Posts Tagged ‘Learning to Walk in the Dark’

As we pause on the edge of another Lenten season we dare to redefine the dark, not as only the opposite of light, the dreaded negative where everything sinister that can be is. We dare to recover the dark and its gifts for us. “I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places” says Isaiah (45:3).

The inspiration for this season of dark rescue is Barbara Brown Taylor and her beautiful book Learning to Walk in the Dark. She test drove these twilight insights for several years and many public outings before they took up permanent residence between two covers.

For those of us who embrace non-dual thinking her writing is a cool drink of water. Even so, as long as we read scripture, sing hymns or speak a language shaped over centuries, the dualism of light and dark is embedded there. Our thinking contains a heavy overlay of dualism and the definition of darkness is part of that legacy. It even shows up in our culture in the many ways we describe the relative merits of race, with light being better than dark.

Granted, without the nurture of the sun, light that sprays the planet with everything that is required, and as long as night provides cover for predators to do what they do best to the unsuspecting, our fears will make journey difficult: beware of the dark. It is hard to remain open and fearful at the same time.

For now I am turning off some lights. Not only to save energy, though that is good. I am turning them off in order to see what is there without them. It’s hard to see the Milky Way any more, unless you free yourself from the omnipresent ambient light, that is. The glare keeps the dark from sharing what it can. I am ready to receive.

The name Barbara Brown Taylor is not new to any of us and neither are the titles of her books. But her new memoir, Learning to Walk in the Dark, takes us down a new spiritual path for her even if it is not new to the Christian tradition. The via negativa, as it is called, finds God in the darkness, the no-thing, the silence.

Though much of Taylor’s previous life focused on the via positiva, her present trajectory of spirit has taken her in the other direction, not unusual for mystics in general and even more common as they enter the reflective twilight of the second half of life.

So she speaks of befriending the darkness and the speaking voice that can only be found there. Abandon your cheery quest for the happy feet of contemporary always grinning worship. Unplug from your sensory entertain-a-thon.

In her words:

“Turning to darkness, instead of away from it, is the cure for a lot of what ails me. Because I have a deep need to be in control of things, to know where I am going, to be sure of my destination, to get there efficiently, to have all the provisions I need, to do it all without help – and you can’t do any of that in the dark.”

“If we turn away from darkness on principle, doing everything we can to avoid it because there is simply no telling what it contains, isn’t there a chance we are running away from God?”

Go deep, church. Go ancient. Go dark.