“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.