Something happens late at night. Everyone has gone to bed…but you. You’re still up. You feel the quiet around you. Feel the absence of others. Feel alone.
I only have myself as a basis for judgment, but I suspect that this experience of being human in the dark is a universal one.
It is powerful.
It is terrifying.
If you’re sad already, the weight of the darkness can be crushing. Smothering. It’s hard to breathe. Hard to believe it will ever end. You are buried leagues under grief or anger or confusion and you don’t know how you’ll emerge.
If you’re content, balanced, at peace when you reach this state of darkness and quiet, it can be profoundly beautiful. You feel in the quiet as if everything is there. All of your thoughts are louder. They echo across this vast cavern of possibility. In the quiet you feel the universe and your small part in it.
Jesuit spirituality describes this spectrum of human experience as “Desolation” and “Consolation.”
Desolation is the valley. The path is unclear. The meaning of life seems illusive, non-existent, even. We can’t understand why things are happening to us. What we ought to do. We can cause a lot of damage to ourselves and others in this state…because all we want to do is escape the dark.
We may run. If we do, we will surely fall. This is sometimes called “the dark night of the soul.”
Consolation is the mountaintop. From this vista we can see our lives and the lives of others laid out in front of us. The harmony of the cosmos seems evident in every leaf. In every person. We see how it’s all connected. We can walk for days. We can offer guidance and comfort to others.
We are all moving through life in various states of confusion or clarity.
For those who are in a state of darkness right now, don’t run from it. The darkness can’t hurt you. Put one foot in front of the other. Take a rest. Put one foot in front of the other. Take a rest.
For those who can see the light, reassure those around you that it’s coming. Tell them what you see. Tell them not to be afraid. Wait for them to emerge.
Melancholy is an emotion that allows us to sit with the beauty of our grief. With the poignancy of struggle. Don’t run from it. Watch it as it rises. Watch it is it sets.