The only thing better than becoming a beacon of light in a dark world, is becoming a beacon of dark in the blinding light. This is because it’s easier to shine light than it is to make darkness shine.
Making darkness shine is what Nietzsche meant when he said, “The great epochs in our lives are at the points when we gain the courage to re-baptize our badness into the best in us.” It’s the epitome of transforming demons into diamonds and victims into victors.
If we can discover these “great epochs” in our lives, we can become a beacon of dark within the blinding light and make the passage clearer for others. Too much light can just as easily make the passage unclear. A beacon of light pierces the dark so that others can find their way home. A beacon of dark dims the light so that others are not blinded along their way toward adventure. Both are necessary, but becoming a beacon of dark in a world that’s becoming more and more blinded by the light, is the more challenging and essential undertaking.
Lost in the blinding light
“You are your own sun. Stop wasting time trying to orbit other stars.” ~ Anonymous
Traditionally a beacon of hope is seen as a lighthouse for “lost” souls. But, as J.R.R Tolkien said, “Not all those who wander are lost.” Contrastingly, not all those who are lost are in the dark. Just as often they are lost in the light. And perhaps even more so within the cultural climate of today. Far too many people are hiding in the blinding light of apathy and indifference, afraid of the darkness that lies within empathy and conscience.
Apathy is all too easy. It just requires us to meander grudgingly along with the status quo. Indifference is all too comfortable. It just necessitates a propensity toward intellectual laziness and spiritual ennui within a system of nine-to-five daily grinds and cog-bop-cog cultural clockwork.
But what happens when the status quo is fundamentally unhealthy and unsustainable? What do we do when inertia, turning a blind eye, and cold indifference are only exacerbating an already unhealthy status quo by inadvertently transforming the molehill of an unhealthy culture into the overwhelming mountain of an unsustainable world? What then?
Compassionate empathy within an unfeeling apathetic world requires a baptizing of our shadow, lest we demonize the shadows of others. This is a personal responsibility. The demonization of the shadow in others shrinks or expands in proportion to our ability to reconcile our own shadow. Our adaptability to our own shadow make us more adept at negotiating with the shadow in others. The more adept we become at negotiating with the shadow in others, the more compassionate empathy we will have.
Two of the most blinding spotlights on the stage of our apathy are Security and Comfort. They blind us precisely because they make things too easy and painless. But we need the sharpening stone of difficulty and pain in order to build a character sharp enough to cut (whether through the pitch dark or the blinding light).
So let’s not cling to security and comfort. Security provided by a so-called authority, is an illusion at best, and a prison at worst. Let’s be cautious with security and be courageous with our insecurity. Comfort can be more of an obstacle on our journey than even the obstacles themselves. Let’s cut the cords that are providing the current to the blinding spotlights of comfort and security. Like Farrah Gray said, “Comfort is the enemy of achievement.”
Using the darkness as a guide for spiritual ascent
“There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own souls. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” ~ C.G. Jung
Making the darkness conscious is no walk in the park. There is much spiritual trepidation and existential angst to resolve. It requires brutal honesty, first with ourselves and then with others. It requires full-frontal authenticity and a genuineness that will often throw others for a loop and maybe even cause them to shun us because of our ability to slap them with the truth as opposed to kissing them with lies.
But, like Katie Goodman said, “When you are truly genuine, there will invariably be people who do not accept you. And in that case, you must be your own badass self, without apology.”
Beacons of dark are able to surf the wave of that badass courage into their own greatness, as it rip-curls over the woe-is-me, excuse-ridden undertow of sentimentality and shame. Over the security of the shoreline. Over the safety of shallow waters. Over the comfort of the all-too-comfortable.
Being a beacon of dark in the blinding light is being an amoral agent in an immoral world that’s over-filled with overly-moral people clinging to the sidelines in fear. A beacon of dark is the antithesis of fear, piercing through fear just as much as it pierces through the blinding light.
But first comes the embracing of that fear. First comes pain. First comes discomfort. First comes the sting of admitting we’ve been bamboozled by the blinding light of an overreaching aggrandized human civilization. Like Alain De Botton said, “In the gap between who we wish one day to be and who we are at present, must come pain, anxiety, envy and humiliation. We suffer because we cannot spontaneously master the ingredients of fulfillment.”
Mastery has always been a struggle. It always will be. And the ingredients of fulfillment will be different for us all, which just adds to the struggle, because there is no certain course. There is no one right way. There is no set recipe for enlightenment. There is only the struggle of the path. But when we’re truly on the path, when we’re authentically engaged and genuinely present to personal growth, there is nothing more beautiful and fulfilling.
As Nietzsche pinpointed, “Fulfillment was to be reached not by avoiding pain, but by recognizing its role as a natural, inevitable step on the way to reaching anything good.” This is the epitome of being a beacon of dark: a reminder that pain (darkness) is just as important and constructive as love (light) in getting us through the vicissitudes of life.
A beacon of dark is an unsinkable black gem floating upon white quicksand. It’s a sacred loneliness in a too-busy world that has forgotten the importance of solitude. It’s a wild man, or a wild woman, howling furiously in a city full of sheeple. It’s a quiet wakeup call in a loud room of people who are pretending to be asleep.
It’s the divine instability in an unsustainable system. It’s trickster sincerity mocking the seriousness of so-called good and evil. It’s an artist on a high hill overlooking a world of pale canvas-white, declaring, “Let there be dark!” Indeed. As Anaïs Nin articulated, “Great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them.”
And that’s what it’s all about: balance. That’s what being a beacon of light is about and that’s what being a beacon of dark is about: balance. Fundamental extremism has always been the enemy. Moderation has always been our saving grace.
Whether it’s a pitch dark or a blinding light, either way it’s extreme and it prevents us from seeing clearly. Being a beacon of dark in the blinding light is just as important as being a beacon of light in the pitch dark. And those of us who can manage to be both intermittently, are all the more helpful to those stumbling along the path toward fulfillment or enlightenment or whatever.
As Andrew Harvey wrote in Sacred Activism, “All divine visions are hard to embody. They require hard work. You have to keep looking at your own shadow — and sacred activists have two shadows: they have the shadow of the mystic, longing to escape into the light and leave the world behind; and they have the shadow of the activist, which is full of denunciation and divisiveness and anger. But if you examine those two shadows long enough, something amazing happens: the mystic’s shadow gets purified by the activist’s, and vice versa.”