Finding the Light in Dark Times

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” — Edith Wharton

It seems timely — that on the eve of the New Year and the eve of the January Supermoon — I take a look back at the past year and look ahead to the New Year, while I search for the light to give us hope in what can only be described as dark times.   

Poet: Wang Wei

In January, we’ll have two full moons, the first of two Supermoons, the Wolf Moon, will welcome us the evening of New Year’s Day, and the month will close with a Blue Moon, a red and blue moon combination thanks to a partial lunar eclipse.  I see the two full moons as a hopeful first sign of light in these dark times.

The Dark Times

The past year, for many of us, signaled the dawn of dark times. I’m not going to spend a lot of time summarizing the losses in lives, the truth, democracy, freedom, and civility; the damage done by devastating hurricanes and wildfires, gun violence, terrorist attacks, the threat of nuclear war, and yes, sadly the list goes on. 2017 has been a year, personally and globally, when we’ve experienced the duality of the personal is political, and that the political is personal. I’m guessing each one of us is able to tally our own losses and injuries to our pocketbooks, our hearts, and our spirits.

Tonight, many of us will be toasting the New Year, raising our glasses in celebration as we hope for a brighter future. As I’ve written before, I always strive to look at the glass half-full, rather than half-empty, and though my glass will have sparkling water instead of champagne, I remain optimistic about the New Year as I say the Serenity Prayer:

“God, grant me the serenity,

to accept the things I cannot change;

change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference.”

On the eve of the New Year, I typically take inventory, as I look back and review the past year, and look ahead to the new one. January is symbolized by the Roman God Janus. From Wikipedia:

In ancient Roman religion and myth, Janus is the god of beginnings and transitions, and thereby of gates, doors, doorways, passages and endings. He is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past. It is conventionally thought that the month of January is named for Janus.”




Finding the Light

Following the President’s inauguration, hundreds of thousands of women in cities across the nation and the world, took to the streets in protest wearing pink pussy hats and carrying signs, often joined by their children and supportive men in their lives. This was the first ray of light following an election that failed to yield the first woman president, but instead precipitated an investigation into possible collusion and election tampering by the Russians and Trump’s presidential election staff, members of his family, and future cabinet appointees.

Women continued to rise up in groups like the Pantsuit Nation and men and women began to organize and a new wave of activism continued to mobilize. People began strategizing for the 2018 interim elections, and more women than ever before, were galvanized to run for local, state, and national offices. Social media was buzzing with vigilant coverage and activist response to the news of the day. Many of us, including this writer, blogged, tweeted, and posted on Facebook, urging our friends, families, and neighbors to pick up their phone, call their representatives in congress, sign petitions, and show up and ask questions at Town Hall meetings across the nation, holding our elected officials accountable to the people they represented rather than corporate and special interests, campaign donors, and lobbyists.

Subscriptions to the New York Times increased, and the NYT, Washington Post, and television news media expanded their roles as watchdogs and fought for access to White House press conferences, town hall meetings, and statehouses, to protect the freedom of the press as outlined in the Constitution and challenge the false allegations of “Fake News.”  This was a concerted effort to provide checks and balances, now lacking in the understaffed and disempowered government institutions and Federal agencies as Trump’s administration began dismantling democracy by Executive Order and challenging event-based, and science-based facts and research.

Congress failed to repeal and replace Obamacare after more than one attempt and it wasn’t until the end of the year that they finally passed their first major bill, Tax Reform, after changing the rules by allowing only a simple majority of votes to determine the outcome, which the Republicans possessed and delivered, without Democratic support.

In the meantime, special elections, including the Alabama Senate race, yielded upsets in traditionally Republican strongholds and signaled a sea change with Democrats and progressives beginning to win seats and potentially challenge the partisan power in Congress.

In the culture wars, no longer was the public silent, enabling White Supremacists or corporate or special interests. We challenged and put a spotlight on the language and propaganda of the Alt-Right, gun lobbyists, Evangelical Christians, and hate groups, and questioned their agendas and confronted their bias, whether based on race, identity, gender politics, ethnic origin, or religious beliefs. It became clear that we were at greater risk from domestic terrorists, often mentally-ill white males who possessed legal and illegally obtained high-powered assault rifles, than we were by radical terrorists from abroad.

Women, and some men, began speaking up and telling secrets about a history of sexual harassment and abuse, accusing men in power, whether in entertainment, media, politics, the workplace, churches, or in their own families of violations that were physical, emotional, and spiritual. The #MeToo movement was shining a light on the power imbalance entrenched in our culture which has for generations kept women “in their places” often violating their human rights, ability to advance in their careers, or protect their own bodies.

Finding the Light in Dark Times

Returning to the quote that introduced this essay, it’s clear what my path is in the coming year. It’s ironic, in my opinion, that what should be the foundation of all religious or spiritual practices is love, and in my estimation, has been most absent in the actions of our leaders here in the US and most of the world. Avarice, power, and hate-mongering, lies, and abuse of the most vulnerable, combined with a lack of empathy and compassion is the darkness that plagues our world. To turn this around we have a choice, to be the candle, or the mirror that reflects it. This is our mission:

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” — Edith Wharton

Related Reading from Mixed Metaphors, Oh My!

Drinking from a Glass Half-Full

Light & Shadow

The Toilet Zone: Unhappy Anniversary

Me Too — Dammit!

Red Letter Days (and Nightmare Nights)

Marching, Mourning, & the Meaning of It All

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