Becoming the Light
By Molly Murfee
The storm this past week settled us in, ushering down a blanket of the heaviest of downs. We’re in. It’s winter. It’s as dark as it will ever get. If you don’t go outdoors at high noon you’ve missed your window of warmth. I’m glad for the mice in our walls, the chickadees in the aspen and willows, just for the sake of some other company. A reminder of the other bodies with whom we share this planet.
This darkness carries over into our state of the world, and our state of mind. I think they call it rock bottom. I feel we are living in days they will study later in history books, if we manage to make it that far.
What I know, however, is that it’s the darkest days that hold the gravest, most needed lessons. Those times when we can’t see out of our very own tunnel we’ve created for ourselves, when the universe or god or whatever name you want to call the great mystery of the unknown, whaps us upside the head with a skillet and yells at us to quit acting like a bunch of self-absorbed teenagers.
We are deconstructing so much in our world that has brought us to this sad and miserable point – a species that cannot get it through our famously big brains we cannot destroy the thing that gives us life. Our violent and war-hungry blindsided belief that killing others is the right, and utterly reasonable way, to go about settling human disputes. Racism so rampant and slick it has seeped like an insidious poison into every thread of the fabric of our society.
We are embroiled in a world of self-constructed dichotomies: us versus them (whoever “them” is, it doesn’t matter, just someone), vaxers vs. anti-vaxers, maskers vs. non-maskers, fair election vs. fraud … you get the point.
We’ve drawn the borders of our boxes in such indelible ink, I fear we will never get this stain out.
The indigenous beliefs of the ancient Celts hosted an army of goddesses. Some of the most powerful among them always had two sides, at the least. There was the nurturing, abundant, mother goddess side; and there was the destructive, wrathful death goddess side. You had both. Not one existed without the other. The face of death in these figures was a necessary revolution to allow new life. Gifts required sacrifices, and commitments.
The Celts also had a whole class of storytellers that informed the king, who was under strict contract with the earth to take care of her … or else. They pulled on the strands from disparate worlds, flying in the air, flowing through the water, burrowing in soil, to interweave tales of morale and remembrance.
This, indeed, is what the process of writing feels like, what I, lately, have felt like. Taking a step back and watching. Learning from both sides. Watching the shadows in the periphery. And in these acts I will tell you this …
We will get nowhere this way. We are all backed into our corners inside whatever box we’ve defined for ourselves, and the people who seem to fit into it. Our claws are out, our fangs bared. The hackles on our neck couldn’t get any higher. We are afraid, and we are thus defensive, swiping at anything outside the box that comes near, leaning over the fence to draw blood if we can.
We’re constructed this way, deep inside our genetics, so there is a piece that is just instinctual in this. When trouble arises, we tribe up. Anyone outside of the tribe is dangerous. Being inside the tribe is safe. Our brain stems are lit up like the strip in Vegas, swirling in a perpetual state of red alarm. It’s an existential crisis, really. We are killing our planet and we’re feeling the effects. The potential of human extinction feels like a reality we can all of the sudden taste. A pandemic rages across the globe, the worst hurricane season ever has just passed, the West is, still, on fire. The world feels like it’s ending and all we can do is run around in circles with our hands over our ears yelling hate.
Yikes. I mean, really.
I’ve been doing some ancestral research lately, tracing where my people have been on this earth during certain events. I’m of Irish-Scottish descent, if you couldn’t tell by my name, and I’ve been pawing around quite deep in both my direct genetic ancestors as well as the general history of my peculiar race – from the coming of Christianity to the indigenous religions of island nations 2,000 years ago, to the migration to North America, to here. Through slavery and genocide and species extinction. It’s been a long ride, we’ve had, all of us.
So between the coronavirus and my academic wanderings, and despite our theoretical and relative separation from each other, I have actually never before felt our connection so strongly. We share air currents and water, exchange germs, exchange this whole utterly wild and weird experience of now. Shit flows downstream, unless it’s swirling over our heads, or gyrating in great whirlpools in our oceans.
Our genes have been living side by side for centuries. Our ancestors lived in and amongst the ancestors of the deer and the eagle and the whale we share the earth with now. We’ve been having the same kinds of fights, just a different script, perhaps the backdrop has changed. We have been circling round these ideologies of dichotomies and dualities for hundreds of centuries. Gnash. Snarl. It’s a fight scene. Here’s a news flash – it’s not working. Whose got the wrecking ball? I need to borrow it. I know I saw it around here somewhere beneath the rubble and endless diatribe.
Buddhist philosophies tell us, in much more eloquent words than I can duplicate, that we each one of us holds a piece of the truth, but only a piece. To truly understand the full picture, we have to put our pieces together.
We are not all Christian or Muslim or Hindu. We are not all Democrat or Republican, or vaxers or anti-vaxers, or maskers or non. We do, however, share this other one thing, here, in the Northern Hemisphere, besides our air and water and earth and our shared destiny.
It’s getting ready to get lighter.
So I ask you, as we are still in the thick of parting the smoke and trying to find each other in the haze, as we stumble over the rubble, gasping from this mutual saga – how shall we rebuild? How shall we rise?
Will it be to fill these gaping war holes we discovered with love? With inclusiveness and tolerance and forgiveness and acceptance? Will it be with peace and respect and openness? Compassion, generosity and kindness?
Will we grab all the toys and hoard them for ourselves? Or will we share. Will we keep spewing across whatever line we’ve drawn in the sand, perpetuating the hate and violence we all purport to shun? Yell at each other on facebook and the news.
Each of us contributes. What is the world you can envision? Create? How shall you rise?
From this place of utter darkness, what part of the light will you become?
Creative non-fiction and place-based author Molly Murfee specializes in nature and environmental writing cut with cultural and societal critique. Sign up for the Earth Muffin Memos Blog & Newsletter for more on her ongoing book project; field-based Writing & Connection Workshops; online advertising and syndicate column opportunities; and freelance writing services at www.mollymurfee.com.