Darkness takes on many forms.
Because of its mysterious grip on our imagination, we often fear the dark. Not just as children but throughout our lives because darkness represents all manner of things that intend us harm. The less we can see of them, the more profound is our dread.
Doubt is a common culprit, ever lurking in the gloom. Pride too. Illness is forever fighting obscurity, while addictions are most at home in the shadows. Their powers reside in their ability to intimidate from a place of hiding.
To Shakespeare’s lament that ‘there is no darkness but ignorance’, I cry “Comrade!” However, to the popular boast that “ignorance is bliss” I may concede it’s true — but only for the ignorant. For any intelligent soul, an ignorant person is anything but bliss.
Philosophy and scripture are brimming with references to light and dark. It is our most commonly identifiable analogy for health and sickness, trust and betrayal, good and evil.
All mystical connotations aside, the core purpose of gloom is to cloak that which we most ought to recognize. As Thomas Merton wrote, “We stumble and fall constantly even when we are most enlightened. But when we are in true spiritual darkness, we do not even know that we have fallen.”
However, darkness has also gotten a bad rap. Much of the time we are too quick to dismiss its benefits since it provides a powerful frame of reference. Without darkness would we not recognize the value of light?
In painting and photography the playing together of light and shadow are everything. In our greatest tragedies and comedies, the fractious interplay between white hats and black hats is the only reason we remain engaged. Their powers to fascinate and entertain are shining examples of what a delightfully wicked mess it is to be human.
When great evil is visited upon us, we readily equate it with the darkest abyss — the utter absence of compassion. And we struggle against this insidious void through art, understanding, and tolerance to fight our way back to a sunny place. No good or worthwhile thing is ever easy. But darkness will always be the standard against which we measure our best ideals and most admirable behaviors.
I love that the singer Reba McEntire advocates the singing of sad songs because, “It gets the hurt out in the open into the light, out of the darkness.”
I never deny the inclination to grieve because it is there that our finest healing must take place.
When I think of the coming of darkness and whatever time I may have left in this world I’m often reminded of Og Mandino’s wisdom: “I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars.”
When night falls, we should always choose to light a candle.
In my search for that one special someone to step out of the darkness and change my life, it may be worth considering that that person could be me.