calling all harpies

Reply: Guardian Weekly <weekly.letters@theguardian.com>

24th December 2013

Dear gentleperson

I enjoyed Ian Jack’s clearsighted piece on Nelson Mandela’s canonisation by the media (We woke up to Mandela and fell asleep to Mandela. To be told for more than a week that someone is good is alienating to the modern temperament, 20 December), but think the effects of such unqualified veneration are deeper and more dangerous than mere alienation. By denying the fullness of Mandela’s humanity, we deny and dishonour ourselves. At a friend’s funeral recently, I felt so skewed and diminished by a eulogy describing her in saintly terms, which she would have hated, that I immediately started writing my own, including words like harpy and misery-guts.

 

    We all have the capacity to be Buddha and Hitler. I suspect our innate goodness and evil, love and fear, are as antipodally bound as the solstices, as yin and yang, and that it’s out of the creative – at times intolerable – tension between the polarities that greatness can emerge; Pegasus the winged horse of inspiration arising from Medusa’s slain body, Beethoven out of anguished deafness writing sublime music, Christ crucified between two thieves.

    Our shadow, denied, is projected onto other people, genders, cultures and species with ugly, fundamentalist consequences. What’s my need to control but a dictatorship in microcosm? As Jung so sagely said, “What is not made conscious is encountered as destiny.” Could Nelson Mandela have so transformed evil if he hadn’t first engaged with its roots in himself?

Peace be courageously with you all

Annie March

(Published – edited down – 3.1.14)

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