An Antidote the the Soul’s Dust and the World’s Darkness

With a gentle smile and a calm demeanor, the Japanese Zen priest spoke to his largely Western sitting group – in English:  “Westerners seem to bring an extra challenge when engaged in meditation.  When the dust appears – as it inevitably does in the form of distraction, you Westerners have a tendency to bring in a broom and try and sweep it out.  And all it does is kick up more dust.”  He paused.  “Let the dust settle.  Get to know the dust.”

I was part of that weekly sitting group in Kyoto, Japan, nearly fifty years ago.  His advice still sits with me, as I continue wrestle/struggle/fight with the dust, which over the years has morphed from an image of dust to an experience of an enveloping darkness.

The world is getting darker.  Literally.  Where I live, in southern New Hampshire, the lights need to be turned on at 4 pm.  The nights are getting longer.   And the temperature is getting colder, which has the psychic effect of deepening the darkness.  And the avatars of darkness, who are regularly referred to as “conflict entrepreneurs”, inevitably show up from every corner of the world’s landscape, flooding the airwaves and the social media platforms — and exploiting the darkness by preying on our individual and collective fear of the darkness. 

Like many, I try and fight the darkness.  Which has the effect of binding me up in more darkness, as those agents of darkness inevitably take up residence in my psyche – taunting, tempting and ridiculing.  As I try and sweep them out, I can almost see their vengeful smiles, because they know they have ‘got’ me.  And they end up swirling around in the cavities of my soul, threatening to suffocate me with their predatory venom. 

Our spiritual ancestors were familiar with darkness.  They didn’t fight it.  Instead, they worked to get to know the darkness.   The prophet Isaiah knew the darkness of despair and oppression, isolation and dislocation.  And he challenged his audience to see the light:  “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.”  (Isaiah 9:2)  The writer of John’s Gospel speaks of the light’s power:  “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”  (John 1:5)

Isaiah and John knew that light exposes darkness.  In many cases, light destroys darkness.  In the Christian tradition, during the season of Advent, one candle is lighted the first week, two the second, three the third and four the fourth.  Adding more light to the earth’s deepening darkness; and kindling hope.

As Martin Luther King spoke more than a generation ago:  “Darkness cannot drive out darkness.  Only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate.  Only love can do that.”

Sit with the darkness.  Get to know it. And then invite in the light – which, in every faith tradition, is always offered.  Shine the light on the darkness.  Learn when and how it shows up.  Discover how it works – in your soul and in the world.  And then – accept its invitation and become an avatar of light.  It is a grace each of us has the capacity to claim, a gift that can dethrone the darkness.

 

 

 

Recent Posts

The Killing of Tyre Nichols:  An Eruption of Violence

The Killing of Tyre Nichols: An Eruption of Violence

If you haven’t seen the video, you certainly have heard about the savage beating of Tyre Nichols, which led to his death,  murder charges brought against five Memphis police offers who carried out the atrocity, and their subsequent firing. Brutal, horrific, evil.  And...

The Confounding Paradox of the Gun Divide

The Confounding Paradox of the Gun Divide

In the wake of 40 mass shootings so far this January, I am struck by – and stuck on, some paradoxical statements that have echoes in different parts of the country.  The first, from Shannon Watts, who is the founder of Moms Demand Action, a gun violence prevention...

Dr. Martin Luther King:  Joining Holiness and Justice

Dr. Martin Luther King: Joining Holiness and Justice

Our country pauses today to honor the memory and challenge of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  We remember him as a prophet for civil rights who, throughout his public ministry, dared to bend the arc of history toward justice. But it didn’t start out that way.  As...

Lament:  A More Effective Way to Deal with Outrage

Lament: A More Effective Way to Deal with Outrage

Like most of us, my first reaction upon hearing of a six-year-old boy shooting his teacher with a gun at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia, was outrage.  How can a six-year-old get a gun?  How does he know how to use it?  How is he supervised?  How...

Surrendering to Hope

Surrendering to Hope

As we turn the corner into a new year, many of us are drawing up some resolutions.  Most resolutions tend to be either about exercise or diet, which may get some traction – for awhile, but usually end up losing out to the strain of three more months of winter. What is...

The Killing of Tyre Nichols: An Eruption of Violence

If you haven’t seen the video, you certainly have heard about the savage beating of Tyre Nichols, which led to his death,  murder charges brought against five Memphis police offers who carried out the atrocity, and their subsequent firing. Brutal, horrific, evil.  And...

The Confounding Paradox of the Gun Divide

In the wake of 40 mass shootings so far this January, I am struck by – and stuck on, some paradoxical statements that have echoes in different parts of the country.  The first, from Shannon Watts, who is the founder of Moms Demand Action, a gun violence prevention...

Dr. Martin Luther King: Joining Holiness and Justice

Our country pauses today to honor the memory and challenge of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  We remember him as a prophet for civil rights who, throughout his public ministry, dared to bend the arc of history toward justice. But it didn’t start out that way.  As...

Lament: A More Effective Way to Deal with Outrage

Like most of us, my first reaction upon hearing of a six-year-old boy shooting his teacher with a gun at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia, was outrage.  How can a six-year-old get a gun?  How does he know how to use it?  How is he supervised?  How...

Surrendering to Hope

As we turn the corner into a new year, many of us are drawing up some resolutions.  Most resolutions tend to be either about exercise or diet, which may get some traction – for awhile, but usually end up losing out to the strain of three more months of winter. What is...

Cancel, Woke, and Light

In 2009 journalist Bill Bishop wrote a compelling book, The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart. He makes the case that over the past several decades people have been living, working, worshipping, recreating, and vacationing in...

Fear, Guns, and Kids

When we get scared, we seek protection.  And so many of us are scared – of increasing violence, of a precarious democracy, of growing polarization, of progressing climate change.  And on and on – a veritable cascade of fear.   One mode of protection for many, at least...

Darkness, Light — and Gun Violence

The people who walked in darkness… This past week I met many people who regularly walk in darkness.  I attended a two-day Gun violence prevention summit in Washington DC.  There were some two hundred of us from all over the country – advocates, policy shapers,...

Changing the Gun Culture

America is awash in guns.  With a little over 4 percent of the world’s population, Americans own 42 percent of the world’s guns.  Gun purchases across the country have skyrocketed.  Restrictions on the carrying and permitting of firearms have eased in many states;...

Our Framing Stories: How They Can Free Us or – As In the Club Q Shooting, Can Demonize Us

We are framed by stories.  Our values, horizons and purpose are shaped by the stories that we have heard, read and absorbed.  Some of those stories are constructed – and refracted, to reinforce prejudices and resentments.  While we don’t yet know for sure if the...
Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join my mailing list to receive the latest blog updates.

You have Successfully Subscribed!