The Winter Solstice of Our Madness

Enter the Darkness

Enter the Darkness

“Darkness within darkness – the gateway to all understanding.”
Tao Te Ching

The Universe, in its eternal wisdom, cycles through Light and Darkness, year after year, century after century, eon after eon. In our human experience, this has always been and, in our hopes, always will be. Light gives way, inexorably, to Darkness and, in equal measure, that Darkness always yields to growing Light. Today, December 21, 2012, is the Winter Solstice – the shortest day, and longest night – of this cycle. In this night of greatest Darkness, the Light begins to return. It is a Darkness we must embrace.

For many, the Winter Solstice of Our Madness occurred on Friday, December 14, at an elementary school in a small New England town – the kind of place we like to think embodies all we love about ourselves as a nation. And it does. But that day, a black maelstrom of madness and heedless weapons of death ended the young, bright lives of more than two dozen small children and young adults, and exploded our delusion that this kind of Darkness can be overlooked – that it should not touch us, that its existence is an aberration, that this kind of thing is somehow visited on us from somewhere else – that this Darkness is not really “ours.”

Each time, we look for reasons; we try to “understand.” We want to reassure ourselves that this kind of thing can be explained by some particular set of circumstances, if only we can find them. We look for some individual responsibility, some legislative solution, some counter-attack, some set of moral rules that – if only everyone obeyed them – would assure us that this kind of thing could never happen again. We look at each incident as an exception, isolated from all the others… Because we insist on trying to ignore the fearful Darkness that we, ourselves, have allowed to become a subterranean part of our culture – unnamed, and unacknowledged. And the unacknowledged only grows in its destructive power.

All children know this Darkness, and we once did, too. Children are quick to cry out that there are monsters under their beds, hiding in their closets, and banging on their windows, with fangs and teeth and claws. Their instincts are right. And the children call upon us to help them dispel those monsters. And we do. The wise among us do not deny the existence of the monsters; we tell our children how to render the monsters powerless, how to make them go away… And how we can do it through our own will and wisdom, and no way else.

Acknowledgement does not – and should not – suggest powerlessness; it suggests only understanding of what is. The absence of that acknkowledgement is what makes us powerless. This Darkness IS our own, and it will not be ignored. This Darkness is the living hell of the mentally ill, thrown onto the streets or into the arms of families who have no tools or support to adequately help them. It is the Darkness of irresponsible greed, and consequences be damned, of those who promote the relentless sale of almost incomprehensible weapons of death, for their own profit, to anyone. It is the Darkness of our tacitly agreeing to live in a culture that isolates us from each other, that tells us, in a thousand ways, that someone else is more likely our enemy than our brother or sister, our parent, our grandparent, or our child – that we are each responsible only for ourselves, and for no one else – that the others don’t matter. It is the Darkness of our being told that we are somehow “exceptional,” and destined to be better than others, and our so often failing to remember that it is cooperation, and not competition, that allows us to thrive. It is the Darkness of our thinking that we need no help, nor should we be expected to give any. It is the Darkness of our believing that there need be no Darkness, at all, ever, at least not for us…

But the truth is that the Universe is equal parts Darkness and Light, both always moving toward growth and life. On this longest and darkest night of the year, let us sit with our own Darkness, acknowledge it, and then begin to move ourselves, together, by our own wills and the grace of the Universe, once again inexorably toward the Light.


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  1. We’ve got to do something about this, it is way past time. And as we contemplate darkness and sadness, how about the brother claiming his sister’s body for burial but not the nephew’s. No one has done anything for that poor tortured 20 year old. He was more or less invisible until he burst into our consciousness in a hail of gunfire, and now we reject and repudiate him: society, his remaining family, everyone. So we have a long way to go before we can “embrace our darkness” and accept it as our own. We can’t even muster up a little compassion for a boy that was different and went off the deep end. His own family doesn’t want to claim him! And we wonder what the answer is – but I’m afraid we are asking the wrong questions!

  2. dcg

     /  December 21, 2012

    What of the darkness that pervades our television, movies, and video games? Is that not a part of the problem as well? You are right to mention guns—everyone seems focused on guns now—and mental illness, but look at the prevalence of guns and killing every evening on TV, in so many of Hollywood’s movies, in video games where the kids actually do the “killing.” I am not comfortable with all the guns that are out there, but I doubt if we will ever legislate or tax them out of the picture. The First Amendment rightly protects what Hollywood and the TV networks deliver, but surely we should be working to shame them into limiting the violence that is so pervasive in their product. dg

    • Hey, dcg – Yes; it’s all part of the same thing. I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to include violent “entertainment” products as some of those “weapons of death”… “Entertainment” that glorifies killing, that demeans and dehumanizes women, and so on – and all for the money. I’m with you on that.

      BTW, I am always amazed that so many people seem to equate any sort of gun “control” with the complete repudiation of the Second Amendment. The two concepts are miles apart, as President Obama pointed out in his news conference the other day. Of course, it also amazes me that the key phrase, “A WELL-REGULATED MILITIA” is so often left out of the adamant support of the “right to bear arms.” The whole idea of allowing citizens to have weapons available was based on the situation of our being a very young country, with no real standing army to speak of, at the time. This is certainly not the case today. (Also, it’s hard to imagine that any “concealed carry” regulations would even have been possible then… A musket stashed under your frock coat…? Don’t think so!)

      I tried to look at this issue from a more “cosmic” point of view here, leaving out specific agenda items. But I did have to mention guns. As people have pointed out numerous times, we seem to have much less difficulty imposing regulations on any number of other things we deem not good for the well-being of the nation as a whole. Guns, and the “right” to own as many as anyone wants, of any kind, with as much ammo as anyone wants, are not bloody SACRED! If you haven’t seen the NRA’s ad for getting a Bushmaster so your “man card” can be activated, I suggest you check it out. This is the extreme, and it panders to the very worst of human nature, but there it is…

      Always glad to hear from you! As you so well know, when we put stuff out there, it is wonderful to know that someone is listening… (BTW, I think you’re stuck with the ’60 Newsletter for the foreseeable future – and you’re great at it!)

      Our very best wishes to you and the lovely L-B for a joyous and gratitude-filled holiday!


  3. mdd43

     /  December 22, 2012

    As the mother of a child who had severe emotional difficulties when he was younger, I cry for all the victims of this tragedy, including the very ill manchild who pulled the trigger. Referring to him as scum or a monster dehumanizes him and makes it easier to us to target our blame, but it’s not that simple. What about the lack of available, appropriate help for disturbed adolescents and their families who are often isolated in shame and trying to cope on their own? What about our country’s overwhelming addiction to violence in all its forms–gun worship, TV and films, computer games, and our most popular sports? We have to address all these issues if we are serious about preventing this from happening again.

  4. Hi, mdd – And thanks for writing. I live in CT, in a town that adjoins Newtown (not that this gives me any extra creds), and have a close friend whose older son is an Aspie. I would trust this kid with my life. Saw them this past weekend. She’s had to tell him that it would be unwise for him to let anyone know, at least for a while, around here, of his situation. That broke my heart, again… She, and her husband, have had to do almost EVERYTHING on their own to get him the special attention he needs in college (where he is doing wonderfully well, I will add). So I think I understand, at least a bit, where you’re coming from.

    If there is ANYTHING we don’t need, it’s more targets… Of hate, shame, or ostracism. I agree with you that we need to address all of this… And continue to feel that, while we’re doing that, we need to do everything we can to get guns under some sort of control. I fail to see why the control of anything so dangerous is fought, on all fronts, by so many…


  5. Carol – I am close to an Aspie, 21 now, who has remarkable splinter skills in programming, but has been unable to hack college on any level. There is one school, Marshall University, in WV, that has a program for such kids, but they demand that they still pass all courses and meet all standards. He just can’t do it; he’s had algebra 1 three times – yet he programs 3-dimensional avatars and machines for videogames.

    Do your friends have any advice? Time is passing and this young man is going nowhere; he is visiting my son at my home now; they just stay up all night playing videogames. He has the nicest, friendliest personality and is very frustrating to his peers, who want to be his friend, but he just ignores them.


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