Winter Solstice. The longest night. The darkest time.
After the sorrow of this particular month, with the senseless slaughter of innocents a week ago today, and the mass insanity of doomsday cults, perhaps we may be forgiven for not quite believing the light will ever return. The darkness seems so impenetrable, so impossible to shift. We lie beneath it, inert, struggling to breath.
But the word ‘solstice’ as defined by the dictionary is “a furthest or culminating point; a turning point”. It means that we have gone as far as we can go in a certain direction, into the dark or away from the light, and now we will return. But as in any journey, things never look the same. We are changed by our experience. As T.S. Eliot said,
“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
(Little Gidding V)
The cosmos — majestic, mysterious, full of marvels — is a dance of cycles. We as microcosm of that great Ineffable Waltz mirror its steps. We know joy. And we must all pass through a time of darkness. That is the way of life. None is exempt. Such pain and fear as we have all felt this past week remind us of the world’s suffering, and how we are all, indeed, our brother’s and sister’s keepers. Suffering swirls round the globe and we remember that if our hands do not provide comfort, whose will? If our lips do not speak words of solace and reconciliation, then whose will? If we are not willing to sit and bear witness to the pain of our neighbors, our friends, our family, then surely they will sit alone.
There has been much talk, and will continue to be, about gun control and mental illness and lack of personal moral responsibility and relativism . . . as there should be. Talk is good. Especially when people listen as well as speak.
But I hope amidst all the chatter (yelling?) we will remember what this season is trying to teach us — that darkness does not last forever. Light is returning. This, too, shall pass, although we will be different because of it. I’m thankful for that. We should be changed. There is much we need to do, and much we need to stop doing.
I leave that for now, however. At just this moment, I marvel at the intricacy of our universe, and how, if we take the time to be still and watch, listen, and reflect upon it, the Book of Nature bursts with wisdom.
We cannot avoid the darkness, nor should we, for it has much to teach us. But wait, be still, watch . . . yes, there it is, light returns.
One of my favorite poets, Jane Kenyon, said in her poem, “Notes from the Other Side,” written as she was dying from leukemia, that “God, as promised, proves to be mercy, clothed in light.” That has been my experience, and I am reminded of that today, as the glimmers of hope return to a darkened world.
So the darkness shall be the light,and the stillness the dancing.
Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.
The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry,
The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy
Not lost, but requiring, pointing to the agony
Of death and birth.
T.S. Eliot “East Corker”