On Sunday, I encouraged my fellow UUs to be the light. That was an appropriate thing to say in a UU church on a Sunday morning and most people seemed to like it. I got more positive comments than I’ve ever had for a chalice lighting.
But what if you don’t particularly feel like being the light? What if you’re still hurting, still afraid, still mad as hell? What if you’re just not a love and light kind of person?
Then be the dark.
Be the safety of the dark. We tend to think of the dark as a dangerous place, but for a wide variety of nocturnal creatures, daylight is dangerous and the dark is where they’re safe. You can’t see as well in the dark, but that also means it’s harder for you to be seen. Our mainstream culture mocks “hiding in the dark” but if you’re up against predators who are bigger, stronger, and more numerous than you, hiding in the dark is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. Embrace the safety of the dark.
Be the restfulness of the dark. Sleep specialists tell us to put up thick curtains and make our bedrooms as dark as possible. Darkness blocks out distractions and signals the brain to make more melatonin, which enables sleep (side note – as I’ve gotten older, I’ve had to take melatonin supplements at bedtime).
Darkness helps us to rest, recover, and be ready to go at full speed when morning arrives. Embrace the restfulness of the dark.
Be the nurturing of the dark. Scatter seeds on top of the ground and not much will happen. Bury them in the darkness of the soil, though, and when the moisture and temperature are right they will germinate and begin to grow.
Plant yourself in the lush darkness. Let it sooth your wounds. Let it nurture you until the conditions are right for you to sprout into the sunlight. Embrace the nurturing of the dark.
Be the glamour of the dark. Human night vision is a wonder of evolution, but it involves tradeoffs. We gain the ability to see gross objects in low light, but we lose the ability to distinguish colors, fine details, and subtle movements.
This works both ways. Darkness obscures our vision, but it also makes it easier for us to blend in with our surroundings and hide in plain sight. A glamour that might fool half the people in the daytime will fool most of them at night. If you’re particularly skilled at this form of magic, it may fool them all. Embrace the glamour of the dark.
Be the danger of the dark. Here we shift from nice safe pretty Nature metaphors to the reality of what must be done in the dark.
“A witch ought never to be frightened in the darkest forest … because she should be sure in her soul that the most terrifying thing in the forest was her.” ― Terry Pratchett, Wintersmith
I originally used a different word here, but decided that “danger” was less likely to land me on a government watch list. To be clear, I think violence is almost always counterproductive, unless it’s in self-defense from an immediate threat.
Being the danger of the dark is knowing in your soul that you’re scarier than anything that might come after you. This isn’t the testosterone-driven braggadocio of young men. Rather, it’s the quiet confidence that comes from the direct, first-hand experience of Gods, spirits, and magic. It’s knowing you have allies in the Otherworld – not servants you can call down at will, but mighty Powers with whom you are aligned and at whose side you will fight… and win, eventually if not immediately.
It’s knowing your own Will can be enhanced with herbs and stones, with blood and piss, and with the bones of other creatures. It’s knowing the power of words and the power of symbols.
It’s knowing spells that go against your morals, that you would never use… unless there was no other way.
It’s knowing that as long as you have breath you have hope, because you have magic and you have Will.
These skills are best learned while the sun is shining and all is right in the world. They take weeks to learn, months to get right, and years to perfect. Hopefully you’ve been studying and practicing these past few years while you’ve been told a storm is coming, because now the storm is here.
If you haven’t, start now. Some skill is better than no skill, and you may have more time than you think. Even if you don’t, times of great stress can unlock hidden talents long repressed in the name of “fitting in.” Necessity is the mother of invention.
Be the danger of the dark.
There is no one right way to respond to troublesome times. We need many approaches by many people. Some of them will fail. Perhaps most of them will fail. That’s OK – after we fail, we know what not to do, and with a little analysis we can figure out ways to do better the next time. But some of them will succeed, and we can learn from those approaches too.
So, if you’re a servant of the light, be the light. But if love and light just isn’t your thing, then be the dark.