In the dark,
Brighter than many ever see.
Through the soul’s own mastery.
And now the world receives
From her dower:
The message of the strength
Of inner power.
In a meditation on the ‘night hour’, Macrina Wiederkehr includes Helen Keller’s description of her faith, in the midst of permanent silence and darkness, being a ’spiritual strong searchlight’:
Observers in the full enjoyment of their bodily senses pity me, but it is because they do not see the golden chamber in my life where I dwell delighted; for, dark as my path may seem to them, I carry a magic light in my heart. Faith, the spiritual strong searchlight, illuminates the way, and although sinister doubts lurk in the shadow, I walk unafraid toward the enchanted wood where the foliage is always green, where joy abides, where nightingales nest and sing, and where life and death are one in the Presence of the Lord.
(Wiederkehr, Seven Sacred Pauses (162))
Keller’s deafness and blindness were no bar to her life as an activist. As an author and teacher, she made a crucial contribution to the way people with these so-called disabilities were educated. Again, as Barbara Holmes did yesterday, Keller’s witness challenges me to scrutinise the casual assumptions and judgements that a binary view of Light and Dark brings. How can I have compassion for someone else, if I have already marked them as deaf, blind, dumb, and ‘other’ to me?
It appears that learning to walk in the Way of the God who is as dark as light, and as light as dark, is about learning to look for the joy embedded in the spirit of the one who is before me. Learning to walk through the potential muddle and mess of a both/and spirituality, means learning to navigate by compassion, including compassion for myself. I long to walk unafraid into God’s Presence within, and I can only do so if I begin to recognise where light masks and dark reveals all that I would rather not look at, all that I would very much like God to ignore in me too. But learning to walk into Joy is about my wholeness. I bring all of me to the place where Joy abides.
What I know of You is meager.
What I love of You is intense.
What spills from me because of You is beyond measure.
You bait me with Your nothing that is everything to me.
You lead me on with promises that I must depend on You to fulfil.
You teach me with sorrow, joy, peace, and anger, with anything I can muster.
You are extravagant with Your love.
You drown me with devotion and understanding.
You leave me breathless, thoughtless.
Master, Teacher, Friend, Lover, Parent, Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer …
I try to encompass all your names but they slip from my grasp.
When I hold nothing, I hold You.
When I hold You, I hold everything.
‘Incorrigible Exuberance Shared’
walk into joy. iPhone image.