Archive for January 2010

First the Darkness, then the Light

January 1, 2010

I’ve always liked those comic strips where when someone gets an idea a little light bulb comes on over their head.  What I think we tend to forget is the “pre-light bulb” state, the darkness before the light.  We have just passed through the Winter Solstice and those shorter darker days are now moving toward the light.  My friend John Copeland reminds me that “solstice” means “stand-still sun”.  In about six months the cycle will complete and start all over again.   This amazing process of moving toward and away from darkness and light are metaphors for our own relationship with the light and the dark.

I work on the assumption that we have a preference, even a prejudice, for the light that is matched by our more negative associations to darkness.  So, I am here to speak up for darkness.  I think that darkness gets a bad rap and needs to be looked at in a “new light”.  (I think that’s irony, but not sure. )   My premise for this situation is that it is mostly the ego that doesn’t like the darkness because it is too much of a reminder about how limited it really is in the face of the larger unknown, the tremendum, the transcendent.  And that unknown gets identified with darkness.  The darkness is the place of mysteries: the earth that holds the seeds; the womb that holds new life; the forest that holds monsters.   It is the realm of the unknown and the Other.  One response to this is to be in denial.  This simply leads us further into the darkness.  (More irony?)  Another is to project our own darkness onto others.  Again, this simply creates another larger problem since we end up dealing with “in here” issues “out there”.

C.G. Jung speaks of this as the Shadow we all carry.  Dealing with these unclaimed darknesses in ourselves isn’t easy.   So we hang onto our denial fiercely.  Woe be to the one who points out my darkness to me.  As for the Other, we are drawn to various methods of control or destruction that simply don’t work because they are dealing with the wrong problem in the wrong place. What to do?  Well, the simplest thing is to continue to do what we have always done and hope for a different outcome.  We can hope someone will come along and solve the problem, i.e., make the darkness go away.  We can make a lot of noise and glitter and maybe scare it away, or at least be momentarily distracted.  By theway, glitter is not light, it is just a distraction.  Or, we can learn from the Solstice cyle that these two are part of a whole, a whole that is never static.  The continual movement of light in dark that we experience through this cycle is at least measurable and predictable.  The daily dance of light and dark in our lives is not so predictable.  The rhythms of this life dance can go from high to low, fast to slow, pleasant to overwhelming in the blink of an eye, or unfold over the years of an illness.

Jack Kornfield says, “The unawakened mind tends to make war against the way things are.”  Sometimes they are very dark.  We don’t have to like it.  And yet, this darkness is a call to wholeness.  Real light needs real darkness to complete it.