We are living in one of the greatest innovation opportunities in human history. The intersecting climate and justice crises are openings to fundamentally change how we collectively do almost everything, an opportunity Jonathan Foley compares to “Bill Gates time 1000.”
I really appreciated this framing of the moment. I yearn for a way of living that helps people and the planet regenerate. I ask myself, what would be sufficiently revolutionary for our times?
Clark Strand captured my imagination when he suggested in his book Waking Up to the Dark that turning out the lights is “the last true revolutionary act left to human beings in the twenty-first century.”
“I say that darkness is the last revolutionary act because it is the only act that effectively overturns human consciousness. And that is the only thing worth revolting against. Consciousness is the problem underlying all others, which, if it is not addressed, will only continue to manifest future problems – one after another – until it has completely destroyed our world.”– Clark Strand, Waking Up To The Dark
His book explores our human history with the dark, sleep science, and mystical traditions that have special prayers in the dark hours. The impact of electrical lighting has given us the illusion we control the rhythm of life and cut us off from other ways of knowing. We’ve lost not only good sleep, but a form of consciousness that is deeply creative.
I read his book and hoped that I could join the darkness revolution. I set up night lights around my house – not purely dark, but darker than the regular lights – and tried to slow my life down with the sunset. That was in springtime when the days were longer. Since then there have been many life interruptions. I’ve largely abandoned the effort. To really give myself the darkness of night every night would make it nearly impossible to participate in the “regular” world. That must be why Strand calls it revolutionary.
This winter you could say I’m incubating the revolution by giving myself at least one hour of darkness a week. To make it palatable for my daughter many candles, night lights, and Christmas lights are fair game. While I’d love for the darkness to continue until bed time that’s not practical for us. Sometimes I wear a headlamp for that transitional time; it gives me light where I need it but I still feel some dark around me.
We do what we can. It still makes a difference. I feel amazed by how refreshed I feel the next morning, even if all I did was just hang out on the couch and chat with my family in the dark.
Turning out the lights, I’m also turning out the lights on my smaller egoic self. My striving can rest. Most nights I could be kept very busy doing many seemingly urgent things. But almost always it really can wait for one more night. How often am I busy just because that is what is comfortable?
Darkness can feel awkward. Right after we turn out the lights my family often behaves like strangers who just arrived at a party unsure of what to do. It takes a moment to remember all that is wonderful to do in the dark: talking, walking, praying, singing, cuddling, bathing, resting and so much more. Once we settle into the dark we share a different presence with each other that is focused and intimate. Dark nights have become one of my favorite things about winter.
I wish for you sweet moments of darkness. May the dark give you deep rest and widen your consciousness. Moving with the dark, may we discern new ways of living that are truly revolutionary and regenerative.
Yours in darkness as well as light,
Join me for an hour of darkness each week.
Winter Rest provides support for going into the dark together. Select Thursday nights we gather online for 10 minutes to intentionally enter the dark together. Learn more and sign up.