Hello, Darkness, my old friend…
Paul Simon began writing his iconic classic hit, The Sounds of Silence, the same year I was born, which is prophetically fitting. The opening lyric foreshadowed a theme I would experience throughout my life; indeed, a theme we all experience in various ways throughout our lives: Darkness, as a familiar presence and occasional accomplice. After all, how can we appreciate what’s good, if we never have to face what’s bad? Darkness is as necessary to the human experience as the air we breathe. I’ve been blessed with much good in my life, but it’s the not-so-good things that have taught me the most. With every rendezvous I’ve had with my “old friend,” I’ve walked away stronger, wiser, and more humbled. It’s funny how something as cruel as Darkness can bestow such honorable traits on us. But he’s dependable; I’ll give him that. I know he will always be waiting to assist—frothing at the mouth—in the painful, heartless, fearsome way that only Darkness can, when it’s time for me to understand and experience the next life lesson on my journey. Like a ruthless trainer, he will push me—spent and breathless—to my limits, as he has so many times in the past. But in the end, it’s for my own good. Because of Darkness, I am strong.
We are all stronger, because of Darkness. It’s the most jarring moments in our lives—those dreaded events that throw us the curveballs and scare and scar us more than any other—that also provide the greatest opportunities for growth: for gaining more spiritual wisdom, clarity, empathy, strength, forgiveness, compassion and acceptance, or whatever else our soul might hunger for; and for attaining the closer connection to the Other Side that we naturally crave. At least I do. How many times, when the going gets tough, have I thrown my head back, instinctively looking skyward, asking why, as if the answer and the solution is out there in the ethers—in Heaven, the Universe, the Other Side? We all do it. But they won’t give up the answers that readily.
I look toward the heavens again, and I shake my head in resignation, because I know that, no matter how much I plead, beg and pray, they can’t interfere in a soul’s learning. They can’t interfere with free will. It’s the universal law, says every metaphysical book ever written. It’s like Star Trek’s prime directive. Instead, those “out there” watching over us—God, the Great Spirit, the angels, the guides, the masters, our deceased loved ones, etc.—will bear witness to our struggles, and they’ll send us “love and light” and positive energy and perhaps whisper a few words of wisdom in our ears. But then they’ll simply watch on that big screen in the sky as we step into the darkness (and out) once more.
I imagine them sitting on the edge of their tufted white and gold wingback chairs, passing the buttered popcorn and angel-soft tissue, as they watch us work through particularly soul-sapping lessons. As we step triumphantly out of the dark and into the light again and again, ad infinitum, they’ll leap from their seats and applaud like proud parents, high fiving in raucous celebration. I appreciate that we are never ‘alone,’ per se. I do. I appreciate the hands-off support from afar. But let’s not kid ourselves. We are on our own down here in tangible, sometimes-painful ways that only those in finite physical form can truly appreciate. And we must seek the answers to the most difficult questions ourselves, in order to further our souls’ growth. That’s an important part of our earthly task, I believe—to remember what we came here to learn or to accomplish and to recognize that the things we experience along the way may be opportunities toward that end.
In the past few years, I’ve grown stronger. Much stronger. Sometimes this inner strength almost scares me. I find myself choosing to reflect on what can be learned in certain situations and how I will react to obstacles, rather than playing the role of the perpetual victim of painful circumstances. I’m more inclined now to simply “let it be,” as they say; let certain events, as disagreeable as they may seem at the time, play out as they will and try to understand the bigger picture and the grander scheme at hand. Everything that happens is part of a master plan for each of us. I’m certain of that. Yet, I’m also certain that I’m not the architect of anyone’s master plan but my own, and it’s not my place to interfere as if I were. The last thing I want is to interfere with another’s opportunity to grow and throw them off track, especially if they were on the brink of a breakthrough and about to learn a lesson their soul needed to experience.
I have learned from my own difficulties that when bad things happen, there are almost always opportunities for someone (whether ourselves or those around us) to grow, to conquer, and to shine—to bring out the best in ourselves at the worst of all possible times. It’s during those times that we are challenged to find the positives within the negatives—the silver lining in the clouds of life, as it were. And it’s during such times that we are challenged to face Darkness square on, recognizing it not as some kind of punishment or just our “usual bad luck,” but rather as a sometimes-necessary partner in crime which offers an opportunity for growth or an impetus for action. As they say, He works in mysterious ways… Later, when we are ready to reflect on the reasons and ramifications of our individual ordeals, we may find that these tribulations served a purpose, after all. We just couldn’t see it at the time.