I wrote a longer version of The Necessity of Darkness for the Front Page of the December 2004 Newsletter. I’m reprinting it now because it comforts me. And it ends with an invitation to join me, which I hope you will.
The Necessity of Darkness
Each year as the calendar turns from November to December, I follow an impulse to consider what is yet possible and necessary, this year and this life. While many dread the impending darkness, I openly celebrate the time. Somehow the darkening days of November and December are perfectly suited to my introspective brooding process.
I have been thinking of the necessity of darkness. And of how darkness reveals the glow or flicker of even a dim light that would be washed away in brighter light. Some of the mysteries I love depend on the dark for their finest display: fireflies and stars, moonflowers and candles, sleep and dreams, lightning and eclipses, comets and shooting stars. As do many germinating seeds, fireworks, and neon signs. But so do some of the scariest unknowns I can imagine; and that, for me, is the problem with darkness. Do I dare venture into the unexplored, dimly lit regions of my own possibility in order to discover—Who knows what?
This December, I ponder the still smoldering embers of desire or destiny waiting to be found and tended. I know that I cannot detect them in the bright light of an already too busy day. It takes the long, dark nights at the end of each year for me to settle down and settle in—to search the far horizons of my life for the glow of something that still burns with untapped desire.
And so I sit in the darkness, warmed by candlelight and shawl, savoring the emptiness that heals. I wait like one by the fire for someone or something to show up. Some evenings it seems that I detect a faint something, perhaps a rustling movement in the shadows or an imagined light. But nothing is certain and nothing is clear. Yet I continue to return, growing more confident that what I wait for exists. I don’t understand this need or my willingness to wait in darkness, to trust in darkness. Somehow it seems unlike the me I know best: focused, creating, productive.
Perhaps it is more like the me I will always be getting to know, the me I most long for, the divine me. The one who tends the fires of my soul and companions me on my journey to discover the guiding signal fires of my own life. The fires that flicker just for me and will never go out. The ones I must see first in darkness to trust in the light of day.
And so I sit, as often as I can, on these dark pre-winter evenings. Waiting for the inspiration of the next guiding lights, marking a new path and a new year. Because I know that last year’s guidance is expiring and each new day or night requires a fresh infusion for action and boldness.
Join me late some afternoon or evening, wherever you are. Join me for ten minutes or for five. Savor the silence and the candle’s flame that marks your place on this globe of wonder. Breathe out the old and breathe in the new, and do it again. Scan the horizon for the light you’ve been ignoring, or the one you didn’t yet know was there. Then look for it again, and again and again. And on the days you trust it’s there for you, a guiding signal toward something, offer thanks. And when you’re ready, stop sitting and get up and give it all you have, whatever it is. And if it seems more than you can handle, ask for help. Then expect help to come. Whatever you do, don’t let the flame in your imagination go out. And in the full light of day, don’t for a moment believe it isn’t burning—for you, for me, for everyone and everything, everywhere.