by Katie Ladd
As the days continue to get shorter and the nights longer, light and darkness are on my mind.
I’m a star gazer. Let me change that. I would be a star gazer, except stars cannot really be seen in cities like where I live. Several years ago when Mars was going to be especially prominent, I went to Canada and met up with other amateur astronomers in order to see it clearly. What a great time. It is profoundly spiritual to look into the sky and know that I’m looking back in time, that I’m made of the same materials of those stars that existed so long ago.
Go outside at night and look up. What do you see? Unless you live in an unusually remote area, you will not see what would’ve been seen a hundred years go, even fifty years ago. If you live in a city, perhaps you will see a few of the more bright stars and planets. If it’s a cloudy night, you won’t find a dark sky at all but a surreal soupy grey that we take for normal. This is called light pollution.
We are living in a time during which a particular dualism that pervades our speech and thinking no longer makes sense: light and dark. And, the time has come for us to change both our speaking and our thinking. All of creation will be more whole by doing so.
It is, of course, conventional wisdom that light dispels the darkness making plain before us what otherwise would be hidden from sight. The duality of light played off of dark fills Abrahamic sacred writings. It is found throughout neoclassical philosophy. For millennia, it made sense, in a way, because we lived in a world where light was hard to come by, and life was regulated by the natural rhythms of light and dark, sun and moon.
We are no longer bound to this rhythm, though. Now, we make day with the flip of a switch. We do not work during day and sleep during the dark/night. Rhythms of rest are no longer biological. Sea turtles are confused when they hatch. Light has been artificially placed on the land disorienting their journey to life. Rather than on the sea horizons, which once were the brightest point of the night, where moon and starlight bounced off the water, the brightness is behind them on the land leading them astray. Light is disorienting nature. Trees do not know how to go dormant. Insects fly confusedly to street lights. Light no longer reveals; it obfuscates. And life is suffering.
The use of light over darkness has a metaphorical insidiousness as well. Light as a metaphor for goodness became a way to judge people by the color of their skin. Light skinned people = good. Dark skinned people = bad. While this has been particularly true in parts of the world where people were very light skinned, ironically this value laden stratification of society has not been relegated to the northernmost parts of the world where it might be most expected. It is pervasive and insidious. While the ramifications of such polluted thinking are quite different from actual light pollution, it is a kind of light pollution all the same. We have polluted our thinking in disastrous ways by valuing light skin over dark skin.
It’s time to get back into the dark. We need to stop, rest, let the light fade. We need to turn off the screens that are always in front of our eyes. Trees need to rest and go dormant. Sea turtles need to find the life giving waters of the ocean. We need to learn again the power of biological rhythms. And, we need to let a knew truth be revealed to us about the goodness of darkness, including the wisdom and truth and goodness that is found in dark bodies. The creation story for the Abrahamic faiths is located within the interplay of light and dark, a rhythm again and again proclaimed “good” by the Creator. It is not a story about good light and bad dark.
Go outside in the most remote place you can find. Look up. The sky looks much different here. Much more is revealed. Rather than needing light to see, we need more darkness. Even if the remotest place you find is the midpoint between two light poles; the difference is stark in the sky. Look.
Darkness is not light’s enemy; they are companions. In darkness and light together, we find revelation, not in one over and against the other. We may toil in the day, but we rest at night. Together, labor and rest give us a rhythm for life. Sun may give food to plants, but darkness gives them time to become. The relationship of sun and moon (day and night) give us the measure for time. Dark is not bad. It does not need to be dispelled. I don’t think I even need to say this about people. Pretty much anything I write about people will be cliche. The world is a more whole place when we awaken to the wisdom, beauty, wonder, and power of all people. Dark is the seedbed of revelation. It its time for our language and thinking to claim this as true. What needs dispelling is dualistic thinking and the light pollution it creates. We will be more spiritually and physically whole, and so will the world and all that is in it.