In times of darkness where fear and uncertainty are endemic, it might seem naive to focus on the light and to search for ways to let it in. However, whether it’s naive or not, it’s clear to me that sitting in the dark and letting it overwhelm me is something I have to resist. I have experienced many dark days of late – as have we all – and at times it has felt like despair is the only rational response to the tumultuous horror show out there.
I can’t do very much about the out there that is the catastrophic failure of this appalling government or the terrible behaviour and practices of systems and organisations, including the media, that add to the sum of human misery.
What I can do something about is the in here, my interior life, my own moral centre and practice of how I choose to live. There are days when I am so enraged I want nothing more than to burn down Valhalla and everything in it. Sometimes I am so engulfed by outrage I can barely speak and inevitably I internalise the pain and make myself ill and upset. The person that suffers because of this, is me.
I am working on a way of being in the world that looks to let the light in wherever and whenever possible. It’s easy for me to turn to the dark, to anger and distress and to become lost in shadow and torment until I am so depressed I can barely function.
Over the past five years I have worked hard to turn my face to the light and to not venture into the darkness. And it’s really hard to do and I don’t always succeed. These past five years have been the time of the greatest adventures and the greatest challenges of my fifty-four years on this planet. I have navigated more storms and traumas than I care to remember. But I have also discovered true friendship, love, camaraderie and a sense of purpose. This is in no small part down to our Philosophy in Public Spaces group where we share our sense of injustice and our outrage and positively explore how to respond through rigorous philosophical inquiry. Additionally I have work that produces positivity and a strong sense of community. I have also learnt who my friends are; and although that sounds like a cliché, it has been one of the most significant learnings of my life.
My creative life has also been central to my battle with the darkness. My work explores the dark and the power of light. In the poems for Requiem, which I wrote in 2018/19, my focus was on the international conflict that was so destructive over a hundred years and more and which remains an ever-present threat through the power of the industrial military complex. The piece concludes with this simple prayer:
Let there be rest. Let there be peace.
Let bloodshed, war and violence cease.
Let us seek with all courage that which is right,
When darkness falls, let us search for light.
I look back on the experience of writing and touring Requiem, of performing with The Alan Barnes Octet as being one of the best and most fulfilling creative experiences I have had. I remember it with great love and hope that one day I might get to do it again.
In this time of enormous darkness, of creeping tyranny and oppression, of vacuity, corruption and sleaze it’s important to keep searching for the light, to not give in, to not let the dark win. It’s hard as hell, relentless and exhausting.Unlike the dark, which isolates us and makes us feel alone and afraid, the light casts warmth and brightness. It allows us to find each other and join hands.