A Candle in the Darkness

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I realised recently that darkness and light play a massive part in all of my thinking. Whether it’s about creating an atmosphere in a novel or story, knowing which parts of the old prison I work in will freak visitors out most effectively and where a frightened child will feel safe, or about more philosophical, deeper feelings and the metaphors through which I understand the world, I see a lot of things in terms of darkness and light.

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I wonder if this is really the most fundamental of all the ways in which we relate to our world? There is little more straightforward and predictable than night following day and the light coming again at dawn.  It is a part of the experience of every human culture, for all of time. So, many religions use darkness and light as a way of talking of the difference between evil and goodness, or sin and redemption, death and life. Shakespeare used the theme effectively in many of his works, Macbethsprings instantly to mind. We talk of the Dark Ages and the Enlightenment.

There are interesting paradoxes once you start to explore the concepts of darkness and light. The dark is frightening and dangerous…yet it is also a place in which we can hide, obscured and undiscovered. It is peaceful even while it can suffocate. It is a place of passion and restful sleep. But there is no clarity and all is guesswork. Meanwhile, the light can be too stark, leaving us exposed and vulnerable and blinking in bewilderment. We can see with clear vision, but that also enables us to see what is wrong and allows little comfort. And what of the twilight times, when the spirits walk and shapes blur and all is about transition, the eternal cycle of day and night? How do we feel as we slip from one state to another? Should we cling to the light and fight the darkness? Or accept its embrace?

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I’ve been exploring Christianity just lately, going to church. My favourite Christian song of the moment is “Shine Jesus Shine.” It’s impossible, I find, whatever doubts I have, not to feel uplifted by the message of hope. And it’s all about light. Jesus, to a Christian, is light and hope, the way to fight the darkness. Most religions celebrate light and flame in some way, at some point in the year, often in the darkest depths of winter. Hanukah in Judaism, St Lucia’s Day in Sweden, candles and the Yule log in the Pagan and Christian European traditions of midwinter and Christmas, the Hindu festival Diwali…the list is endless. We even light candles on our birthday cakes.

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Humans, it seems, need light every bit as much as flowers need it…we’re drawn to it more irrevocably than moths.

Sometimes though, it is hard to walk out into the light. Darkness, frightening though it is, obscures our faults, the things we are ashamed of. It allows us to be stealthy, watching the world without being seen. It can be a safe hiding place. Why leave it and be exposed? However much we long to bathe in light, it undoubtedly requires a greater honesty and acceptance of ourselves to do so. Being seen requires us to be brave and
steadfast in our belief in ourselves. But it is, undoubtedly—as scores of our traditions show us—also a basic human need.

My advice to anyone lingering in the dark is to remember that you’re a creature of light. The hope is there, however obscured.  You just need to find it and not be frightened of it. Light a candle or a gentle lamp in a dark room. Feel the golden glow spreading from its source and surrounding you, soothing you more than the darkness ever could. Let it show you for who you are and be proud. Let it be a halo around you. Be aware, for a while, of the darkness outside the halo. Examine it from your new perspective.  When you can bear that light and it becomes a fundamental part of you, you won’t want to slip back into the shadows, you’ll step into the brightest light without fear.

“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.” Carl Jung

 “We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we won’t need to tell anybody it does. Lighthouses don’t fire cannons to call attention to their shining—they just shine.” Dwight L. Moody.

 “As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence actually liberates others.” Marianne Williamson.

Google “Quotes about light” and just see how many words have been spoken and written about it. Some of them very beautiful and thought provoking. Come out of the darkness. Shine. Today, I finally understand how that feels.

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5 responses »

  1. We really need to have coffee soon…

    Light and dark are both powerful, both illuminating in their own ways. The question is, what are you going to do in the light and in the dark?

    As long as you know there’s always someone there to reach out to if it get’s to be too much…

    hugs.

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