Friday, November 9, 2007

Here the Light is Mingled with Shadows

This morning I read an excerpt from a Rumi poem, from Light Upon Light, which contained this line: "here the light is mingled with shadows." There is a music and a rhythm to that line that I find very satisfying, but there is, of course, truth as well.

The light in our lives, that light in which we revel, is often mixed with shadows. Most times, I think, the shadows create a pleasing contrast; sometimes they are even alluring. And it certainly seems that shadows can be our surest guarantee that somewhere there must be light.

But at other times the shadows, whether from our own darker sides or from those cast by catastrophic events, can be overwhelming. We get lost in them, and it becomes very difficult to find our way back to the light, or even to remember or believe that it exists.

My friend Karen sent me a wonderful piece about being in this space from a column by Ron Rolheiser (

"When we are in the middle of a storm we shouldn’t pretend that the sun is shining or, indeed, that there is anything we can do to stop the storm. The task is to wait it out, together, hand in hand, offering each the assurance that we aren’t alone.

"Waiting it out is precisely what is required. The Book of Lamentations tells us that there are times and seasons when all you can do is "put your mouth to the dust and wait." That’s bitter, stoic advice, but it imparts real hope rather than false optimism. What it tells us and draws us to is the fact that, right now, for this immediate time, this pain must be borne, however crushing. There is nothing to be done. Consolation will come eventually, but it must be waited for and, in the meantime, we need to keep "vigil". And that is why we call the service before funeral a "vigil". We gather not just to celebrate the deceased life, but to, together, "put our mouths to the dust and wait."

"And that waiting can be very painful, a time when we see everything through the dark prism of our loss and where for awhile we sincerely believe that we will never find joy again. This kind of waiting brings to the surface a frightening kind of loneliness that reveals to us how fragile and vulnerable it all is.

"But that is exactly what we need to accept and process. And so we shouldn’t be afraid to feel afraid, nor despair about feeling despair. Neither negates courage or faith. As Kierkegaard put it, "courage isn’t the absence of despair and fear but the capacity to move ahead in spite of them."

Yesterday I received an email from Charles Radican about my recent post on Qoheleth and his search for wisdom. It was a wonderful response, moving beyond the questions I was asking to some of the deeper questions that arise when we begin to explore the nature of suffering. And Charles shared a poem he had written, about what can happen when we move into that shadow space, "seeing everything through the dark prism of loss." He has kindly given me permission to share his poem with you, which I do here because it serves as an exhilarating reminder of that clear pure celestial light beyond the shadows:

Sometime When you Realize
(by Charles Radican)

Sometime, when you realize
in your deep despair
how used to the stagnant waters
of this normal madness
you have become,
you may descend
into a deeper cellar
and drink from the dangerous liquor
of your own most ancient vintage.

Head bursting from that pure proof,
you must find the heart
to throw the thick log
of whom you thought you were
onto the living flame
that you truly are.

And you will be in wonder
Amid all the escaping light, amid
the scattering embers,
stampeding like wild horses
into the edgeless dark of heaven,

where you may take your place
among the constellations of the gods,
and finally realize
you are on a journey
you have no power to stop.

1 comment:

karengberger said...

Beautiful. Thank you for posting this.
With love...