A friend recently sent me this little poem:
In the dark times
Will there still be singing?
Yes, there will be singing
About the dark times.
On January 1, we enter a new month and New Year under the bright gaze of the full/super moon. I don't think the squirrel in my crab apple tree or the crows pecking at the end of my driveway care that it's 2018 or January 1. But we humans love and need mythic markers to help us make sense of the journey of life and that support us as we craft prayers for new habits. That bright moon guiding us into the New Year carries a lot of power for us in all of this.
What does it mean to sing about the dark times? It means we acknowledge them – we recognize the pain, we see it and don't look away. But to sing about the dark times means that we refuse to let the pain of life be our definition of life. It's no easy task; no easier now than 100 years ago, 1000 years ago, 10,000 years ago.
The song that we sing in dark times – where do we learn it? We can certainly learn it from an existing tradition. The old Quaker hymn goes:
My life flows on in endless song
Above Earth's lamentations.
I hear a sweet tho' far off tune
That hails a new creation.
Life betrays us. People betray us. Institutions betray us. The body betrays us. We betray others and we betray life, and ourselves. This is a hard truth about being human. The story we have invested so much life in, or so much hope in, suddenly crashes to shards. We are cast - or we cast ourselves - into chaos and darkness. We call this betrayal.
So we need a song. A song that reminds us that a new creation is coming. Betrayal hurts and life would be far happier without it. But betrayal is a form of initiation, if we have the eyes to see it. Betrayal is the doorway to the new life. Betrayal blows the doors off its hinges, but now the way is open, and there's no going back, life as usual is no longer possible. A new truth shines.
We need a song to remind us that all of this is about opening the new creation. Otherwise, we spend life looking backward at the pain, and pain becomes our story and our definition of life. The song turns us forward, and carries us through the doorway.
Have you noticed that nearly every fairy tale, every sacred story, every decent play and movie we enjoy has betrayal at the core of the story? Jesus needs Judas to kiss him to drive the story forward. The naïve, dreamy youngest brother needs his greedy older brothers to toss him down the well or he will never climb out to become king. The girl in the Celtic tale "The Corpse Watcher" wants to leave home so as to grow up, and her mother refuses to give her a blessing for her journey, so she leaves empty handed. That mother's betrayal leads the girl to take a job watching a corpse overnight before the wake the next day. During the night, the corpse sits up and takes the girl on a magical journey of power. If she had received the blessing of her mother, she would have been able to say no to such a gruesome job.
To be human is to a) be betrayed at some point, and b) to be the betrayer at some point. Betrayal and "failure" are not the same thing, but we conflate them. Betrayal is the initiation into a new wisdom. When you are betrayed, a door opens to a new creation. When you are the betrayer a door opens. And it may be that betrayal is the tool needed to open a door closed so tightly. It may be that betrayal is the only force strong enough to force that door open to the new creation.
In the dark times, the new song begins to be heard. We just came through a Christmas season in which one main story is of a spiritual figure who delivers a new gift down the chimney. Shamanically speaking, this is the Star Spirit, Pachatata, Grandfather Sky singing the new song down into us, through our crown chakra.
So, we can learn songs from tradition, but we can also just open our "chimney" and ask for the song to come. And then begin singing. It doesn’t have to be words – it can be just vowels. This is something you can try in January – don’t be nervous, don't judge yourself. You can begin by simply saying – to Spirit, to yourself – "I'm in dark times and in my heart I feel [this] and [this] and [this]." Begin by opening your heart to the dark. Then open your chimney and ask the Star Spirit, the Spirit of Immensity, to pour down the song of the new creation into you. Sing it. If the singing brings tears, congratulations to you – that's a good song.