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The Dark Night

Humility like darkness reveals the heavenly lights


What kept me alive and sane during those past few months was the sole belief that I was being formed.

To form something is to take the matter into one's hands and play with it as one plays with clay. The clay is de-formed as one crushes it and kneads it; the old form gives way to an indistinguishable shape: what was once you and you alone reverts back to a mass of matter without characteristics, that is, without character. It is a painful process -- to lose the old form and to go through the kneading.

At times, it felt like the hand was too heavy, the pressure too immense; at other times it felt like the clay--unfinished--was left out to dry without shape.

The clay cannot see what it is to become, it can only feel its way through it, it can only trust the hand that molds it. It can never do anything on its own for it cannot give shape to itself. It can only receive from the other the weight of its hands so that it may change it, the care of its fingers so that it may once again take shape.

The clay's other: the playful hand that crushes it.

* * *

Louise Gluck says:

My own experience of acute suffering, whether in the life or in the work, is that during such periods I do pretty much nothing but try to stay alive, the premise being that if I stay alive I will at least be present in case something changes.

* * *

Much has been said about the dark night of the soul. Each thinker is supposed to have gone through that spiritual and mental desolation that changes a life.

The difficulty is, no one tells us what happens as it happens during those dark nights. To be sure, one only hears the crystallization of such experiences of loss, melancholia, despair and insanity after the fact. But during the night, one simply goes through it as one goes through a sleepless night, as one goes through a rising tide.

One cannot say anything in the night; there is no one to talk to, there is no one to listen to you. You watch it transpire right before your very eyes as one just freezes in seeing a ghost.

This is the silence of the night. No word can be uttered not because words fail you but because words do not
anymore matter. The silent man knows this.

Those who blabber all day about how wretched their lives are or how difficult this present crisis is do not dwell in the dark. They still distance themselves, save themselves, and think the night as if it were some crushing fate given to them from the outside. The silent man befriends the night and there he stays. He stays to see what can be seen or what may show itself in that luminous darkness. He watches; dead silent.

It was as if he would never go out to the light anymore. It was as if he made a pact with the devil.

* * *

The rain came that week and it didn't want to leave. The constant pouring from the skies mirrored my unending thoughts that would race and further pick up its pace until it could no longer stay on the track. The dark gloom made the days like nights, too; I could no longer see the difference.

The mind like the rain did not want to rest. It had so much to see because so much was being shown to it. I understood--finally. I solved all the riddles; why didn't I see it all before? I went through all the ways and byways without leaving my place.

Nothing could be more thrilling than to see one's life as a whole: why the past happened, where you are at that moment, and where the road that you took shall lead you.

This is why no one weeps in the dark night before such a magnificent showing.

But the skies betray you and they weep for you.
You have been let in on the secret. A secret that may be too much for you.

* * *

John of the Cross says:
It remains to be said, then, that even though this happy night darkens the spirit, it does so only to impart light concerning all things. And even though it humbles persons and reveals their miseries, it does so only to exalt them. And even though it impoverishes and empties them of all possessions and natural affection, it does so only that they may reach out divinely to the employment of all earthly and heavenly things, with a general freedom of spirit in them all.
* * *

He who loses everything in the dark night gains everything in the new light to come.

* * *

One does not find hope in the darkness.

For that precisely is the dark: the absence of all hope, the absence of all light. What one finds instead is faith -- a faith that still is able to see in the dark.

However, one does not see anymore through one's own light -- the light of reason. No, on the contrary, one is finally able to see because the all-too precious light had been extinguished.

Enter a new light.

Faith remains even if it does not see anymore, even if it fails to hope at all. Nothing is more humbling than to accept that my light is of no use in that kind of darkness. And it is this humility and that surrender that lets you find your way, as if for the first time, around and about in a new terrain, in a new landscape.

Hope is of the intellect; it has no use in the abyss. Faith, oh, faith -- it is from a different order. It reveals itself when everything else has concealed behind the shadows.

One just finds it. It is there, it is there indeed. As if it was given.

* * *

What kept me alive and sane during those past few months was the sole belief that I was being formed.

To make a sword, the strongest metal is thrown into the flames so that it may be purged and made malleable. In the furnace, the sword acquires the properties of fire when it reaches the same temperature of the fire. It becomes red hot, it becomes the fire itself. It is then that it can be hammered and solidified again. It is then that it is sharpened. But before it becomes the sword that it is, it is actually fire.

The sword and fire: the Same.

* * *

My prayer: Forge me, shape me so that I will one day become Your sword.


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