Of Light and Darkness
I woke up this morning thinking about darkness and light – two states that surround us each moment but ones we may not actually notice very often. I suppose the catalyst for thinking of this now is the solar eclipse, due tomorrow, since there are daily media references to it as the event approaches.
Also, candlelight vigils abound these days, as well – a literal and metaphoric "lighting the way" in the midst of painful and dark events.
I am surprised to find my heart sinking when I witness these efforts to light the world anew. It is true that there is usually some indication that prior to most community candlelight ceremonies, something has gone terribly wrong. But usually at the sight of these, I feel new hope and revel in this first step of bringing back the light in the midst of darkness.
But today I am just weary from the need for more candlelight vigils; we seem to be standing again, or still standing, for things we bore witness to generations ago. I suppose I have believed that some of those causes were so obviously done, that at the very least, we would be standing for something else, something that has evolved from our progress, bringing light to the next layer of darkness as we make our way into the history of our planet and our humanity.
In the midst of this weariness though, there is something interesting and comforting in the reporting on the eclipse. There is a clear and simple understanding of the phenomenon of it and yet the pull to witness it, to stand and bear witness to it, is as strong as when we assigned it magical or primitive powers. Even the most recent eyewitness accounts seem to record an astonishment at the event itself, and even those without a spiritual bent seem to ascribe some transcendent experience to this decidedly scientific event.
We don’t fear eclipses anymore, the way our earliest relatives must have when they witnessed the sun overcome and apparently extinguished. We know it’s coming, we know when it’s coming and why, and we know it’s temporary. We have even found ways to look at it so we can confront it and bear witness to it without being ruined by it.
I wonder this morning if my weariness is due to erroneous expectations: after battle, I assume the war is won and I feel relieved; I feel done. But perhaps as the eclipse reminds us, the cycles of light and dark are simply that – cycles throughout our shared human experience that come and go. “Who knows why Spring is born out of Winter’s laboring pains?” sings the character El Gallo in the musical The Fantasticks (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fantasticks ). We don’t know why; we just know it is. What is required of us is consciousness and commitment to lighting the way when the circle makes its inevitable dark turn.
I think prayer – whatever form we use – is one of the ways we light a candle when the darkness and pain of everyday life seems ready to overwhelm us. I wish I didn’t need reminding that cycles of light are inevitably followed by cycles of darkness but, apparently, I do. But finding the light within those dark times is something I can commit to, and prayer is one of the ways I can do it.