a light on that which makes us ashamed, angry, and uncomfortable. I realize that in an attempt to evoke my reader's empathy, I often become too harsh and unforgiving in my narrative. But I want you to understand that it is important for us to see truth as it is. I often forget, and I apologize for that, to reassure you, that there is nothing to be ashamed of, that I understand the shame, anger, or unease that you feel when you wonder why do humans do this to one another.
My work comes from the deep crisis that I feel at the state of this world. It pulls me to look and acknowledge a dark reality of stories that existed but were hard to look at. Looking at the shadow of the world we feel uneasy, but sooner or later the shadow-work needs to be done. Berkana is an attempt to pull people on a path of intercultural shadow work where each individual dwells in the shadow of another individual from different culture, discovers their darkness, and understands the similarities of the human condition through the lenses of oneness with others.
Encounter with the shadow
A shadow is a dangerous place. It is out of the shadow self of a subconscious that all evil gets manifested in the world. Every tyrant, murderer, serial killer, rapist, criminal are people like us whose shadow has taken over the person’s light personality. Evil is inherently present in all human beings. To recognize the dark and reconcile with it is to prevent ourselves from acting on it. This is the only way to prevent the dark from taking over. It is hard to imagine that Hitler was also just another human being, who let his shadows reign over his personality.
But the shadow side is not all dark and undesirable, hidden within its dismal waters is an unlimited reservoir of potent creativity and other powerful traits. Within the shadow of all cultural anecdotes also resides the beauty and power of the art that ultimately takes over. My wild speculations are this - Art will never let shadow win. Through opportune avenues, art will manifest itself as something more tangible, more integrated into the blueprint of society. With the evolution of decentralized finance powered by crypto, it is not hard to imagine a world where artists are as important as scientists. The right-brained abstract world of art will intertwine so innately into the fabric of a culture that it will become an integral part of life. This is how art will become central because it will have a tangible value. And when that happens, art will become far more superior than any grotesque form of subconscious shadow. But before that could happen, there is a long journey of encountering that which is truly horrid and beating it down with magnificent ideas of progress, social and emotional freedom from the bonds of a culture driven by anxiety rather than values, and game-changing technological enablers like crypto.
Power of Change
Hidden within the dark boulevards of our cultural anecdotes are treasures of new unlocked level creativity of the dark side, which holds the potential to change the world radically. When the light of awareness will shine on all the shadows of the past and the present, it will give rise to gigantic waves of change. Maybe if I stare deeper into the abyss of obscure stories, instead of staring back, the abyss disappears, and all that remains is the awareness itself.
“The shadow, when it is realized, is the source of renewal; the new and productive impulse cannot come from established values of the ego. When there is an impasse, and sterile time in our lives—despite an adequate ego development—we must look to the dark, hitherto unacceptable side which has been at our conscious disposal….This brings us to the fundamental fact that the shadow is the door to our individuality. In so far as the shadow renders us our first view of the unconscious part of our personality, it represents the first stage toward meeting the Self. There is, in fact, no access to the unconscious and to our own reality but through the shadow. Only when we realize that part of ourselves which we have not hitherto seen or preferred not to see can we proceed to question and find the sources from which it feeds and the basis on which it rests. Hence no progress or growth is possible until the shadow is adequately confronted, and confronting means more than merely knowing about it. It is not until we have truly been shocked into seeing ourselves as we really are, instead of as we wish or hopefully assume we are, that we can take the first step toward individual reality.”
- Connie Zweig, Meeting the Shadow
Next on Berkana
I am in midst of ongoing research about the history of traditional tattooing of Balkan women. Since the last project on the history of tattooing of Wahine Māori, I have been looking forward to discovering something as ritualistic and astounding as those stories that we unearthed in those chapters. So until the next emotional roller-coaster ride inside the mystical beauty of the Balkans and their age-old tattooing traditions, be safe and stay tuned.