When someone shares a complex and moving story with me, I close my eyes. When I hear a soul-stirring song being played, I close my eyes. When I allow myself to dance with abandon, I close my eyes. Darkness allows me to stop the ceaseless cycle of gathering information and making judgments, so that I can more fully experience the depth of the present moment.
Darkness can be liberating, yet we are seldom encouraged to acknowledge its treasures. In fact, the English language conspires to create a false binary between light and dark, white and black. Rev. King pointed this out when he said, “In Roget’s Thesaurus there are 120 synonyms for blackness and at least sixty of them are offensive, … And there are some 134 synonyms for whiteness and all are favorable, …maybe the English language should be reconstructed so that teachers will not be forced to teach the Negro child sixty ways to despise himself, and thereby perpetuate his false sense of inferiority, and the white child 134 ways to adore himself, and thereby perpetuate his false sense of superiority.”
The struggle continues. One of the most popular “beauty” products in India is a skin-lightening cream called Fair and Lovely that bleaches the skin. In churches this season the songs and sermons are all about banishing darkness and the victory of light. Of course there are biological realities involved. Light helps us see. But darkness helps us understand in a different and no less valuable way.
Light helps us see. But darkness helps us understand in a different and no less valuable way.
Christians are in the time of year when superficial spirituality and cosmetic Christianity is at its apex. If we imagine darkness as a place of depth, substance, and mystery, then that is precisely what we ought to seek in this season.
Darkness can be a place of profound encounter with the Divine. The mystic poet Henry Vaughn wrote, “In God, some say, is a deep but dazzling darkness.” The mystic theologian Howard Thurman wrote about the “luminous darkness.” The first words in the Bible actually indicate something that would be shocking to many: God is darkness. In the first chapter of the Bible, God creates light. But according to the first sentence of the Bible, darkness was there before light. It was always there. Darkness is “uncreated.” The ancient church taught that since God is what is original, then anything that exists but was not “created” is necessarily part of God. So, this season, as the nights grow longer, may we not run into artificial and superficial solutions.
May instead we open up to the mystery, the wonder and the depth of the dark and dazzling Divine!
Rev. John Helmiere is the Convener of Valley & Mountain - Hillman City.
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