Sometimes, gliding at night
in a plane over New York City
I have felt like some messenger
called to enter, called to engage
this field of light and darkness.
A grandiose idea, born of flying.
But underneath the grandiose idea
is the thought that what I must engage
after the plane has raged onto the tarmac
after climbing my old stairs, sitting down
at my old window
is meant to break my heart and reduce me to silence.
Adrienne Rich from ‘North American Time: VIII’ (1983)
The Biblical stories tell me that the journey the sages undertook more than two thousand years ago was an adventure into nightseeing. Their guiding light was a cosmic display, only visible in the deep dark. It seems like one of those Kingdom paradoxes that I might only be able to see my way on this JoyPilgrimage, if I keep my eyes and heart open to the undersides of my world where I would rather not pay attention. I will need to pay attention to what I suspect might be the spiritual equivalent of ‘dark matter’.
NASA defines dark matter thus:
Dark matter is composed of particles that do not absorb, reflect, or emit light, so they cannot be detected by observing electromagnetic radiation. Dark matter is material that cannot be seen directly. We know that dark matter exists because of the effect it has on objects that we can observe directly.
In Underland Robert Macfarlane visits a mine deep under the North Sea where he meets a scientist called Christopher who shows him experiments designed to search for the properties of dark matter:
‘Right now,’ Christopher says, ‘you are looking into the absolute smallness of the universe with pinpoint accuracy, peering down at the most minute of scales. Those coloured lines are our magnifying lens.’ Then he says – as if the phrase has just entered his head without warning, scoring a trace as it passes through – ‘Everything causes a scintillation.’ He pauses. ‘Why are you looking for dark matter?’ I ask. ‘To further our knowledge,’ Christopher replies without hesitation, ‘and to give life meaning. If we’re not exploring, we’re not doing anything. We’re just waiting.’ … ‘Is the search for dark matter an act of faith?’ I ask him. (67)
‘Everything causes a scintillation’, everything emits colour, visible and invisible. Exploring the darkness, exploring the night’s space, exploring the dark night of the soul, will mean searching for this new palette. There are times when all I can do is sit still and wait to see what is the right direction for my exploring energy. I do not need to exhaust myself and use up all my reserves in restless seeking. There are times when it is dangerous to travel into these places, especially alone. Yet I come back to remembering: the dark is not dark to God. I will not be alone, I will not be overwhelmed. By opening myself to an encounter with the present, in all its colours, I am opening myself to the multitude of manifestations of the Presence.
I choose Joy.
Were you one of the three
came travelling to the workshop
with your gifts of heart, mind and soul
to the newly born in the cradle?
Was that a halo above it
of molecules and electrons,
with the metal gone hoarse trying
to reiterate: Holy. Holy. Holy? …
R.S. Thomas, Counterpoint
dark signatures. iPhone images.