The Dark Night of the Soul

Posted on December 31, 2009


What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make and end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from. And every phrase
And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,
Taking its place to support the others,
The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,
An easy commerce of the old and the new,
The common word exact without vulgarity,
The formal word precise but not pedantic,
The complete consort dancing together)
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph. And any action
Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea’s throat
Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start.
~ T. S. Eliot

New Years is always a mixture of the ending and the beginning – or is it the beginning and the ending? I’d imagine it’s how one looks at things. I think what T. S. Eliot said there is just right, for every phrase and every sentence of what we share here with one another is truly an end and a beginning. Our work will be our epitaph. In writing it, we truly have stepped to the block – into the fire. We expose ourselves to others perceptions of us. To do that, we must already have some idea of who we are. Ahhh…we talk about searching, but I think most of us know who we are inside our skins; otherwise we could not reveal ourselves as we do in such a cavalier fashion. Writing, you know – whether truth or fiction, does expose us for who we are at the essence of our souls. Then any reader who happens along may see us, naked and exposed in all our glory or perhaps with all our flaws.

I haven’t written anything here for a while. Got busy and – well, who knows? What’s done is done. There were others to take my place and probably surpassed what I could have said.. But now, I need to share this with you all.

Have you ever read of John of the Cross? I was reading about him the other day and I think his quest, his search for the divine is so inspiring. San Juan de la Cruz, St. John of the Cross, was a Spanish mystic. He was imprisoned for a long time by the church, who thought what he had to say heretical. They kept him locked in a small, dark, cold cell – all alone. John did not give up, he did not give in. He knew that his faith would keep him from being alone, from being cold, or in the dark. In that cell, he wrote on paper smuggled into him. When he escaped in 1578, he carried a poem with him entitled, “La noche oscura del alma “. It is considered to be one of the finest works of his era. John had enough connection to the real light that they could not keep him in the dark. In that darkness, he found light, in the cold warmth, in his hope faith, and in his faith love. He knew love to be the greatest of all. It was stronger than fear or evil. It was his ultimate protector, his ultimate motivator to keep living and to wait for his chance to get away. Finally, he found it was the ultimate weapon – not to do harm, but to defeat evil and dark and loneliness. He didn’t even bear any ill will to his captors, for he saw they were truly the ones in the dark. This is a musical rendition of that poem, illustrated by the works of Salvador Dali, who it is said, himself had a vision from the poem.

In creating, in sharing oneself – I think we sometimes have dark nights of the soul. Nothing to be done about them – it’s part of the process, I think. We can only try to find strength to live through them and not lose sight of what we must do – what we have to do to breathe and that is to write. So, as an old year draws to the close and a new one begins – be still and listen to yer heart. The stories are there, they may hurt coming out, but the by-product of that process is a balm to soothe even the worst pain. Never staunch or stifle the words rising up from your soul….never let the pain of sharing or the fear of being ridiculed for what you have to say keep you from expressing that which is within you. To do so is to fall helpless into the fire from which you may not escape.

As we step to the fire, to the illegible stone of the New Year, let us not forget what has been written, but let us not hold back on what there is to say. Write, my friends when your heart is breaking, when your soul in on fire and when you feel you have no hope. It’s the only way to live through those days for those such as us.

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