The darkness and the unknowns that occupy the limitless spaces within have always frightened and thrilled us. On one level, it seems that the story of our modern lives revolves around an effort to banish the darks by bringing more light to every crack and corner. At this time in our existence, there is more light on the face of the darkened earth than ever before. And yet, is life really any better as a result?
Dreams occur in a state of darkness. Sleeping, at night, we close our eyes and turn out the lights, as the sun is temporarily lost to us and the earth revolves, making her journey through the galaxy and around the sun. Even visionary states that occur during daylight hours tend to unveil themselves behind darkened eyelids.
As this time of the yearly cycle finds us dealing with greater and greater amounts of literal and actual darkness in the space that surrounds our daytime wakefulness, we might become increasingly aware of our dreaming selves. Just as nature all around us expresses its cyclical quality of the seasons, we, in our humanness, also experience a rhythmic circling, ripe with fecund obscurations and well-lit vistas of clarity.
The poet Rilke, in his poem “You Darkness”, celebrates the as-yet-unformed possibilities to be found in the absence of light, whose first lines echo out into the inky blackness of space, You darkness, I love you more than all the fires that fence in the world, for the fire creates a circle of light for everyone and then no-one who is outside learns of you. What an unexpected and perhaps unpopular view this is! Aren’t we usually accustomed to the opposite celebration, of gladdening ourselves when the darkness has finally been banished by the rising flames of a warm hearth at the center?
And yet, Rilke reminds us of another vitality to be found in the limitless possibility of shadow, as it darkens forth its own boundless and paradoxically central quality in our lives. The poem continues, But the darkness takes in everything, shapes, fires, animals and myself, how easily it gathers them, powers and people. These words, carefully crafted, evoke the way that the dreamtime holds us as we sleep, the way anything can happen in the dreaming, and how it all takes place in the, often, frightening realms of unlimited mysteries. Here, the dark itself creates a whole new reality containing potentials, where what is not known can be any way it chooses.
In this time of increasing darkness, nearing the Winter Solstice, waking life might even begin to take on the feeling tone and quality of our dreams. Whether we pay attention to our nightly adventures in the dreamtime or not, the energy of interactions and events of our lives might begin to reflect more of a quality of unexpected or surprising forces. Many suffer at this time from heavy emotions and the return of the old, well-worn and saddening dramas of familial life. Others participate in the disturbed dream of consumeristic happiness at being able to gift our selves, and each other with an abundant display of presents, rather than finding a depth of ability to participate together in the immediate experience of presence. People all over the Western world, at least, seek to light up the night and dispel the shadows that Nature herself is presenting us with as we enter the loamy and still womb of deepest winter. And this year, the Moon is here in North America, creating a wholly lit landscape of reflected solar light amid the darkened night.
While there is something beautiful in all this, the colors and the lights and the efforts to warm our hearts and the hearts of others by shining forth the circle of light, might we not also seek to heed the poets courageous invitation to honor the darks and the wonderfully lit moonscape that finds us here, as well?
Rilke goes on, …and it is possible that a great energy is moving near us, I have faith in nights. Perhaps with a more deliberate celebration of and opening to the dark, in addition to an honoring of the light, we might open ourselves to the blessings of the great unknowns and undetermined quantities and qualities of our lives. When we can allow for a space in which sheer questions exist, it seems we might be able to open more deeply to unseen, dark, previously hidden possibilities of great expansion and the true energies of our lives for drawing more deeply on the wisdom of our dark inner nature itself.
And so it is with dreams and dreaming. For the dreams themselves spring forth surprisingly out of the darkness and involve us in great opportunities that were formerly invisible. We don’t always allow for what’s possible there, as a result of the overly brightened glare of waking consciousness, where the new and unformed possibility could not become manifest, as a result of too much specificity and expectation about the way things should look or be. It is as though, through the ambiguity of darkness, where anything can happen, creative moments emerge that hold meaning, value and content as a result of the loosening of the limitations of the known physical world. By willingly entering the darkness, and admitting the dark to enter us, we may give time and space to the unknowns. And, just as sleep can be a replenishment that arises again out of the darkness, by honoring the need for what is not known, we may find surprising outcomes that we didn’t even know existed.
Here is a song from my album, “Yoro Yoro” with Ben Leinbach which is a celebration through sound of the emerging mystery of the darkness.
And here is the full poem from Rilke which you may choose to enjoy as a call to entering the darkness courageously and fully while giving greater spaciousness to dreams and the great unknowns of your own life.
You darkness, I love you more than all the fires that fence in the world,
For the fire creates a circle of light for everyone,
And then no-one who is outside learns of you.
But the darkness pulls in everything, shapes, fires, animals and myself,
How easily it gathers them, powers and people.
And it is possible a great energy is moving near us,
I have faith in nights.