knights nights of the soul are a common experience in a human life’s journey.* From St. John to John Legend to Legends of the Hidden Temple, we can easily see that there is no life without the death of feeling a purpose in life.** We hit this moment (you can call it rock bottom) frequently, with varying degrees of gravity; for the well-to-do, in the absence of true existential terror (in that they’re so comfortable and physically safe that they have to manufacture a certain degree of instability to feel alive and in touch with our inherited biological architecture), this might just mean reaching the end of a fancy meal. Take that last bite of Fair Trade tiramisu. Is there any greater tragedy than the fall from hedonic heights? Think of that as a surrogate for the spiritual crisis we would otherwise feel if we were still in touch with resonant cultural mythologies.*** In the absence of a supportive framework to give our lives a larger sense of purpose (you know, the role religion seemed to play for so long and still does for most of the planet, the more appropriate “we” that I kind of want to be part of but also not because I’ve fashioned this character Lou Canelli in opposition to “them,” so I’m all set with the vague “we” I kind of want to continue to believe I’m actually apart of), we settle for trivial purposes, e.g. everybody’s working for the weekend. When our collective teleology is aimed at a reward that will never actually come (“the weekend” isn’t real, people, so why are you working for it? and why do you think it’s somehow “better” than heaven?), what exactly are we doing here? Without that set-up, let’s just cut to the question: WHAT EXACTLY ARE WE DOING HERE?
In the dark night setting, you can’t see a “we” to even be able to pose that question, so you get stuck with you and all your worst self-centered energy, begging something or someone to just tell you once and for all goddammit, who am I?!?!?!
And there you are, a hero on your hero’s journey. Feels good, right? Except that in the dark, you can’t see the Campbellian light that might liberate you into a psuedo-universal mythology that reorients you to your life with a sense of even vaguer purpose than you started with before you descended into this strangely liberating night. What changes is just how much you’re cool with not knowing; not knowing who you and/or why you’re here. The light doesn’t show you any way or lead you in any direction. It just surrounds you, or you become it, and so now you don’t care about darkness because you’re too busy just being light. Well, it’s not like you don’t care about darkness; in fact, it’s probably fairer to say that you now totally care about darkness too because you’re also darkness just as much as you are light. You reckon and reconcile with this dark night, and instead of feeling like you were plunged into it, you realize you were always it, always there. Or rather, it’s always here, insofar as you are and you are it. Didn’t Dumbledore say something about that to Harry in The Prisoner of Azkaban, about how one need only turn on the light?**** In other words, be the light that you already always are; and also, realize that you’re also already always darkness. In truth, there’s no difference, so why are you fighting so hard to be this and not that when there is no real this-that split; let go of the useful duality when it no longer serves you, like when you’re desperately wondering who you are and why you’re here. Just be here now (thanks, Ram Dass). You don’t really have a choice anyway since there’s no “you” who can be here.
You are already being here.
*To be fair, other forms of life might experience it too. Take a dog, for instance. I like to imagine they’re in constant fits of deep crisis, except their lives, from our perspective at least, seem to be marked by wondrous amnesia, i.e. whatever panic and despair they experience is quickly and categorically swept away by the Men in Black style erasure effects of eating, pooping, humping, and chew toy-ing. The same goes for the momentary joy and transcendence of said activities. They’re in a limbo that is always also heaven and/or hell. Unlike humans, they at least seem to know how to rest peacefully without having to mitigate the relentless onslaught of a thing called thinking. #firstworldproblems #waitdoyouthinkonlyfirstworldpeoplethink? #waitwhatdoesfirstworldevenmeantoyouandcometothinkofiteveryonelikewhyarewestillrelyingonthatinsultingparadigm?
**The St. John connection is obvious, as he wrote “Dark Night of the Soul” (not his title). John Legend might be a reach, but he seems to find despair in love, so much so that he overextends his faith, perhaps, by giving all of himself to his lover. Doesn’t he know he is his lover? Legends of the Hidden Temple merits an allusion regardless of context. Olmec is boss.
***I’m not sure how I’m using “we” here, but it undoubtedly entails an obnoxious level of intersectional privilege. The people who are so on top that they can’t will themselves to look up, out, and beyond themselves. That is, of course, until they do and experience a more authentic dark night of the soul, when they realize the soul might actually be a thing, but then also like not a thing at all because there are no things…well, there’s thing and no-thing until you’re ready to surrender dualities all together, I think, or I can’t remember what I’m supposed to remember because…wait, am I right now in one of the dark nights? Is it a plural thing? Can you think your way into a dark night? Can you write your way out of it? What if it happens in a footnote?
****Yes, I realize Google is a thing, which means you do too. You look it up.
*****(unmarked) So I never really touched on faith as inspired by Sharon Salzberg, but I predetermined the title and then just let whatever come out, which I’m gonna say shows how much faith I have in my capacity to write something. Note: not something good. Also note: not something bad either. Get past judgments, people; there’s nothing to judge (said the writer who loves himself so much it might also kind of be primarily loathing).