“There are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast.” – Charles Dickens
It’s the start of a new year. Typically, this is a time for resolutions, cleansing diets and payment plans to cover holiday excess. In this year, 2017, that simply doesn’t feel good enough.
2016 was so full of damaging anger, accusations, hatred and loss. There were countless good things that may have happened during the year, but what feels like an overwhelming tide of negativity makes it hard to discern what is/was good in my life.
We need light. We need to see it. Feel it. Be it.
As I grapple with the tacky, stygian residue of 2016, feeling not just a little fearful of what remains ahead, I have been giving a good deal of thought to what light means to me. To us. To civilization as a whole.
Beginning in October, here in my home of New York City, balcony railings are wrapped and twinkling, storefronts still festooned with holiday trappings and soon-to-be-bare tree branches are illuminated with bright, sparkle lights. My own moth-like heart is drawn to them.
As the days grow shorter, our inner-child anxiously awaits the holidays which, essentially, exist for the very purpose of lighting up the dark days of winter. Halloween, Diwali, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Christmas, Kwanza, Hogmany, Carnival, Lunar New Year. Bring it! Beacons to lift the human spirit and remind us all that, while the world feels a bit darker, light and life endure.
Well beyond our evident emotional, spiritual craving for light, our cave-brains are wired for vigilance in the night, especially in winter when food sources grow scarce and the cold itself threatens survival. Darkness provides cover to potential predators and conceals the cliff’s edge that would otherwise be glaringly visible by the light of day. It is believed that, perhaps as far back as one million years ago, man learned to control fire; bringing greater safety, warmth, protection and cooked food as well as a bright place to gather. As we sit in our brightly electric-lit world, it is humbling to consider what a turning point this light represents.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” – Genesis
Yet, contemplating early man grunting around a camp fire isn’t settling my troubled soul. I am not a religious person, but, writing here as my computer pings with mostly disturbing updates about the state of our world (2017 resolution number one, I need to alter my notification settings!), scarcity of daylight isn’t the only darkness with which we find ourselves confronted, or rather assaulted. “The light was good.” The use of the word “light” in that passage from Genesis seems to intimate so much more than light just being really helpful in the practical sense.
In his revered tale, A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens, a man of deep religious faith, offers us the ultimate story of finding inner light in the depths of darkness. Perhaps one of the greatest ghost stories of all time, A Christmas Carol; A Ghost Story of Christmas, avails itself of our darkest fears to convey important life-lessons including those uttered by the first ghost who appears, the ghost of Scrooge’s former associate, Jacob Marley.
”You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?” “I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.” ― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
The ensuing ghostly visitors continue to offer Scrooge self-awareness, a good shaking-up and, ultimately, a chance for redemption. Through Scrooge, Dickens gives the reader the same opportunity to consider the possibility of transformation, self-acceptance and the option to embrace our own inner-light.
Scrooge not only sees the light, but becomes it, turning his bitter, cold heart inside out and embracing love, charity and kindness.
As I write this, I am contemplating my New Year’s Resolution(s). I haven’t made any in years as I’m no good at keeping them, but here goes:
- Unplug more often.
- Cancel my unused gym membership. Look, I haven’t gone in two years. New York Sports Clubs doesn’t need my money.
- Instead I will donate that amount to charity.
- Meditate every day. At this point, I can only manage five minutes a day. Everyone has to start somewhere.
- Be the light
With all my heart I wish each and every single one of you love and light and a bright new year. Sure, light a candle. Hang twinkle lights. But most importantly, let’s be the light. Remember Scrooge. We always have a choice.
“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”– Edith Wharton
Born and raised in New York City, Jenny Bruce is an award-winning singer/songwriter as well as a dedicated wife, mother and daughter.