Endless reactions to the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States of America have flooded the internet since 8 November 2016.
Few of the reflections on the US election offer as much deep wisdom as Vera De Chalambert’s response posted a week after Trump’s victory.
While I may not arrive at entirely the same conclusion as De Chalambert, her initial diagnosis and prescription are profound and vital. Her comments can be read in their entirety here: http://www.rebellesociety.com/2016/11/18/veradechalambert-kali/
But, in this week of Winter Solstice and the darkest day in 500 years (http://io9.gizmodo.com/5715413/tonight-will-be-the-darkest-night-of-the-past-500-years), we need to sit with De Chalambert’s challenge to embrace the darkness.
De Chalambert suggests that the darkness that is an inevitable part of life has an important role in breaking open our hearts. She writes,
As our heart breaks, as our veneer cracks, we open to more integrity, more truth, more tenderness. We stop trying to be all things for all people. We become this one small thing, feigning nothing.
She goes on to warn against the temptation to rush too quickly to a superficial hope:
Paradoxically, the price of true hope, it seems, is being unsettled beyond repair. And this is exactly the opportunity our political moment is presenting to us all. Right now, from all corners of our shocked culture, there are cries of hope, demands of needing to become even brighter lights amidst the spreading darkness. I disagree.
Instead of shining light too easily in the darkness she argues,
I think that this moment gives us an opportunity for reckoning only if instead of running for the light, we let ourselves go fully into the dark. If instead of resolving our discomfort too quickly, we consider the possibility of staying in the uncomfortable, in the irreconcilable, in the unsettled.
We need to let the darkness do its work:
Before we rush in to reanimate the discourse of hope prematurely, we must yield to what is present. Receptivity is the great quality of darkness; darkness hosts everything without exception. The Dark Mother has no orphans. We must not send suffering into exile — the fear, the heartbreak, the anger, the helplessness all are appropriate, all are welcome. We can’t dismember ourselves to feel better.
We can’t cut of the stream of life and expect to heal.
Cutting off the inconvenient is a form of spiritual fascism. By resolving to stay only in the light in times of immense crisis, we split life; engage in emotional deportation, rather than hosting the vulnerable. Difficult feelings need to be given space so they can come to rest. They need contact.
The real hope lies in the possibility that, as a culture,
We are collectively getting so sick and tired of lies, of the superficial, of the shiny neon lights of pop culture, pop spirituality and politics as usual. We thirst for the Real.
Having pointed to this glimmer of hope, De Chalambert goes on, in a beautiful tribute to Leonard Cohen’s spiritual heritage as a prophet of the healing power of darkness:
We saw darkness reclaiming its place also in the passing of Leonard Cohen, this most belated of biblical prophets. He left us with his last and perhaps most spiritually astute album, “You want it Darker,” which has skyrocketed in popularity. The entire album is the ultimate invitation into Holy Darkness. Once he famously preached that the cracks are how the light gets in. Now, he assured us God wants it darker.
Many have interpreted it to be an expression of hopelessness. No. He is asking the only relevant question of our time, whether we can swallow the pill of darkness and still say Hineni! I am here, God, here I am, bring it on! In his last interview about the album, Cohen says that this track is about offering ourselves up when the “emergency becomes articulate.” I think we can all agree that it has finally become articulate.
The mystics tell us that we need spiritual crisis. That we must enter the Cloud of Unknowing, the deepest despair, the most profound darkness within, without hope, in order to grow spiritually. They call such a time of deep crisis, of great uncertainty, the Dark Night of the Soul. There, in our radical desperation, in our absolute abandonment, it is said, the Divine Doctor awaits. Holy Darkness was Her medicine all along.
Darkness heals us without a spoonful of sugar; the wound is the gift.
Whatever one feels about Cohen’s music, everyone in the world should at least once hear him say:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
And then of course there is Cohen’s final testament to faith in the midst of darkness: