To Know The Dark…: A Thought

20180108 ENCOUNTERING THE KNOW THE DARKAnd so, having prepared the room for this ceremony – just me, this evening, I sat down on a cushion in the middle of the room. With the door slightly ajar and with my eyes now accustomed to the darkness, I could make out just a few things.

I lit the candle.

Such a small light, and yet its flickering light illuminating all the walls and the furniture in the room. And as the small candle flame flickered, so there was that ‘dance’ between light and dark. Sometimes darkness would move across part of the room, sometimes light, and seemingly in equal measure. No real competition. No angst. Just a natural interplay of light and dark, a paradox.

With the lighting of the candle I entered sacred space (and sacred time) and paused to Encounter.

‘Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again.’

(‘The Sound of Silence’, Simon & Garfunkel)

Oh, how some like the light. Oh, how some fear the dark. In many cultures and belief systems there seems to be a dichotomy between light and dark – one is liked, the other feared. And yet, ‘scratch’ a bit deeper and that dualism (so loved by the Greeks, and so (unwittingly) inherited by the West, dissolves.

Ofcourse, we can talk about being the dark, meaning ignorance; we can talk about seeing the light, meaning we now know something we didn’t formerly know. And, so in that instance it all seems easy to understand – but only because we have used light and dark in one way and as one metaphor to suit our purposes for that event. Life is much more complex. The universe is much more complex. Spirituality is…you get the picture.

The acceptance and meaning of light and dark depends on the circumstances, our use of them as metaphors, and the context. Be comfortable with ‘opposites’, with paradox.

For instance, it is in the darkness that wonderful things happen; planted seeds in the soil grow into might plants or trees, the baby in the womb is ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ and develops, and the Source of All moves.

‘[God]… made darkness his secret place; his pavilion… were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies’.

(Psalm 18:11 part, The Book)

It is no secret that I love the great outdoors, and being from north Wales I am well-used to expect rain and storms. Did you know in the part of Wales I hail from it rains some 330 days per year. And I love it. Cold, and damp and raining and windy….are all wonderful weather patterns to me. For some reason, I feel an Encounter more in the storm and/or the night than on a bright summer’s day when the sky is blue and there is not a cloud in sight. Indeed some of you will have read some of my previous articles where Encounters or significant events took place in forests on sleepless nights – see here for an example.

Could it be that when it is dark, wet, cloudy, stormy we aren’t distracted by the sun and the things that it encourages: sunbathing, picnicing, wonderful scenic walks – all good in themselves and to be enjoyed, but which may make deep Encountering difficult sometimes?

And so, having lit the candle, I waited to Encounter. In the darkness as well as the light, and maybe even more so in the darkness, I Encountered. With no visible distractions in that darkened room, I was alone with the Alone. And it was wonderful.

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is travelled by dark feet and dark wings.

(Wendell Berry, ‘To Know the Dark’ from The Selected Poems of Wendell

And then, wanting to go deeper, I blew out the candle flame. And paused for what seemed just five minutes – but when I checked afterward a full half hour has passed. In the darkness, I met the Friend. In the darkness, with no distractions, with no pre-conceived ideas or expectations, we can Encounter.

‘And the vision that was planted in my brain
still remains,
within the sound of silence’.

(‘The Sound of Silence’, Simon & Garfunkel)

 

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