The world shifted recently. What I felt was surely going to be a solid movement for progressives was really a victory for those of the right wing. Leonard Cohen passed, may he rest in peace. Marijuana became legal in California – which feels like a victory, but it’s very abstract for me. And out here we must remember our shopping bags since, thankfully, paper and plastic bags are no longer just a disposable bit of trash hidden in every shopping trip. Things have changed.
The blogs I follow went through a fever frenzy of consolation. The political blogs wrote on how progressives might move forward. Spirituality-oriented and mental health blogs presented practices to cope and heal. Even those writers who ruminate cross-genre became momentarily obsessed. Reams of advice on how to cope, to keep the old self intact, to resume the world just as it was before.
Except… don’t you remember that you wanted to change the world that was before?
Just before election day and this change of seasons, I received my order of Leonard Cohen’s lovely new album, You Want It Darker. I remember wanting it darker. I wanted the government to change course. Bernie Sanders would have unveiled a happy destruction. I wanted more success in business. There are many other changes I wanted.
If you wanted to be more successful in business, as I did, you wanted darkness. Business success means less time with family. Business success detracts from spiritual practice. Worldly success contains stress and striving. It looks like cramps in your side and breathless exertion. Prayer for worldly success is wanting it darker.
If you wanted the government to change course, as I did, you wanted winter. For the progressive movement to expand and the nation to mobilize for change, the status quo represented by Clinton has to be refused. The system worked against Sanders, and so a great back-swing is necessary before the forward strike that moves us deeper into progressive territory than we’ve ever been.
If you wanted spiritual beauty to be felt by many souls, as I did, you wanted both wounded people and spilt light. The election wounded the expectations and boundaries of self for many people – they became cracked. Leonard Cohen passed, and his spirituality and beauty spills forth as he is remembered. The light washes across and sinks into wounds. The practices of Buddhism are essential, but the Christian resurrection contains a profound truth about the dying of a kernel of wheat.
If you want any change whatsoever, whether it be for enlightenment or spirituality, whether it be for peace or love, you’re wanting it darker. All desire for change is a brother to that old, deep-seated craving to get destroyed by whiskey and howl at the moon. Worldliness of any order, light-working or empire, means the destruction of the old. If you knocked, do not weep at the pain of the door being opened.
There must be a night before a new day. There must be a winter for a new spring. All resurrection contains a death. The old bounds of identity must be destroyed for a new self to emerge.
There are uncountable new political activists. There is an immense increase in awareness of racial divide, the struggle of the working class, and environmentalism. The despicable hierarchy of elitism and government corruption is illuminated as never before.
I am not offering a silver lining or refuting loss. I am not trying to stir up hope, or saying you should gaze into the future while discarding our divine birthright of the current moment. Grieve if grief rises in you. Hope if hope upwells. Do not block the tumbling forms of life as they cascade through you, but remember they are only plants in your inner garden. You are the garden, the altar, the Witness. We are not wise enough to look past the wrapping on the Beloved’s gifts, and their unveiling must happen in the truthful moment rather than an abstracted mindscape overlaid on perception.
Let us not define ourselves as wanting it darker and then gnash our teeth against the night. The darkness is for star-gazing and altar candles, meditation and activism. It is a different form of grace than what some imagined, but grace nevertheless.