A few weeks ago I had a wretched autumn flu, meaning that kids have gone to school, swapped pathogens like playing cards and brought them home for all to enjoy. The fact that you’ve no school age kids at home doesn’t save you. It didn’t save me. Some well meaning neighbours lent me their social justice dvd library to get through my miseries. Watching the various Armageddons hour after fluish hour – not something I would recommend – I was reminded often that everything of merit is being dragged to the abyss in high gear. The prime adjective describing our time: Dark.
Darkness has acquired a terrible reputation. As Europeans tumbled across the globe during what only their own heirs could call the Age of Discovery and Enlightenment, they carried with them a stout aversion to darkness, which resulted in them carrying and planting darkness wherever they went. They ‘discovered’ entire continents of darkness, peopled by darkness. To the enduring job security of many, their inner world sprouted darkness of all kinds too, ripe for enlightenment. The addiction to all things light, bright and white which ensued is with us still, especially at this time of year.
Darkness, if we are willing to learn it, isn’t the absence of light, any more than music is the absence of silence. Nor is it the absence of insight, or civilization, or the Gods. Darkness includes all these things. Our times of darkness, inner and outer, are times of sitting arm in arm with insight, with real civilization, with the Gods and the great mysteries. If you’ve ever planted a seed you planted it in darkness, with hopes for a harvest. If you’ve ever tried something entirely new you probably didn’t do so with the secret certainty that you were consigning your venture to hell, to a void, to nothing, or worse. The time of darkness is ripe, rich, full of portent, mandatory. It is the time of resting from labours of all kinds, the full and proper twin of work, and it is the time of resting for what surely will be needed in the time to come. Even the most relentless, unkillable inner Protestants – I have several – collapse in a heap at times and have rest thrust upon them.
Darkness is the great Taking Stock, the great Pause, the place where Life itself goes before it launches into the world. Darkness is the time just before the Stirring, just before the Old Man begins his hoped for, thin and threadbare pilgrimage northward, towards those of us living up here. It takes considerable courage in the modern world to be intentionally idle, taking the measure of your times and your life without needing the flu to slow you down, undistracted by the blind obedience to carrying on regardless, not flooded by light and revelation. I received a remarkable number of Happy Solstice greetings in the last month, many more than ever before. It may signal my inclusion in new, dedicated list serves, true, but it may signal that around me there is a growing respect and welcoming of the darkness that is in every necessary, living thing.
Tonight, the 21st of December, is the night of deepest, needed rest, a numinous stillness if we are willing, and should each of us be granted a little more time tomorrow will be the beginning of working towards a better day we may not live to see. This labour is what our heirs deserve from us. Rest isn’t what you do at the end of your life, no matter what the gravestones say. It is something you do in order to live deeply and well. It looks like ‘nothing’ only to those radiated by rickety histories and flourescent memories. May it be that your rest has that kind of nourishing darkness, and your darker days have that kind of fuller rest. All blessings on your road.