Monday, September 5, 2011

Afraid of the Dark?

I wonder how many of us have had this sense of fearfulness when we find ourselves in dark rooms because of a power outage, have our car break down on an unlit road, or simply wake up at night and look into the unknown. I would guess most of us at least at some time have experienced this sense that when we cannot see what is around us, we feel insecure.

Humans like to see what is around them so they can orient themselves. We want explanations so we can label and explain things - so we can anticipate what to expect.

When I take my morning walk and look around me, I delight in all the beauty around me; flowers, trees, birds chirping, above me expansive never-ending blue sky. And then I think that really, the expansive blue sky is just a limited view, since our atmosphere allows only certain wavelengths of light to come through . In daylight we see only what is in essence an illusion above us.

At night we have the illusion pulled away - no longer seeing the projection of our atmosphere above us. On a cloudless night we can see - truly see into All That Is! The Universe opens up for us and displays itself in all its glory. In the darkness we really get a much better and more comprehensive view of what is all around us!

This kind of paradox boggles the mind. In the dark we actually see clearer than we do in the limited reality of daylight.

Scientists are finding that what is visible to us, around us and in all of the Universe - all we have ever measured with the finest of our human technology is only a small fraction of what "is". About 5%. So 95% of what "is" cannot be seen or directly measured. It is so-called Dark Matter and Dark Energy. And this "darkness" is not "nothing". It has distinct properties that can be observed. Dark Energy affects the expansion of the Universe- yet most of what we know about this dark reality all around us is and remains a mystery.
"Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing." (E. A. Poe, The Raven)

This is what we do. We fear that which we cannot see, cannot measure, cannot fathom. This is embedded in human consciousness. From when we were cave dwellers to our now "advanced" state of understanding: We fear that which we do not understand. That which eludes our comprehension. That which we cannot see or measure quantifiably.

What would happen if we started accepting this state of "unknowing"? What would happen to us if we did not attempt to label, seek to control and always want to "understand" everything? What would living in the "Mystery" look and feel like? How could "I don't know" sometimes be a much more informed answer than the absolute certainty we tend to express and certainly see expressed by both politicians and other preachers?
What would be our Truth? How comfortable would we be "fumbling in the dark?"

There is a great deal of mystery around us. NASA is even starting to sound like the Religious Mystics of all time. Indeed it seems that the more science discovers the more the mystery continues.

What happens when we stop seeing our lives on the basis of the human projection and restriction of the "limitless blue sky". Might there be much beauty and meaning missed when we fear the unknown - when we cower in fear, hiding from the unknown expressed in the darkness?

To accept that which we do not understand and that we do not know the intricacies and the true magnitude all around us, might just be the first step. As Alistair Sim as Scrooge elaborates a bit on the original Dickens text in a Christmas Carol: "I don't know anything, I never did know anything, but now I know that I don't know." Might Scrooge's transformation from control freak to living fully in the infinite possibilities just set such an example for us all? Scrooge Wakes on Christmas Morning (go to minute 2:30)

To not fear the unknown in us and around us might be an important start. To dance with the possibilities. To allow the mystery to be a part of our awareness. This is not an invitation to leave our senses, values, morals and our critical thinking skills behind. Quite on the contrary: What if the paradoxical is the new reality? What if the greatest enlightenment truly is to be found in the unknown? What if life begins to unfold most meaningfully when we allow the mystery to inform our everyday reality? When we allow our faculty of understanding and comprehension to go as far as it will go, and then allow the mystery of the "unknowing" to take us into a place of curiosity, rather than to that place fear of that which we do not understand.

Maybe when we stop labeling that which we do not understand as "dangerous" or "bad" - we might discover that just as the blue sky is a limited projection - the darkness of space is simply an expression of the unknown. The mystery continues - and if we stop fearing it - maybe we will find that we can learn from it, be part of it, and ultimately like Scrooge be transformed by it.