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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