My Dark Reflection: Guest Post by Judith Dancy

Judith Dancy from Facebook:
It may have happened while Emma was sleeping so soundly last night, for surely she would have sounded the alarm as the Abyss, with its tank loaded with the fuel of Despair crept through the crack under the front door… the one I keep meaning to put another rubber strip on to keep out the cold wind. I’ve been meaning to do that for years, and now I wish it were only cold wind that crept through.

It’s not that it’s a gray and rainy day. It’s not the death of another precious friend. It’s not the pain that seems unwilling to leave. It’s a sensation I don’t remember ever experiencing ,even in the midst of long periods of deep depression.

I want to apologize, I think, for not recognizing the death of hope. Here I’ve been reassuring you that this is just a birthing process and that something beautiful will be born…not soon enough for some of us, but good will come of what seems like no-good. I’m pretty sure that is not true.

Despair may be the only sensible response to the new reality issued in by the election. I’m not afraid, certainly not for myself, but after more than a month of fooling myself and maybe you, I’ve joined the other side.

No. I am a little bit afraid, and I need you to hold me in the Light. I’m am not afraid of the new reality, but of my hopelessness. I can blame it a little bit on having turned TV and radio back on recently and hearing how deranged it seems our president-elect is, how absolutely untenably the NC legislature ended their term, how much hatred is affecting too many people’s lives.

Yet I know that while ignorance is bliss, it it not a responsible way to negotiate our common responsibility to the world and its inhabitants, human and otherwise. How can I know what’s happening and still keep even a tiny ray of hope?

I see the posts of people being loving and helpful and kind and I wonder how that can triumph over what is turning the Light into darkness. Can the Light overcome it? I’ve always believed and preached and lived as if it could. I don’t know any more… or worse, I fear I do know.

One of four important moments in 2016 was my learning about Henri Nouwen’s book, The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom. I have read his little essays from his own depth of the abyss, and have found so much hope from his writing. But he’s dead. He is not here to experience what we are facing, and I wonder what comfort he could offer me now. What avenue into hope.

No need to comment, but if you are of a mind to do so, maybe you can hold me in the Light in any way that is meaningful to you. I am not stuck in my pj’s lying in bed with the lights out, by the way, so don’t worry, I’m just moving into a reality that is darker than any I’ve ever known.

Unfamiliar territory used to feel like an adventure. The Abyss is more like a nightmare. I’m sorry I didn’t understand what some of you were going through.

A response to Judith Dancy by Chuck Fager- FB 01/02/2016:
Judith, I just finished re-reading Dark Night Journey,  by Sandra Cronk, which has been my Go-To text in times of darkness.
Previously these times were pretty much personal events, my own losses & setbacks, etc., and it was very useful then: straightforward, no cheery chucking me under the chin to buck up, no Darkest-Before-the-Dawn bromides.

But this time I came at it from a different angle–reeling from The Earthquake, having seen it crumble not only a candidacy but also all the structures of worldly & conventional wisdom, which had been assuring me no such event was remotely possible. And amid the wreckage, I too have been staring into what you aptly term the abyss — this time a collective one rather than simply an individual fate.

Did Cronk, whose book appeared in 1991, have something to offer for this situation? If not a “remedy,” then possibly something at least to hang on to, until things stop spinning? (They will stop, won’t they? Won’t they?)

Well, Cronk doesn’t say they will. And a prospect such as we currently face was only dimly visible on her horizon–nuclear war, which was after all a pretty respectable threat back in the day, but was seemingly receding as she finished the book. (Remember Gorbachev & glasnost? Heady, giddy days, those.)

Still, I was able to set aside passing judgment on her inability to see what was coming a quarter-century ahead, especially when virtually no one whose vision counted for me two months ago (including, mea culpa, myself) saw what was right in front of our noses. And in that momentary twitch of humility, I found some real value in her counsel.

The main points, I think, and I’ll skip quotes here, were two: first, to name things clearly, even if they are now no more (or no less) than Fear & Panic; and secondly, to stay in the darkness while it lasts, refusing to accept illusions as light & the flight into a private, shuttered false dawn.

She also cautioned that this discipline of acceptance does not exclude or excuse us from the work of lighting candles, grasping available respite, and struggling resolutely against injustice, even as all this may not not visibly alter the underlying reality, until and unless powers beyond our own horizon move to a dawn we quite possibly shall not be around to see.

All of which, as you likely suspect, can often be cold comfort. Nor does the book end with the five-item Action Agenda that in my experience virtually all liberal American audiences demand as the prescribed peroration for our preachers.

Nevertheless, cold comfort for me is better than no comfort at all. And with Cronk’s aid I now have reclaimed a small modicum of something almost like confidence (not to be confused with hope; that’s for another post) that with further dogged discernment, ways will open for actions that are at least constructive, and fitting for me as part of a people who at least once were moved by a vision of an ocean of light that may have been blocked and covered by its nemesis, but was not thereby permanently lost in a spinning vortex of darkness.

About herself, Judith writes:

I write to know what I think, and sometimes to understand what others think. As a novice painter I love rich color, and have no interest in a color wheel to tell me what goes best together. I am that way with words as well, and find that an unexpected and satisfying word or phrase will often draw a piece together.

Retired from public ministry for 7 years, retired from teaching a lot longer than that. Share my home with Emma, a terrier, and anticipate visits from my grandsons who live too far away to satisfy me.

The two poem paintings above were by Kenneth Patchen.

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6 thoughts on “My Dark Reflection: Guest Post by Judith Dancy”

  1. I used to be wrapped up in politics in order to bring ‘Love and Light’ into the world. Years before this past Presidential election, that changed for me. And now I find that change is a protection that has left my inner self at great peace, even though the world might be swirling around me.

    Of course I still vote each election. But my head is in a different place, somehow. Have I been influenced by the subtle change that has crept into the life of my Quaker meeting over the last few years? Perhaps. Little did I know how comforting that change would be for me as current events have unfolded.

    The change for the meeting and ultimately me was one of perception and attitude. It began with a communal search for more spiritual deepness. It was grounded in a return to the very message of Christ himself; the original Quaker message: SIMPLY BE ‘LOVE AND LIGHT’. This is the constant I want for myself, because it does not matter what the world does around me if I am in that holy place.

    The great mystics such as Jesus, Buddha, Lao-tzu, and many others knew this, and shared it with us as best they could.

    The ‘Kingdom of God’ won’t come through political action. It will only come with the evolution of the human heart – one heart at a time, over time that seems like an eternity. Political actions and political prowess will come and go like the wind, because it is based on the present condition of the human heart, which is full of ego, fear, and the resulting fickleness.

    As Friends, we must be grounded in the eternal if we are to be at peace.

    1. Howard, your simple message, ‘be light and love’ is not new to me, but reading it in the light (darkness?) of my fear let it in in a new way. I remember being told by another Earlham School of Religion student when I was in a hard place, “Do what you can, not what you can’t.”
      I can be light, at least on occasion, and I can be love, some of the time. I can let go of my expectations of the government as I”m trying to let go of expectations of my sons.

      Thank you so much for your counsel.

      Judith

  2. Beautiful post. I think that the two of you are my favorite writers. Well, maybe a close second to Mark Twain, but who could compare to him? Anyway, I enjoyed the comments and the graphics that decorated your thoughts so cleanly. Thank you both.

    1. Ken, I have long known you to be a gentleman of exquisite taste & literary discernment. But who is this “Mark” person you mentioned? Should I have heard of him?

  3. Those irrational voices raised up crying out “fake news” to any liberal media, “sore losers” to those who would decry the loss of healthcare, are nevertheless voices raised up. Those same voices were silenced by the the absence of those would would listen and then, if they understood what was articulated in a manner different that the listener’s own, would then take action.

    This is our chance to connect with those raised up voices. Yes, these voices seem to be devoid of rationality, missing the heart-connection with those different from themselves. And, like Frost in “My November Guest” we have an opportunity to connect with them now that they are raised up, in the open.

    It’s a daunting challenge. But so long as we pretended that what we experience as the forces of civilization were in charge, we had little opportunity to connect with those voices. They, the voices newly raised up, shared our illusion, and assumed they had no chance of being heard. The illusion is gone. We’re back to where we were but were unaware.

    It’s a painful stripping-away of illusion, and I, like others, experience that pain. We are now forced to start from what is and build from there. That seems to me where we should be.

  4. Dear Judith and Chuck, I am glad you are more articulate than I am able to be lately. Good clear writing always gives me hope (better than Twain’s, in my opinion) Thank you. — Christine

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