“Humans put an end to darkness
dig for ore to the farthest depths,
into stone in utter darkness,
open a shaft away from any inhabitant,
places forgotten by those on foot,
apart from any human they hang and sway.”
“I think in order to really heal the world we need the ‘wisdom of darkness.’ This can be the Third World, dark people, women, or our ‘shadows,’ to use Carl Jung’s term – all the things we do not want to confront within ourselves, so we project them onto others and call them terrorists. So, I think that we need ‘endarkenment’ for awhile, not enlightenment, to heal the world.
“It’s the same old theme
In your head, in your head, they are fighting
With their tanks, and their bombs
And their bombs, and their guns
In your head, in your head they are crying
In your head, in your head
Zombie, zombie, zombie”
In 2019, ultralight beams can be summoned seamlessly from our pockets and cities blot out the stars with their excess illumination. As Job predicted, “humans put an end to darkness.” But our biblical ancestors wrote about the dark in a time without the convenience of fluorescence – light was received gratefully from the heavens or conjured frantically from stick and metal, then cradled with great care. At nighttime, darkness was total, as immense as the sea. The writers of scripture, reaching for metaphors to describe the anguish and fear that often marked their lives, documented their personal experiences with nightfall: deep darkness became an emblem of the oppressive unknown.
In 2019, these spiritual images carry unfortunate racial resonance: “Look in your dictionary,” Dr. Martin Luther King pointed out, “and see the synonyms of the word black. It’s always something degrading, low and sinister. Look at the word white. It’s always something pure, high, clean.” The English language, having been nurtured for centuries on the toxins of anti-black supremacy, inevitably links whiteness with moral virtue. The Church must press further in search of richer ways to describe the faithfulness of God, remembering the antiracist values to which we are called. Bright light, St. Paul would remind us, can impede vision as much as the thickest darkness. Whiteness can scorch and blister – blackness casts cooling shadows and forms the rich, loamy earth from which all life emerges.
Dr. Chung, praying for “endarkenment,” quotes Carl Jung, who argued that we each have a little-known shadow side we must come to know to experience true freedom. Freud put the matter more succinctly: we are condemned to repeat what we cannot remember. We must confront our collective shadows, encountering the hurts we have hidden away. As darkness falls fresh upon us, what phantoms of our painful pasts, long-hidden by the garish light of day, are now visible?
Dolores O’Riordan’s protest song about the 1993 IRA Warrington bombings connected listeners the world over in a tapestry of shared grief. Predatory violence extends across salvation history – it’s the same old theme in 2019 – with their tanks and their bombs, and their dogs and their hose, and their jeeps and their drones, and their cross and their rope: “apart from any human they hang and sway.” Our collective denial of these vicious legacies only compels us to reenact them.
This Advent, let us allow ourselves to visit these “places forgotten by those on foot,” so that we no longer feel a need to dissociate from the darkness. Let us give our eyes rest from lurid screens and turn to “the wisdom of darkness,” that we might really heal the world. In longing for Jesus’ coming among us, let us not be afraid to seek out the things that go bump in the night.
Kenji Kuramitsu is a chaplain, clinical social worker, and fourth-generation Chicagoan. Kenji teaches ministry at McCormick Seminary, and serves as a community care chaplain for the Obama Foundation.