Monday, 21 December 2009

Solstice reflections

It's the solstice where, being a twilight/night girl, I mourn the return to lengthening days - though I won't mind them until it's still light at 7.30-8pm, which just feels so wrong.

But it's also a marker of the dark night of the soul, one that I've been going through for a while now. Not always depressive, though sometimes so, but lit by what Julia Kristeva would refer to as 'the black sun', a 'dark luminosity' - something deeper, something more, than what the author of the book I'm reading, Thomas Moore, would call 'naive sunshine'.

Whilst in this land lit by the black sun - a land with which I have a deep affinity, one that offers me the kind of light by which I prefer to navigate - I 'm realising that whilst I've travelled it, I'm not sure I really KNOW it. I'm not sure I've explored it, though I know the landmarks I've passed on my way through to somewhere else.

It's a land that I love, but I fear I don't know it as well as I thought I did. This time, I'm going to wrap myself in this land of half-light and numinosity and learn it, know it by heart as I know those places I consider home. This is my home too, perhaps the one that is most real.

I'm loving my re-read of Thomas Moore's "Dark Nights of the Soul" - I didn't quite speed through it the first time, but I loved the language so much and kept thinking 'Yes!' so often, that I don't think I absorbed it properly. This time I'm relaxing into it, musing, allowing it to sink into my bones.

There will be several posts on Moore's book, I think, reflecting on different parts of this Land of the Black Sun.

Today? One of my biggest struggles: religion, spirituality, inner intuition vs. my outer experience/sense and my struggle to bring the two together, to be able to follow my heart, yet walk with fellow pilgrims on the way. It's a struggle that can bring out the absolute worst in me in a way only my family can.

Which suggests, perhaps, that it is a seminal struggle and one that can and will be immensely fruitful. I'm less certain that being somewhere comfortable would be quite as good for my spiritual health.

More and more, I find I'm missing the darkness in God and religion. It's...too bright, glittering, blinding - God is all good and God is all love - but if God is THE Creator, the one from whom all other things emanate, then darkness must be a part of who God is. As must Lucifer's pride, Kali's destruction, suffering, hate, anger, vengeance - all those things we find in ourselves as images, reflections, of the Creator.

I love Holy Week, especially the Vigil, but hate Easter morning. I love the Midnight mass approaching this Thursday night/Friday morning, but shy away from Christmas morning. I'm not sure why. In the light, it's too much: the glare eliminates texture, subtlety, nuance. It never feels quite right.

Even when people talk about Jesus saving them, pulling them out of darkness, I wonder - what if that's not Jesus' purpose? What if he's simply meant to be with you whilst you explore your land of the Black Sun, not rescue you from it? Love isn't about rescue from places we find uncomfortable. Love is about being present, offering strength and holding the space whilst we discover the gifts our personal land of the Black Sun has to offer.

And maybe God's love isn't so facile as so much religious imagery makes it - there is hard compassion in failing a student when passing them would only set them up for disaster later or in a wolf mother killing her mortally wounded pup (from Pinkola-Estes); there is true love in telling someone that they are losing their integrity; there is true intimacy in the dark moments of grief and pain shared.

Do you genuinely believe that someone who constantly tells you how utterly amazing you are and how perfect you are really *loves* you? How can they? They can't see YOU - you're not perfect, no one is. And honestly, we're not working towards perfection. We're working towards wholeness - which is what God is. Whole. It's so much more than perfect. Only someone who knows you in your darkness, someone who can sit with you in it, who can both say, "You're amazing," "You can be a REAL bitch, you know that? You were out of order," and who can hold you through the darkest nights of your soul can truly claim to love you.

But we so often believe that love is a mirror reflecting and affirming us. Agreement isn't love; it's just agreement. Fulsome praise is just fulsome praise. Fawning is just fawning - and the latter two have more to do with self-interest than love. And so often, that's what we want our God - Jesus, Allah, whoever - to give us. We make God in our image, not the other way around.

Moore's thoughts on religion during a dark night begins to articulate my struggle, my feelings:

Religion, too, often avoids the dark by hiding behind platitiudes and false assurances. NOthing is more irrelevant than feeble religious piousness in the face of stark, life-threatening darkness. Religion tends to sentimentalize the light and demonize the darkness. If you turn to spirituality to find only a positive and wholesome attitude, you are using spirituality to avoid life's dark beauty. Religion easily becomes a defense and avoidance. Of course, this is not the purpose of religion, and the religious traditions of the world, full of beautifully stated wisdom, are your best source of guidance in the dark. But there is real religion and there is the empty shell of religion. Know the difference. Your life is at stake.
--Moore, Thomas. Dark Nights of the Soul: a guide to finding your way through life's ordeals. London: Piatkus, 2004, p. 15

It is indeed. Moore goes on to say that "Flight from the dark infantilizes your spirituality, because dark nights of the soul are meant to initiate you into spiritual adulthood...[t]he spiritual life is both deep and transcendent." (p. 15)

Flight from the dark, in the end, puts your life at stake - because you never grow up, and parts of you in potential, meant to come to full growth, shrivel and die.

That's why I'm not just travelling through this time, or hoping for a divine hand to reach down and pull me out.

I'm hoping for divine presence, and occasionally, through the people who can hold me in my darkness, I'm sure I feel the brush of a wing against my cheek. Thank you for meeting me here; it means more than you'll ever know.

I know there are those who would will my emergence back into bright sunshine, believing it best, and I love you for it. But not just yet - I need to explore this part of my home. Be with me if you can - but if not, that's ok too.

Just remember that I'm not here because I want to die...

...but because I want to live.

1 comment:

Ariel said...

This is beautiful, she'enedra - thank you. Just a few things quickly:

First, with regard to the religious angle. I never went for the brightness of Easter morning or Christmas morning either, as you know; and yet, my two favourite holidays now are Yom Kippur and Simchat Torah, which provide a good contrast of dark and light. My problem, as you know, is being afraid of the light, so the fact that I love Simchat Torah is interesting and slightly unexpected.

On a different note: I'm not a fan of English poetry generally, but I love this bit of Byron:

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies,
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meets in her aspect and her eyes.

We've talked about this ad nauseum, but even so... it's one of the things you and I have in common, this ability to relish the beauty of the shadows and to understand that it isn't evil, that it's simply a part of us and a place where we need to go. I like that Byron seems to have understood it too.

Okay, I have written far more than I meant to.