Who speaks the sound of an echo?
Who paints the image in a mirror?
Where are the spectacles in a dream?
Nowhere at all – that’s the nature of mind!
(8-11thc. Indian female practitioner of Tantric Buddhism)
What is it that I think I know of myself? I may not want to look at the places where I my mind tells me I am ‘broken’, but as the fifth century monk John Cassian remarks:
Hidden things hinder wholeheartedness
My mind is capable of huge feats of self-deception. There are many places within myself I dare not look, for fear of meeting the Kates I do not want to acknowledge exist. Yet hiding from the whole of me is not going to facilitate my healing in body, mind or spirit.
So, with great reluctance, I have to turn and face the ‘darkness’* of me. I need to be willing to look at the places where I am broken before the Spirit can truly mend them. There are other places which I know I will deliberately have to break open, break into, to let out what is poisoning me, to enter into the dark, ambiguous, unknown places where God is in me. All that I think I know may need to be let go of; I may need to ‘break’ in order to un-know.
Feeling broken, I then need to be courageous to look at the pieces that are left. I need to make time to sit in the mess, with all the edges of me that don’t fit, with all the questions I want to ask God, to see that feeling I am a ‘fragment’,
is a reality of being creatures who can only apprehend with out senses – in bites, in touches, in smells, in sounds, and in focussed but shifting sight. We live in the reality of these pieces where the world is always too much for us to hold all at once … God works with these fragments, moving in the spaces between them to form communion with us. The fragments facilitate communion.
After Whiteness, Willie James Jennings (35)
What do I know?: that through ‘seeing darkly’, my wounds are the way to God: one broken fragment at a time.
The time will come when the sight of this wretchedness, which horrifies you now, will fill you with joy and keep you in a delightful peace. It is only when we have reached the bottom of the abyss of our nothingness and are firmly established there that we can “walk before God in justice and truth” … The fruit of grace must, for the moment, remain hidden, buried as it were in the abyss of your wretchedness underneath the most lively awareness of your weakness.
Lettres Spirituelles, Jean-Pierre de Caussade
- Please note I do not automatically equate ‘darkness’ and ‘brokenness’; nor do I automatically equate ‘darkness’ with ‘evil’. I never equate ‘darkness’ with ‘blackness’, with all the damaging cultural, colonial, social and spiritual histories that word has brought to people of colour and their ancestors. Since I am a visual person, ‘darkness’ often conveys to me the sense of being blindn to the unknown. It is also a word I often use as shorthand for the places where depression sits so profoundly within me, it feels as though those parts of me have become fossilised. To ‘turn and face the darkness’ then, is about the need to confront what I wish to flee; to bring every iota of my creativity to bear on what is ‘dark’ within, in order to express the pain of negative thoughts, fixed thinking, self-harming and self-sabotaging behaviours, actions and emotions which has left such deep wounds within. ‘Seeingdarkly’ in this context, is to treat darkness (within and without, physically, spiritually, materially, emotionally) as a mystery in which I might encounter the Godhead, where I might behold new revelations of Grace. It is these associations of ‘darkness’ which I will be exploring during this Advent.
seeingdarkly. (iPhone image)
7 thoughts on “whole: day 2”
Nice post. The photo resembles what I imagine my severely vision impaired son sees. Crazy, he can make sense of it and negotiate from there quite well. But it kills him that he is so short changed sight-wise. Darkness is always close.
Ah Jimmy. Acceptance of any seeming helplessness, powerlessness, loss by comparison, disability and so on, is so hard to learn, isn’t it? I will be praying for your son as he keeps having to learn over and over how to deal with the darkness that he feels is surrounding him today. Also, I will be praying he finds ways to share his ‘visions’ with you and others. All blessings on your whole family.
What a powerful image, Kate. Thank you.
And thank you for that footnote. It’s important and I wish more people would use it too.
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thanks as ever my friend. What would I do without you in my life? huge love xx
Scary courageous. You must… look at dark places… but do you want to? Are you following deepest desire somehow? The difference between push and pull…
I have learnt that if I don’t turn and face the darkness things only get worse! So yes, in some ways I do want to … and I have discovered that there’s a lot of lost treasure in there that I need to find again, or know for the first time … seeingdarkly is a daily, sometimes five-minutely, often moment-by moment choice I find … it’s really hard … but often I find Spirit has gone ahead of me to prepare a way through …
I appreciate the authenticity of your reflection, especially the way you reframe the concept of darkness.