Even from a pile of ash by Will Kitson
Ever since I can remember I’ve been attracted to myths. I remember as a child I would read and re-read Greek mythology, and those stories have stuck with me to this day. One of my favourites was always the legend of the Phoenix: a great majestic bird that was cyclically reborn, each time rising dramatically in flames from a pile of ashes. And, as is often the way with stories that we carry with us through life, the metaphor keeps coming to me in different forms, continuously offering different meanings and allegories. It has, of course, always been for me a symbol of hope for the future, in our ability to better ourselves; but more recently it has become an emblem for alchemy: great things can come from anywhere … even from a pile of ash.
This metaphor has been an important staple for me in difficult times; a reminder that life often fluctuates between the good and the bad, the dark and the light.
Perhaps never in my life have I witnessed a greater example of this alchemical process than during these past days in Paris. The Seymour team (based in the epicentre of the tragedies that took place on November 13th) has been mourning along with the rest of Paris. It has been a devastating, rattling, and deeply upsetting period.
That said, out of all of this has come such cohesion. People have come together in a state of oneness and benevolence that is all too rare in large conurbations like Paris. I’ve seen friendships strengthened to unshakeable heights, strangers crying and embracing in the streets, and so many putting the needs of others above their own. It has been heartbreakingly beautiful.
None of this is to say that the sense of tragedy has been displaced by one of togetherness. A sombre melancholy still clings hard to the streets and the grey November skies are a poignant reflection of the feelings of many. However, out of these late-Autumn shadows has risen a ubiquitous warm glow that blankets the sadness and reminds us that even from such devastation wonderful possibilities can arise.
The alchemical metaphor has, for me, always been a useful creative and even therapeutic tool. Whenever I feel stricken down I remind myself that I can capture these negative emotions and transform them into something good, something beautiful. And that knowledge and creative process has always given me the power to push forward. But now, in light of recent events, I’m once again rethinking the purpose of the allegory of the phoenix and the ashes. Perhaps it’s not simply about transforming bad into good, sadness into joy, pain into hope, but is instead about the forging of all these emotions into a purposeful thrust forward. We all experience sadness and despair many times in our lives, and these feelings can be as unexpected as they can be crushing. But what if every time we were brought down we reminded ourselves that we could come up again stronger than before? What if every time we considered the amazing creative instinctive ingenuity of humanity to have the power to find light in the darkest of times?
Will Kitson, 2015
Published: November 26th, 2015