I can well remember the feeling of being immersed into darkness. As a child I loved to explore the unexplored, and occasionally was found navigating storm water drains which ran underneath ovals and streets in the area where we lived. I recall the uneasy feeling the first time I entered the drain, feeling the splash of water over my feet and hearing unfamiliar sounds echoing through the cavernous drains. Waiting for eyes to adjust gives space for the imagination to work conjuring fearful images which set the adrenaline surging. It took a short but significant amount of time before my sight was able to add definition to the objects of my imagination.
To be denied use of our primary senses is initially disorienting. We grapple for meaning, creating images and meaning in the midst of confusion. We look for associations which give insight, comfort and direction, allowing us to progress. Alternatively – or at the same time – we seek for objects to grasp which might help us maintain balance. The darkness releases creativity and ingenuity, inviting us to examine and explore not only our environment, but ourselves, on a different basis altogether.
But it is not only the darkness which is capable of disorienting us in such a way – the light is equally capable. Emerging from a dark place into brilliant sunshine can be equally blinding, and occasionally more painful and debilitating. We are more likely to turn our head and raise a hand for protection than upon entering darkness. In any case, both require us to look to other aspects of our being in order to make sense of our situation and to remain safe, or progress in the absence of this sense.
Whilst we might more openly express our concerns in relation to the depths of struggle in the dark moments of life, wondering whether we might have the resources to cope, we are less likely to admit such concerns in relation to propitious and buoyant ones. We fear overconfidence much less than inability. We welcome windfall more readily than loss, exhibiting an innate belief in our ability to cope with success over failure. Tragic tales may be told on both sides of the ledger.
The journey of faith calls us to recognise the opportunity and threat inherent in both light and dark, realising that each has the potential to lead us into growth, at the same time carrying a capacity to diminish us.
Yet God can be known in the midst of both: this is the psalmist’s assurance (Ps 139), and the reverberating message of scripture. We might employ different senses to fully appreciate this.
August 7, 2005