Thursday, December 29, 2016

Dark Night of the Soul #1: Awareness

It finally became clear to me yesterday what this whole thing with the post-election blahs and blues has been- and is. I should have recognized it; I’ve been through it before. The symptoms are real.

  • There is a darkness that seems to be holding me down. 
  • There is the inability to think clearly and in thoughtful sentences. 
  • Moments of panic or anxiety attack when least expected. 
  • A Facebook meme or a news article related to the election and the in-coming administration cause the floor to sink beneath me. 
At first I thought it was part of the grief process of the election. That was part of it, but it felt too strong, too profound for that alone.

I now see that what I am facing is truly a dark night of the soul.

Do not take that as a condemnation of Mr. Trump or anyone else. The dark night of the soul is not a disaster waiting to happen. Rather it is, in many ways, an awakening to the darkness that leads us to light. It is a beginning of acceptance of the reality that is ever around us. It is awareness that we are poor, powerless human beings who, left to our own devices will pretty well screw it all up. (An understatement!) The dark night comes when we leave the uncertain and human-made light and seek answers in those places we are often afraid to enter- most often the depths of the human heart and soul at its worst- and at its best.

    •    We fear the racism and prejudice of some people- because we know it is not that far beneath our own surface. I know it is in me and I am afraid.
    •    We react to the blind greed of others- because we know that we are in it for ourselves as well. We believe if it’s good for us, it’s good for everyone- even if it isn’t. I know I can be greedy and I am ashamed.
    •    We react to the demeaning of others of different faiths or gender or lifestyle- because we know we have been guilty of the same reactions to those who were on the winning side. I know of times I have looked askance at someone different from me and I am guilty.
    •    I get angry at the possibility of decreasing my Social Security or Medicare- because I know how vulnerable I can be and anger is easier to express that sadness.
    •    I don’t know how to interact with those on the other side who seem so God-awful sure of themselves- because I have felt that way.
    •    I don’t know how to express hope that things will get better- because politics is often nothing more than hope deferred.
    •    I don’t know how to stand up for what I feel is right and appropriate- because I have been doing that for fifty years and I am tired.

So it came as a moment of incredible relief when I realized what it is that I - and many - are going through. For me and my understanding, the dark night of the soul is a time of growth and cleansing. It is a period of self-examination, confession, atonement, and forward movement. It is my soul telling me to take the next steps into a deeper life of the spirit. I can’t say it has eased my fears or anger to have come to that. It is only a new insight. But at least I now have a direction, an opening that, from past experience and knowledge, I know can be healing and holy.

I am going to attempt in several posts over the next month to look at this a little more fully and share it with you here. Please feel free to react and respond to me. Again, it is NOT a criticism of Mr. Trump, his followers, Republicans, Democrats, Hillary Clinton, or anyone else. The election was so hateful, negative, and out-of-control that many on both sides feel frustrated and wrung out. We may very well find ourselves searching our national soul in these next months and years to find a new anchor, a renewed sense of who we are as a nation.

We must stay in this together. We must talk, disagree, agree, laugh, cry and eventually move forward together. Our national spirit is calling us to do so.


Timothy Naisby said...

Barry, That was Fantastic. Your honesty is beautiful and I thank you! Happy New Year, Brother

Maggie said...

Thank you for this reflection, Barry. It helps me put words to the malaise that has encompassed my being as well. I have sought insight and healing in other ways, and not considered Dark Night experience. It's hard to express an "it is what it is" and seek to move forward and have friends respond with their own anger. Anyway, I appreciate your help in working through this and look forward to further reflections. Grace, peace, and hugs!

pmPilgrim said...

It has been a difficult 6 weeks. I am glad to be able to finally put some of it into words.