I hear so much lip service being given to ‘bringing God back into the holidays.’ I will refrain from listing the phrases used, as I have a gag reflex that kicks in upon hearing them. I want to honor that this might also be so for some of you.
I don’t feel as though I’m opposed to celebration…It’s just that, as one of my original heroes Arlo Guthrie says: “You can’t have a light without a dark to stick it in.” So in an attempt to find out what happened to our ‘dark to stick it in’, I started looking at the human the approaching holiday supposedly celebrates.
Turns out this Jesus guy, when speaking about the divine, used the word ‘Alaha.’ It also turns out, that the word ‘Alaha’ has got the ‘dark to stick it in’ built in…it’s right there. Neil Douglas-Klotz writes about this in The Sufi Book of Life:
The feelings of yes and no connect to the most ancient names of the divine in the Middle East. The names use the root word AL (or EL), meaning the sacred Something, the ultimate Yes, coupled with the root LA (or LO), meaning the sacred Nothing, the ultimate No.
Yes and no, existence and nonexistence, are built into the cells of our bodies. So if we dive deeply enough into the heart, we will find the place where the two need not split us in two.
To those of us whom have befriended the ‘no’ of existence, this time of year seems especially lonely. The expectation of joy and small-talk is difficult to be present for. The cold air seems to beg to be released in the same deep quiet it was drawn…why else would we be able to see it so clearly as it rises in clouds of mist?
To make matters worse, our culture has turned this season into a celebration of materialism. This is our god. In this season that asks us for stillness we bring the noise of excess. How did this come about?
Many of our ancestors that lived in the northern hemisphere would have been having a last ‘feast’ before the deep winter… the deep winter that many would not make it through. They might spend their days slaughtering animals that would not have food in the coming months. Where did that awareness go? How quiet do we need to be to remember that feeling in our bones? Is there even a space in our culture to be that quiet?
My partner and I have a tradition for winter solstice. We shut the electricity off to wherever we happen to be at the main panel and sit in the quiet. Then we read a piece written by a human we have had the honor of sitting with in this life. This is a human who is fierce about defending the aforementioned rarest-of-things: the space for remembering and wonder. Here is his sculpture of words that honors the darkness. https://orphanwisdom.com/full-dark/
Hold fiercely the space for darkness
Hold fiercely the space for listening
Hold fiercely the space for wonder