I’m sitting in my living room as the sun slowly disappears into the longest night of the year. It’s the winter solstice. This time of year has been celebrated since time immemorial as a way to bid farewell to one year as it sinks into the darkness of the past and welcome in the new year with the return of the light and hope for the future.
This year, though, there’s much more than just an actual disappearing of the sunlight to ponder. I told myself I wasn’t going to jump on the “bandwagon” and write about this. Yet, it’s not something I can ignore.
A week ago today a gunman forced his way into an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, and killed 20 children and six adults, and then himself. That action plunged the entire country, and much of the rest of the world, into an emotional darkness from which it’s hard to recover.
How can that be? I can imagine being one with the terrified children, I can imagine being one with the teachers desperate to save them, I can imagine being one with the parents and the first responders, and so on. I can even imagine being one with the family of the perpetrator and the pain that’s been caused them. We all have a part of us that can accept that we can identify with their agony in some way.
It’s much more difficult to imagine myself as one with the perpetrator. “I would never do something like that!” Really? If we truly are all One, why can’t we identify with the perpetrator? If One is all there is, isn’t the perpetrator a part of that? And a part of us? Don’t we share in that to some extent, no matter how small? And what happens if we reject that? Reject a part of ourselves?
I can’t explain how there’s such apparent evil in the One I perceive as Everything. The qualifier in that statement is “apparent.” It’s hard to believe but maybe, just maybe, what we call evil is only evil from our restricted point of view. I won’t try to make lighter of an event that inflicts such pain by supposing it’s somehow “good.” Anything I might say would just be facile. But I will say that there’s so much I don’t know and can’t know from a human standpoint that I hesitate to make a judgment call about what I don’t understand. But I still cry.
There’s one thing about this solstice and this dark emotional time that I do know, though; it’s that the light always returns. Always. Nothing lasts forever, neither dark nor light. The sun always rises and joy will return. But, as with yin and yang, they always have at least a tiny bit of the other within them.
My feelings about such events are that they will continue in one way or the other until we understand that, as Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” The words “whole” and “holy” arise from the same root word. Until we can have compassion for every part of us, for every part of our human existence, for the “enemy,” and accept it as part of us even if our first instinct is to reject it, we will never be whole or wholly human.