The Dying of the Light

The Dying of the Light December 23, 2011

So, I’m in Florida over Winter Solstice/Christmas and thinking how strange it is to be celebrating the darkest time of the year with sunny days and 80º weather.  We were at the beach watching the sunset and Dylan Thomas’ poem came to me:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

I understand the desire to rage against the dying of the light.  I found that poem in my deceased uncle’s papers after his suicide.  But whenever I read those words, I think mostly of my father.  No words better capture my father’s attitude toward life.  (Well, maybe more apt would be the words he spoke to me about a lady he saw who declined to stoop down to pick up a penny she had dropped: “Jesus Christ,” my father said, “a hundred of them make a dollar!”)

Anyway, I understand the need to rage against the dying light.  Much of my recent spiritual quest has been at least a wrestling, if not a raging, against the dying light.  But standing on that beach, I did not feel like fighting.  I watched the waves come in and then recede to the ocean, and I imagined my life as one of those waves, rolling across the sand and slowing growing fainter until it then reversed direction and was drawn back into the sea.  And I watched the beautiful sunset which made the water seem bluer and made the patterns in the sand glow, and I just couldn’t bring myself to rage against the dying of the light on this day.

Sunset in Sarasota, Florida

Instead, I thought of these words from “The Language of Stones” by Geoff Bartley:

And all will come right, I swear it.
We will meet where the forest is deepest,
Where the night is blank and there are no stars,
For I am your annihilation come to make Peace.

And I felt peace at the dying of the light, and blessed for the brief but magnificent opportunity to be there on that beach watching that sunset, knowing full well that there would be millions more sunsets that I would never see, that they would go on long after I was completely forgotten.  And I felt grateful for my short life and the beauty of that single moment.

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