Honor the Dark

“Hello, darkness my old friend.” I’m that strange sort of person who likes the shorter days. I feel comforted when the darkness descends early. I like to feel wrapped in it, like a quilt, with a hot mug of tea and a flickering candle beside me.

Every year, I feel a pang of regret when the days begin to lengthen. I often don’t feel ready to emerge from my cocoon of regeneration and face the harsh light of day. Thankfully, it’s a slow process, a gentle shift from darkness into light that begins at the Winter Solstice.

Darkness can have different meanings to different people. Yet, the metaphor of darkness is often used to characterize the evil or shameful things of the world. We talk of people going to the dark side. In Star Wars, the dark side is the hidden side of the Force, the side of evil, hatred, and anger. Ancient Scriptures across many religious equate darkness with wickedness.

Darkness is a convenient metaphor and, in many ways, it works. But, if we take it too far, I think it causes us to dismiss and devalue the beauty of darkness……and it’s necessity. Birth and growth begin in darkness. Seeds germinate under the soil. Babies are nurtured in the darkness of their mother’s wombs. The caterpillar retreats to the darkness of the cocoon, to emerge later as a butterfly. Darkness can be a catalyst for transformation. It is the natural compliment to light.  Without the darkness, we would never see the stars.

Some have described 2020 as a dark year and I certainly can’t argue with that. 2020 has been filled with so much pain. And, in many ways, we have been pulled to that metaphorical dark side – the dark side where hatred and anger are easier than compassion and justice. We’ve seen death on unprecedented levels. We’ve witnessed horrifying acts of injustice. We’ve had to endure dark nights alone without the comfort of beloved friends and family.

And 2020 has been dark in a beautiful way, too. 2020 has invited us to pause, to rest, to stop, if just for a moment. It asked us to consider what is most important to us and gave us time to truly consider our answer. One of the gifts of 2020 has been that of revelation. We’ve discovered new things about ourselves and our society. Knowing what we know now, we can never truly return to how things use to be. We are forever changed and we can take our knowledge to build a more just world for ourselves and others.

We may never have another dark year like 2020. (I fervently hope that we never have another dark year like 2020.) But since we’ve had it, let’s take what we can from it. Let’s grow and learn from it. Let’s be transformed by it and, when the days grow longer, let’s not forget that it is only because of the darkness that we can truly appreciate the light.

Happy Solstice! Blessed Yule! May you take the lessons of the darkness with you into the light.