Today is July 17 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you remind yourself hope begins in the dark?” While you are leveraging your mind, body, and spirit to navigate the chaos of life and translate one dream after another into reality, it is inevitable your path will turn dark. When the path gets so dark it is important to ask yourself today’s question and reflect upon how often you remind yourself that hope begins in the dark.
The death of a parent. The compound loss of two people you love in a brief period of time. Being laid off from a job through no fault of your own. The loss of a friendship. The inability to help someone who then commits suicide. The helplessness associated with watching a loved one die of an incurable disease. The frustration over a car accident. The inability to make sense out of the sudden death of a friend. The darkness we feel when a serious illness impacts our own health. Darkness comes in many forms. And darkness happens to everyone at some point. There is no escaping it.
Sometimes we can see the darkness out in the distance. The clouds on the horizon serve as a warning sign to seek shelter. Other times the darkness creeps up on us when we least expect it. The darkness blinds us, paralyzes us, and holds us prisoner. The darkness, if you let it, will consume you. Those who have navigated the chaos understand the darkness. They do not welcome it, they do not invite it in, but they also do not dwell there. They accept the darkness as a temporary condition and understand that hope begins there. Emily Elizabeth Dickinson’s poem “We grow accustomed to the Dark” was written in the early 1860s and serves as an excellent point of reflection for today’s question. The entirety of the poem is:
We grow accustomed to the Dark -
When light is put away -
As when the Neighbor holds the Lamp
To witness her Goodbye -
A Moment - We uncertain step
For newness of the night -
Then - fit our Vision to the Dark -
And meet the Road - erect -
And so of larger - Darknesses -
Those Evenings of the Brain -
When not a Moon disclose a sign -
Or Star - come out - within -
The Bravest - grope a little -
And sometimes hit a Tree
Directly in the Forehead -
But as they learn to see -
Either the Darkness alters -
Or something in the sight
Adjusts itself to Midnight -
And Life steps almost straight.
The poem comprises of five short stanzas, throughout which the Dickinson walks through the dark and assures the reader that their eyes will eventually adjust to the darkness. Initially, it feels like stumbling outside into the night after being indoors; it can surely be scary and can take a while to be able to move around confidently without falling. But eventually, our eyes get used to the darkness and then walking around is no more an issue.
Dickinson, however, goes on to say, some darker nights, especially those of the mind, require a little more than time. She explains herself by saying that the bravest goes forth in the darkness, sometimes walking into an obstacle like a tree. But despite the obstacles and circumstances, those who venture out into the darkest of nights, will eventually be able to make it to the road to find their way.
Although she was from a prominent family with strong ties to its community, Dickinson lived much of her life in reclusive isolation. Her poems were unique for her era, and much ahead of her time; they contained short lines, typically lacked titles, and often use slant rhyme as well as unconventional capitalization and punctuation. Many of her poems deal with themes of death and immortality. After her death in 1886, her younger sister Lavinia discovered her cache of poems; it was then that the breadth of work became apparent to the public.
How often do you believe hope begins in the dark?
How often do you grow accustomed to the dark?
What have you done lately to give yourself hope in the dark?
Have you ever been stuck in the dark for an extended period of time? If so, how did you escape it?
How often have you ‘sometimes hit a tree but adjust yourself to midnight?’
Have you provided hope to someone who may have grown accustomed to the dark?