Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A month of gifts, day 22: The Gift of Light

For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favor is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. Psalms 30:5

If you live in the frozen north, like I do, then you’re probably not surprised that pretty much every religion and culture has a holiday associated with the long nights of the year. This month, I’ll stand at the window in the afternoon and watch the darkness closing in, too early. It’s no wonder we string lights over our doors, put electric candles in our windows, light bonfires in the yard or put another log in the fireplace. However beautiful the stars are, however sheltering the arms of night, we need the light.

One of the most astonishing things I saw when I visited Russia in 1987 was the Winter Palace of the tsars, in what was then Leningrad.  [Picture] There’s a room in the palace with towering columns covered in gold leaf, and the light in that hall is like nothing else I’ve ever seen.  One of the guys I was traveling with said, “Well, you can see why they had a revolution.” And while that’s true, there’s also the matter of the tsars having enough money and resources that they never had to be in the darkness, at least in the literal sense. But literal darkness isn’t really the problem, is it?

One of the tricks depression plays is to make you think there's nothing left but darkness. And just like a palace hall designed always to be full of artificial light, the cell of depression is equally false. If the night is inevitable, so too is the dawn.

Today was literally gloomy, and night fell earlier than I anticipated. This is it: the lowest point. From here, everything gets lighter. After a long night’s darkness, I’m ready for a new day.

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