"Winter: when your body says, "It's midnight. Go to bed."
You look at the clock. It says 7:40.
And you go to bed anyway."
But I want to say to Kate, "No! Don't let's sleep! Instead, let's bring all the light we have, and share it. Let's build a fire and tell stories! Let's turn up the lamps and read aloud, or write letters, or make art. (Or, as a friend of mine did last week, let's take a camera out into the darkness and create photographs.)
Light and darkness have been on my mind a lot, lately. 'Tis the Season. (for a good Advent story, try this.)
I've been studying lives of women we consider Saints: Teresa of Avila and Therese of Lisieux, and that strangely brilliant French woman who refused baptism--Simone Weil. I admire them all, and wish I could move out of my own state of self-absorption long enough to be more like them.
Each of these three lived in particularly dark times--Teresa in 1500's Spain under the terrorist tactics of the Inquisition; Therese in 19th Century France; Simone during the First and Second World Wars. Not one of them opted for sleep. Sleep is a luxury you can't afford if you choose to fight oppression.
Another thing they have in common is severe illness (yet another form of darkness), including lung disease, malaria, and debilitating migraine headaches--coupled with odd cases of scruples. Somehow, all of this is connected intrinsically to their spirituality. And, frankly, if you study them closely, there's something a little nutty about each of them, which reminds me of something Dr. Bud Harris, a Jungian analyst, says, "God calls fools--people who glow with neuroses--to partner in creation. But God does not make mistakes."
These saintly women still provide light for us today. The Catholic Church has endorsed both Therese and Teresa as "Doctors of the Church", meaning that their teachings, spirituality, and understanding of God are timeless, and have universal application. Truth extends beyond the bounds of time and space, as well as of political and social oppression. In the case of Simone Weil it has, as well.
And in each, we find a woman who lived with great courage, placing full confidence in God, and who addressed the issues of her time with integrity, taking full responsibility for her own life.
Which reminds me of something Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes posted on Facebook this morning:
A beautiful thing can become codified, then made into doctrine, then into dogma,
then guarded with a fundementalist 'staring eye that chills others to stone' to
make sure all others are 'behaving' according to the once free, now petrified
precept, concept, knowing, experience.
As this stultification process continues,
other persons' ways of finding/keeping/knowing the center
are said to be outer, are scorned.
In my family story of the old woman and her
red boots, she is told it is dangerous to walk away from what is known and
codified. But she goes anyway... And as in the story, we can too seek 'a place
away' that is of sense and beauty to true self.
Thus, in my story,
the old woman goes walking again to find a new sweetwater under the ground,
the true artesian water that still flows,
no matter who has previously built a bastion and concretistic vault over it,
petrifying it and all ritual and pathways around it.
Three Women moved away from what was known and codified in order to discover for themselves (and for others) a deeper source. Each found that source in God--God as expressed in the context of their own life circumstances, and through each of their distinct personalities.
And the light carried down to us from these three women endures. That light is carried through their truest qualities: deep humility without naivete; deep desire for God without sentimentality; deep self awareness without self absorption.
And so we remain awake.