It seems like 2020 has already had many longest nights. The Trump administration has hurt so many people so badly (many of them his own supporters) that this feels like four years of night finally beginning to experience dawn. It is finally the solstice! This ancient seasonal holiday, coopted by Christianity for its own purposes, retains great symbolic value. The story of Jesus’ birth is about light coming into the world. So are the myths behind Saturnalia and Yule and even Hanukkah. We tend to want to view things literally when the true meaning comes in the form of symbols that strike at the very heart of what it means to be human. We fear the dark, and we’ve been living in it for so long now that perhaps the light hurts our eyes.
A friend pointed out the Winter Solstice Fest, put on by Shift. It streamed (I almost wrote “aired”) over the past weekend. Involving many indigenous, and even some new age practitioners, it was a celebration of light’s return. Although I couldn’t watch all of it—weekends are so necessary when work becomes the only reality of five days per week—but what I did see inspired me. The chauvinism of one religion asserting its superiority over other explorations of spirituality can contribute to the darkness. When we take symbols literally we’re capable of great damage. Being inclusive forces us to recognize that we are all seeking light while learning to walk in the dark.
One of the reasons I watch horror is because, on the balance, it is dark half the time. Perhaps because I can’t seem to sleep until sunrise any more, I spend quite a lot of even summertime in the dark. Since there’s much that can only be done in the light of day, I explore how darkness might contribute to our spiritual growth. Although horror often receives a naughty reputation, it too is about exploring the dark for meaning. Today, at this latitude, we’ll have only nine hours and sixteen minutes of light. It’s easy to believe illumination might never return. Humans have created rituals to assure ourselves, to encourage the courses of nature to continue as they have for countless eons before we ever evolved. While we’re in the darkness, perhaps we should consider making friends with it. It’s quiet. And shy. And if we don’t learn to live with it, half of our time may never blossom.