When you have 14 hours of darkness, you tend to think a lot about light. For many people the only light they get is on their drive into or home from work, usually one of those two but not both. To fight the darkness, we light candles, string LEDs on our house and maybe even have a fireplace going. December is a festival of lights. Words like “twinkling” enter our vocabulary again and we delight in tacky light tours. This is the time of year we obsess with light.
So what about the dark?
Darkness gets a bad reputation in western culture. Bad things happen under the cover of darkness. Evil things lurk in the shadows and darkness hides them from us. Dark intentions are nefarious and the Prince of Darkness is notorious. The references of being lost in the dark and rescued by the light go back thousands of years. For many, the darkness is to be suffered through with no positive purpose at all.
There is a quote I heard a long time ago, “We know where light is coming from by looking at the shadows.” It struck me because it gave the shadow something positive, a way for it to be used for good. The shadow allowed you to reflect on where you find illumination, but to do that, you had to study the dark. You had to use it for what it was.
This is the time of year we go crazy searching for the light. Thankfully, from this day until June 21st, we will be getting more light. But let’s not squander the darkness that we have in these winter months. Darkness is a time of rest and stillness, a time to recuperate from our exhaustive daylight labor and pay attention to the labor of the heart and soul. It is time for deep reflection, time to let the distractions of light and noise fall away, to sit in the silence and ask the hard questions:
What were the successes of the past year that made you feel like your best self? What brought you closer to other people? What is the world you dream of? How can you help make that world happen? Who are the people you cherish and how do you let them know? Are you doing things that feed your soul? Can you make time for these things?
There are a ton of lights out there right now. Go ahead and enjoy them. They’re pretty. But don’t forget to listen to the rhythm of nature. Don’t forget to sit in the darkness and be fed by the quiet of winter. Make time to intentionally stop and reflect while the darkness is so rich.