At this time of year in the northern hemisphere we have the longest, often coldest nights, the turning point before moving toward the greater light, warmth and the new growth of spring. Traditional holidays, celebrated as Christmas, Chanukah, Winter Solstice and others, have helped people create their own light at this time of darkness. They can serve to reaffirm our commitment to, or faith in, living by the light of our highest good.
This seasonal darkness currently seems matched spiritually and culturally in the United States. It is normal to feel anger and despair when we see those expressing hate, greed and inhumanity ascend to the highest offices of power not only in the US but across the world. I have wondered how is it that humanity so often allows some of the most dysfunctional amongst us—the least spiritually, psychologically and morally developed—be in charge? By the time they are finally removed, the rest of us have to figure out how best to cope and heal from all the inevitably negative consequences of their actions.
The traditions of the past, while often distorted by commercialism and superficiality, still hold some timeless answers. Humans have survived through many periods of darkness, wars, persecutions, holocausts, pandemics, and natural disasters. To do so, we have learned to not only ‘light a candle in the dark,’ but more importantly to become the light in the dark.
By “being the light in the dark” I mean holding to the highest good when it is hardest. I remember an image likely from a movie, of bearded Hassidim singing and dancing as they went into the Nazi gas chambers. Could I knowingly go to my death singing praises of God as they did? Could I find and express joy in the most despairing times of life?
While I have often failed to do so, I do know this is possible. It helps to have others to remind me of the Light that is who each of us are at core. It helps to decide, to choose to be and act from this core. And it helps to practice this every day, to learn to see each set back, harsh criticism, or attack as an opportunity to deepen my faith in God, Good, Love and Life.
For me this struggle is what it means to live a spiritual life. Not the specific rituals, songs, ways of living, but the ongoing choice to be the light I seek, to be the love I seek. Choosing over and over again to be the hands and voice of God/ good/ light is what makes for a spiritual or even moral life.