Today is July 17 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you remind yourself hope begins in the dark?” Anyone who has ever attempted to navigate the chaos understands the proverb “where there is hope there is no darkness.” Dark days are going to exist as you travel the path of navigating the chaos. Some days the weather will simply be so overwhelming you will need to stop and take a momentary rest. Resting a bit is, of course, different from quitting altogether. 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. The loss of a job. 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.
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, 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.
The American poet Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was born on December 10, 1830. She is considered as the most important American poet of the 19th century along with Walt Whitman. Dickinson was born in Amherst, Massachusetts. Although she was from a prominent family with strong ties to its community, Dickinson lived much of her life in reclusive isolation.
She studied at the Amherst Academy for seven years in her youth, next she went to Mount Holyoke Female Seminary before returning to her family’s house in Amherst. She never married, and most friendships between her and others depended entirely upon correspondence. She had written almost 1800 poems, of which a few dozen was published during her lifetime. She was an unconventional poet, but most of her works were altered by her publishers to fit it in the conventional poetic rules of the time.
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?