Walking in Darkness
“When you walk to the edge of all the light you have and take that first step into the darkness of the unknown, you must believe that one of two things will happen. There will be something solid for you to stand upon or you will be taught to fly.” ― Patrick Overton
Once upon a time, seems many years ago, but it is a true tale; a dear colleague and friend, Reverend Jane Lloyd stood a lone woman among male priests to speak to eager ears on World Aids day December 1st 1996. This was a time when a type of darkness overshadowed the world in the form of ‘Aidsophobia’ and the reluctance to ordain women. Here in this shadow, with her rainbow stole over her shoulder, Jane spoke of walking on a cold winters night from her home to an all night petrol/gas station. She spoke of walking in the dark towards the shining light of the welcoming garage with its promise of chocolate and candy; behind her and all around her was the darkness, seemingly darker because of the shining light that was calling and inviting her. The seductive light was all the more enchanting because of the cold dark that almost seemed to carry her towards the illumination.
When she reached the warm chocolate dispensary and had gathered her sensual delights, she came out of the emporium and looked at her way back; into the darkness. She hovered for a moment in the warm light of the garage and felt at first a reluctant sigh on that journey home. It was only when she began her steps that she felt the light behind her guiding and carrying her in the same way that the dark has a few moments ago done. And out there in that darkness was her home. Jane stopped her words for a moment and looked at all gathered including the male priests that surrounded her, and almost in a whisper said, “Don’t be afraid of the dark, it is only carrying you to the light, don’t be comfortable with the light for it is carrying you to the dark.”
I wonder about this comfort idea; did the darkness of that year and the struggle bring some greater tolerance and compassionate response to not just Aids but to the care of the dying and maybe that comfort has made dying all to acceptable so we can rest remotely from the conflicts of light and dark, both agreeing that they are the right way, and consent to the images and news of murder and mayhem in the world whatever the reason – light or dark.
Rumi says, “What hurts you, blesses you. Darkness is your candle.” Is the reverse also true in our modern society, “What comforts us, curses us, Light is our candle.”
“When you light a candle, you also cast a shadow.” ― Ursula K. Le Guin
Jane was a few years later one of the first women in England to be ordained as a priest, and everyone celebrated, well most of us. Many years later the Synod of the Anglican church in England have voted against Women Bishops and according to research most of the voters against were in fact women; did we get to comfortable?
Western religion and New Age movements suggest that the Light is all
“And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1)”
I am great devotee of St John, however I think he is wrong. Light is not all, and darkness does understand light as it’s true reflection, just as light understands the same of the dark.
Our journeys through lives rotate through the universal wheel of dark and light, one carrying the soul to the other and that the joy and sadness can be the friction that polishes the mirror of that soul.
We are conceived in light, gestated in dark, dreaming into being in the womb, born into the life, live in that friction between night and day, sadness and joy, life and death and die into darkness, waiting to dream again.
“A man must dream a long time in order to act with grandeur, and dreaming is nursed in darkness.” Jean Genet
If we are to believe that Light is all, then we deny ourselves the dreaming that fashions our path to God; if we believe that Dark is all, then we deny ourselves the sharing of relationships that reflect God.
Nietzsche says, “I am a forest, and a night of dark trees: but he who is not afraid of my darkness, will find banks full of roses under my cypresses.”
There is nothing harder to sit with a dying man and find something to say, or with the mother of a dead infant in her arms, or to watch the suffering in our war torn world and know that there is nothing much we can do, though we strive to find some cause or blame to divide light from dark and dark from light. This is the sun chasing the moon across the sky, the newborn cry that choruses the wail of the dying.
We live in a world that seems best by the shadows, and yet it is the shadows that are our fear of the unity of light and dark. Shadows are not the dark, nor are they the light, but a resistance to each other. And we humans have become comfortable arguing in the resistance of shadow.
Light and Dark are the two elements of hope; it is that friction that creates the song of action and leads us forwards
Mary Oliver a 71-year-old bard of Provincetown, who won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry in 1983, and author of Wild Geese, teaches us the profound act of paying attention—a living wonder that makes it possible to appreciate all the others. She said, “Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”
I like to think that the box contained chocolates that had hard and soft centres of light.
Darkness is that box of chocolates we share willingly with love.
And in the end as my friend Jane realised, the chocolates she bought were the warmth of her soul.
I believe it was that warmth that carries us all through the dark and light. I believe it is by sharing the dark and light mirrors of our souls that we truly understand love.
John-Luke Edwards January 2015