Knowing one’s opposite leads to understanding, acceptance, and perhaps an appreciation of wholeness. Considering only the convenience of opposites can be limiting in that a spectrum is not accounted for. Focus is given to two discrete points. Something is either one or it is the other, it cannot be in between. For example, hot and cold neglects lukewarm, and black and white neglects grey. The old adage that opposites attract is poignant because opposites are reliant on each other. Their very identity depends on the nature of their antonym. We observe their coexistence in a delicate balance daily.
Good and evil is a fascinating dichotomy. So many archetypal fairy tales focus on the protagonist versus the antagonist, in other words, the hero and the villain. The hero by nature is labelled good, and the villain is bad. In reality, people are never this one-dimensional. There are so many facets to man. I am both capable of being the hero or the villain, and everything in between.
The mere thought of committing evil acts is off-putting, however, denying one’s capacity to do evil acts is delusive. The difference between being one or the other is choice, and accepting one’s duality is a step towards deeper self-awareness.
When things go awry, it is human nature to try to understand the cause of a problem. In our quest for an explanation blame is often offloaded to an external party. Rarely do people look inwards initially and ask if they themselves have contributed to a problem. Lack of accountability is all too common. Perhaps, this is because people do not want to draw attention to their own shortcomings. Generally speaking, there is always someone else at fault: they are the enemy, they are the cause of the problem. It is easier to deal with evil at arm’s length. One can partake in banter with other good people and discuss how someone else should be doing something about all the evil in the world. Never look inward, the villain is out there somewhere. Rene Girard is a French scholar whose literature shines a light on scapegoating and the culture of victim-blaming. He describes scapegoating as a means of uniting society against a victim in order to make people feel better about themselves and deny their own weaknesses.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your neighbour’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:1-5)
It is a challenging realisation to stare at one’s reflection and view vulnerability gazing back. Acknowledgement of one’s true nature is a lifelong journey and self-preservation is hot on the heels with every step one takes towards self-awareness. Mankind is equally capable of great development and great destruction.
Man’s duality is oversimplified when presented in most tales. However, it is explored by Robert Louis Stevenson in 1886, through his novella Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. For the past four months I have been rehearsing in the ensemble as part of a musical adaptation of this classic tale. I have worked with my fellow performers and our creative team in developing characters from the Victorian era. In particular, I have relished watching Hyde emerge from Jekyll and the courageous and committed treatment that Dave Macgillivray has given to this complex role. As much as the music and plot are compelling, this experience has led me to a deeper reflection of my own nature. I’ve been able to tell the tale of some unfortunate nineteenth-century characters. I have walked the shoes of an asylum patient, impoverished beggar woman, prostitute, and an upper-class lady. As a performer, I often feel as though there are multiple natures within me and I am challenged in trying to do justice to their short lives on stage.
“Unfortunately there can be no doubt that man is, on the whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants to be. Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. At all counts, it forms an unconscious snag, thwarting our most well-meant intentions.” (Carl Jung)
If you are compelled to witness the duality of man’s nature played out on stage, our production of Jekyll and Hyde will be staged at the Arts Theatre in Adelaide from 26 May – 3 June 2017.
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