Embracing Our Devils?

In a recent blog post on turning 50 and letting go of demons I reflected upon two specific demons that plague me: worry and wanting things to be different. I wrote about wishing to banish these demons as I pass the half-century mark of life.

And then today I read this quote from Rainer Maria Rilke:

“If my devils are to leave me, I am afraid my angels will take flight as well.”

Reading this quote reminded me of another quote by physicist Niels Bohr: “The opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.”

For years I have wanted to rid myself of those personal demons that diminish my and others’ lives, but at the same time I have recognized that virtually all my worst qualities have a corresponding positive side, and vice versa.

Isn’t this true for most of us? The easy-going person may lack drive. The argumentative person may be the kind of critical thinker who can solve problems. The highly compassionate person may find the cruelty in the world unbearable and become impotent. The person who has trouble being in the present moment may be highly efficient as their mind keeps working every second thinking about the future.

And so while on the one hand I want to rid myself of my personal demons, I so appreciated reading Rilke’s quote this afternoon, reminding me that my personality – good and bad – is made up of light and shadow. In banishing the shadow, I might banish some of the light.

Thanks Rilke.

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
My TEDx talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach"

Image courtesy of simon plestenjak via Creative Commons.

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