Carl Jung wrote, “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light but by making the darkness conscious.”
I have been contemplating this quote as the daylight hours decrease and night stretches longer, as we move closer to Dec. 21, the shortest day of the year and the day we mark winter solstice. Winter is the season of darkness, but I’m not sure most of us even realize it since there are few places the majority of us go where there isn’t electricity, where there is no light.
We have become accustomed to lighting dark places and keeping shadows at a minimum. It seems that most of us don’t like to stay in the dark. It is, after all, scary to be without light. It is one of our most primal fears.
And yet, darkness doesn’t always have to be frightening or avoided. There are some things we can enjoy when there is no light. For instance, you don’t move as quickly in the darkness.
Slowing down is necessary to lessen the chances of stumbling or running into things. Choosing not to hurry is actually a good thing from time to time. Most of us move so quickly through life we miss everything except for what is right in front of us, and sometimes even then we don’t really see it.
We rely more on each other in the dark, quick to hold hands or listen to those ahead of us, who warn of what lies around the corner. We’re more willing to stay together and not try it out on our own. We tend to be more present to the moment in the dark, measuring the sounds we hear, paying more attention to what we cannot see. And then, once we finally see the light, there is a satisfaction and delight that you cannot fully appreciate unless you’ve actually been in the dark.
Perhaps it would do us all some good to sit with the darkness just a little while before rushing to turn on a light. Perhaps we could learn something more about ourselves if we waited just a bit before falling over everything in our path, trying to dispel the darkness. Perhaps we’d find we like a little darkness. Maybe we’d discover courage, peace, even an appreciation.
Having electricity, easy access to light, is a good thing, and we are fortunate to live with such privilege. But maybe this winter we should pause just a second or two and be in the dark. Maybe we should just slow our breathing, quiet our pounding hearts, and be still. We might just find that the darkness really isn’t all that scary.
We might find that there is something comforting and reassuring in the dark. Besides, if we do get scared, if the darkness feels too overwhelming, we can always remember: It is only a second and we will see the light.