Dear UUJMCA Community,
Merry Solstice! During this time of year in many of our UU communities we talk about passing through the dark to the light. It is a time when we look forward to longer days and shorter nights. Leaving the darkness behind and entering the light seems to be the center of this time of year. As a white cis-gender man, I would like to offer you this reflection on Winter Solstice and how we have turned something magical into something less than that.
Because humans have limited sight and abilities to defend themselves from the wild in the night, people have often found a need to carry weapons in the dark for protection and sadly aggression. Over the millenia, we, human beings, have developed this physical world view of fearing the dark due to our physical limitations into a theological one where more than just physical darkness is to be feared.
This expanded theology has come to include our Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) siblings and become harmful in their day to day lives for centuries past. Today, we have expanded this theology of fear to not only include physical darkness of particular space but also to human beings, often villainizing our BIPOC siblings as people to be feared. The weapons carried against our BIPOC by some are quite lethal to the body and many others are less lethal but still very harmful to the soul. This is really regrettable on all counts: fearing violence from other humans, focusing on fear rather than enjoying the darkness, not appreciating other people, and not appreciating the quiet times that can come in the beauty of the night.
I would rather not focus on fear but instead on calm and joy. One of my favorite of all worship services at this time of year is the candlelight caroling service because in the candlelight, we are all people trying to find our way, singing our questions and answers to whatever we face. If we can get past the fear, the darkness is an opportunity to connect at the level of heart and mind and soul.
For many in our community this is a time when we look to light for inspiration. Personally, I learned to find this inspiration in the dark. Back in ancient times, before digital photography, I had my own darkroom for developing Black and White photos. Some processes required absolute darkness, while others could be accomplished with a dim yellow or red light. Taking 35 mm film out of its canister and inserting it into a developing container required absolute darkness. Any light coming in could fog the film. Once the film was developed and fixed chemically, then dried, you could look at it in full light. Making prints could be accomplished by projecting focused white light through the film in an enlarger onto photo paper under dim red or yellow light, which then would be developed and fixed before it could be viewed in full light.
Over the years, I became comfortable with the absence or minimization of light in the darkroom. Rarely in nighttime experiences have I found it to be as dark as in the darkroom. There is always some light, from electrical lights, fires, the moon, or the stars to light things up. In snowy climates, it doesn’t take much light at all to make the night seem quite bright. Unless I am totally unfamiliar with an area, I rarely use a flashlight to get around at night. Somehow, being comfortable in the darkness makes life easier because in the darkness, we can be ourselves and invite others to be themselves, and that is truly magical, amazing, and inspiring!
I hope that as you engage this Winter Solstice you will not only look for the light but also rest in the wonder of the dark.
The Reverend Robert “Bob” Klein
UUJMCA Board of Trustees