Wendell Berry: "To Know the Dark"
To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings
As a teenager I used to like exploring caves in Kentucky. Along the course of the Kentucky River there were countless limestone caves nestled in the hills. In our quest my friends and I would consult old maps and examine the countryside f
or tell tale sinkholes signifying the presence of a nearby cavern. Our dream? To find a cave that had never been explored.
This week's koan points to a cavernous expanse, a depth to be fathomed, a darkness to explore.
Don’t light a lamp—there’s no oil in the house.
It’s a shame to want a light.
I have a way to bless poverty:
Just feel your way along the wall.
This cavern, the dark house, is, of course, your life. The temptation as we embark on the interior journey is to bring a light to dispel the darkness. We can bring our understanding, the ways in which we divide the world, and categorize our experience, as we give way to the illusion that with bright understanding we gain control. But, not so fast! Unfortunately, the lively dark, the night creatures, owls and beetles, cats and mice, scurry away in the light. We miss half of life, limiting our experience to the brightness. Better, poet Wendell Berry says, is to "go dark," as he invites us to move with the dark, uncertain and unknown in life. The koan laments simply, "It's a shame to want a light." There is so much life in the dark! So much to discover -- in the dark.
I had a game I used to play with my friends as we scampered in and out of the dark earth. We would go a fair distance into a cave and then dare one another to get out without flashlights to illumine the way. Without the light we could only feel our way along the cave wall.
And that is how it goes with us as we explore our interior lives. As we dare to dive into the unknown and uncertain, the creatures of the night will surprise us, voices will call us. As we feel our way along the wall, we will find places that we would rather not go, memories that we would rather not have. We will meet ourselves on this dark path and as we journey into the dark we will find that in the depths there is something like a dark illumination. Or as Wendell Berry writes, we will "find that the dark, too, blooms and sings." Our journey "into the dark" is a journey of deepening, a journey of discovery.
I look forward to seeing everyone at meditation on Wednesday Evening. We begin meditating at 6:30 pm. Beginners are welcome!!