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When my Quaker minister* announced she was giving her message on darkness, I nearly fell off the pew. Hurray, I thought, FINALLY a Quaker will actually speak of the dark and not the perennial light to which everyone clings.
She prefaced her homily saying she wasn't sure why she was compelled to speak on this theme given it was such a lovely day. I wanted to shout: because some of us live in the darkness and if we don't ever talk about it, we feel isolated, lonely and less than.
But I didn't. Instead, I listened. To her and the handful of others who shared. I am not the only one who lives in darkness, their messages affirmed.
I also had a conversation a few weeks ago with my "other" child, the 12-year-old son of my best friend. We met and bonded deeply when she was pregnant with her only and I, with my second. We are a block from each other – a quick hike down the alley – and live somewhat communally from time to time. We say we are the family we chose. As you may suspect, I have a close relationship with Caleb, the 12-year-old. He came from another place and is the purest spirit I know. I have always teased him that he is my Mountain Sprite. For some time, his mother has been urging me to discuss darkness and lightness with him. Well, that chance came in my safe and wonderful studio. He was relaxing on my front-row section of theater seats and began. I asked a few, probing questions and let him just flow with it ... which it what he does. I am not certain he is even all that conscious of what passes through him. Basically, he said, there is no difference between dark and light ... they are just aspects of the same thing.
Hmmmmm. Early Quakers talked about the "light" convicting us and shining God's love on those dark places. But I had always thought of that as discovered and undiscovered, pure and impure, exposed and unexposed: opposites. I also buy into Carl Jung's conception of shadow as the unexplored parts of ourselves that need attention in order for healing wholeness to happen. But they always seemed like distinct entities to me, then, again, I was brought up in a world of duality. Yet I have always preferred odd numbers, perhaps, a philosophy of oneness and a variety of possibilities, not either or.
Wednesday, my shaman echoed Caleb; that light and dark are the same.
I tend to get locked into this or that and locked is the key here. It can be immobilizing. My shaman constantly reminds me there is a "rainbow of choice."
In her message, the minister said she seeks the light because she may not be strong enough for the darkness and quoted Quaker founder George Fox's vision that over the sea of darkness rolls the ocean of light.
My quest is to not be overtaken by the darkness. In worship, after the darkness message, I wondered if, perhaps I have invited the darkness in and it's too much for me. How do I uninvite it? Or, if it's the same as the light, how do I see the light aspect?
When I shared with my shaman how I had struggled for a number of weeks, almost resorting to a quick fix that I knew would have long-term, devastating effects for me, he said; "You've already been in the dark and pulled yourself out." He also reminded me to seek help: humans and divine. Sometimes I forget that. As if I am so deeply mired and it's my job to extricate myself. Is that the key here? Asking for help?
At the end of the powerful worship centered on the topic of darkness, someone requested the song "Lord of the Dance" set to my favorite Shaker tune, Simple Gifts. The chorus is:
Dance, dance, wherever you may be I am the lord of the dance, said he And I lead you all, wherever you may be And I lead you all in the dance, said he
I am teary even now reading those lyrics because the answer to the dark/light question for me is so clearly in following God/Jesus, whose voices narrates the song. It reminds me of a phrase that came to me years ago in a dark moment when I asked a question:
THE DANCE CALLED LOVE
What’s this time of loss been?
Healing, recovering, preparing ...We’ll create together.Just let me in more fully.You’ve knocked and I’ve opened the door.The dance has begun in full.You’re my partner and we’ll attract others to this grand dance called love.
• What are my theories of darkness and lightness?
• What has my experience been with both?
• How often do I talk about the darkness? In what context? With whom?
• What pulls me from the darkness?
• When/how have I been called the the grand dance called love?
* that sounds so weird as Quakers consider all are ministers, but I am a member of a hybrid meeting where there is a wonderful balance of a prepared message, silence and vocal ministry of others led to do so