Fire, flood, and the union of opposites

Fire, flood, and the union of opposites

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.

Robert Frost


The Pacific Northwest is burning.

A record-breaking heat wave has left our verdant region a dried-out husk, its forests full of ready tinder. Sparks of errant lightning have set hundreds of thousands of acres ablaze, turning huge swaths of old-growth trees into a charred blight on the landscape.

A smoky pall has settled over my hometown, choking the air with acrid heat. The once-brilliant sun has lost its halo; swollen and lethargic, it hangs like a bloodshot eye in the afternoon sky.

Amidst the inferno, we receive news of flooding in Texas. A hurricane has dumped trillions of gallons of rain on the southwest, submerging many areas in several feet of water.

Two regions, each corresponding to opposing elements. One cool and wet. The other hot and dry. Each grappling with the destructive power of its elemental nemesis.

In psychological terms, fire represents the light of consciousness, while water symbolizes the darkness of the unconscious—two halves of the human psyche. In Celtic myth, they’re the two children of the goddess Arianrhod: Llew the sun god, and Dylan of the sea. Here in the physical world, the twin brothers have invaded each other’s realms.

All this at a time when the country has become increasingly polarized, socially and politically. All this when our nation’s shadow has begun emerging into the light of awareness, wreaking havoc along the way. All this on the heels of a solar eclipse, when light and dark collide.

What happens when the opposites meet?

The principal pair of opposites is the conscious world and the unconscious world, and when the two come together it is as if man and woman were coming together, the union of the male and the female, of the light and the darkness. Then a birth will take place.

Carl Jung

It doesn’t look much like a birth right now. It looks more like mass destruction. Yet ultimately, all that devastation will clear the way for something new. We can’t conceive of what it will look like just yet. But life always follows death, just as death always follows life.

The conscious and unconscious are coming together. Light meets dark in the sky. Fire meets water on the ground. This alchemical union of opposites seems to portend an imminent transformation. There’s no telling what new form this new consciousness will take. In the words of Yeats:

What rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?


Featured image: The Great Conemaugh Valley Disaster, PD-US

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