Monday, March 24, 2008

My own dark night

I am reading an interesting book, "Dark Nights of the Soul" by Thomas Moore. In it he writes -

"Every human life is made up of the light and the dark, the happy and the sad, the vital and the deadening. How you think about this rhythm of moods makes all the difference. Are you going to hide out in self-delusion and distracting entertainments? Are you going to become cynical or depressed? Or are you going to open your heart to a mystery that is as natural as the sun and the moon, day and night, and summer and winter?"

A dark night can be many things from severe depression to a period in our lives when we doubt ourselves. Moore states that we should embrace these dark nights as an opportunity to learn more about ourselves and that if we do that we will emerge at the end of our own dark nights with an insight and clarity about who we are that we did not have before.

I have often used the analogy in writing about midlife using the river journey and that a midlife episode is when we find ourselves with a need to find a backwater and sort through things before we are ready to get back into the current. There is a problem with that analogy when it is observed by people from the outside. Questions arise about why decisions weren't made more quickly, why in fact no decisions appear to being made at all. The person in the backwater can be seen as being totally selfish, as keeping other people on hold whilst they sort their own shit out. The observer does not necessarily understand that the process of sorting through the rubbish takes time and whilst it appears that someone is just treading water progress is actually being made.

In this book Moore uses the analogy of Jonah and the Whale. I won't go into a lot of detail about the actual story here but suffice to say that Jonah ran from his obligation to God and found himself swallowed by a whale. He sat in the whale's bely for three days and nights and could do nothing other than ponder his fate.

The point of the story in the midlife context for me is this. To an observer simply watching Jonah there appears to be nothing happening. He cannot move around, he cannot escape, he can do nothing but sit there and think. If the observer was able to take a step back then they would see that whilst Jonah appears to be immobile, he is actually moving in a direction that does give him insight into his fate, both through the process of contemplation and prayer, but also physically through the movement of the whale.

My whale was my childhood beliefs. That was the vessel that bound me in indecisiveness and was the reason I appeared to be unmoving to the observers. And it was in unravelling their mystery that I was able to set myself free to move forward once again.

I have also come to understand that the journey cannot be forced that in some ways the memories or chains that do bind us are like combination locks. You cannot move on to the next tumbler until the last one clicks into place. So whilst the time taken in the process does not suit the observers, the person whose journey it is can only move at his own pace.

This is a song for my Dark Night

The photo is one I took at Ao Nang on the recent trip to Thailand.


paisley said...

that photo is killer... wow... what a great shot...

and don't get too hung up on moore.. we know which side his bread was buttered on.. i think there must be someone a little less obsessed with religion you could use to decipher your moods... just me thinkin'..... said...

Thanks for sharing. I think all of us have our dark nights. However, we also have the capability to set a direction afterwards whether we want things to turn for the better or not. Will check that book out!

Tenelus said...

I think that reading Thomas Moore will be very useful to your situation, I hope it doesn't sound rude to say that the time that Jonah spent in the whale is similar to your situation, the whale is the pit of destruction and sin (happy easter, the whale is the underworld that Jesus visited on Friday, but he came back up yesterday.) The problem with the whale is that it is self centered. If you are trying not to hurt other people, you have to stop focusing on yourself! You have to focus on them, you will not find life in the whale, within yourself, you will find the meaning and fulfillment of yourself by looking to others, not just as mirrors, you need to actually transcend yourself. Human language gives us the opportunity to transcend ourselves, but only by getting to know others. You cannot transcend yourself by posting on a blog for the world to see, especially when the people you are blogging about ask you not to!

Get over yourself.
again, I'm sorry if I offended, but I think you needed to be told.

Gypsy said...

We are all responsible for our own journeys Loz no matter how long it takes us to arrive at our destination. I am happy to say that I have cast off some of my own baggage and its been a liberating experience. It feels so good when you finally arrive.

Btw, that photo is stunning.

Finn said...

The dark nights are good. They help us appreciate the bright days.

Loz said...

Hi Paisley - I don't know a lot about Moore and I can assure you that this is not a religious experience for me. Just trying to make sense of things.

Loz said...

Hi Janette - I agree that the capacity to set our own course is entirely up to us

Loz said...

Tenelus - why post anonymously? If you are representing those who don't like me writing about myself then at least tell me who you are. There is nothing in anything I have written that is critical of anyone other than me. It has perhaps been a foolish mistake on my part to take all blame for everything but I did that with the best of intentions.

Loz said...

By the way Tenelus I am not offended I just wish that you wouldn't hide behind a mask, if that is what you are doing. And whilst this is perhaps a religious metaphor it is not in that context that I have used it.

Loz said...

Hi Gypsy - I have stopped wallowing although I know it often doesn't seem like it. Sometimes there are truths revealed that cause us to re-examine some of the things that have happened along the way, new context, new information, not only about ourselves but about other people too.

Loz said...

Couldn't agree more Finn :)

Dorothy said...

Loz, this is one of the best things you've written. I'm printing and saving for my madness which we all suffer from at one time or another. Today I'm in the whale...paralyzed with indecision...not wanting to move either way...we all get there, now its getting out that counts...thank you

My best,
Dorothy from grammology
remember to call gram

Loz said...

Thank you Dorothy. I write purely to make sense of things for me, if it helps some people along the way then that is good. But I will be the first to admit that this is a selfish pastime.

Tenelus said...

I found your blog only last night whilst searching, as i do, for posting on religious things. I am a Catholic, and reading a post entitled 'my own dark night' really caught my eye, especially since it was the book by Moore you read, not st. John of the cross. I have to tell you that i am disappointed that you don't see it in a religious context, because it is a religious book. If you actually were going through a dark night of the soul, you would be in the legue of Mother Teresa, St. John of the Cross, the desert Fathers, Jesus in the Garden... etc, etc, But instead, you have taken the book OUT of context, and used it as a self help book. You are not going through a dark night of the soul, you are going through a 'midlife crisis'. Of course it has to have a label, because what you are looking for in researching the midlife crisis is a definition for your self. You can get caught up in the midlife crisis business, or the 'my childhood is the root of all my issues' idea, but at the end of the day, what is going on here is you focusing on yourself, that focus is damaging, because you are a human, humans need to communicate, to transcend themselves. I have read many of your other blog posts, and i think i am on track here. Blogging is not communicating, it is not transcending, You said you have no one to communicate to - try your 'lady' as you call her. Your relationship needs to be built up on trust, and the relationship with your children. You blogging about your relationships and blaming yourself for everything (stop doing that, by the way, it's the easy way out, try forgiving instead) is not building a relationship of trust with her or your daughters.

The reason i am and will remain anonymous is to make you feel uncomfortable about how much information you are putting out there. You think you know the other people who read and comment on your blog because you know some of their names. If i do a search for "Laurie Joyce / 50, Male" you would be surprised how much i can know about you, your daughters, your phone number "Knox, Laurie Joyce, 03 9**2 1**8". Obviously your work number... Your facebook page gives me information about your daughters and your love, i know their names, and i could have their photographs. I know that you are looking to buy a house, i know how much you want to spend, and I'm sure you will tell me when you buy it, so i will know where you live.

I am not a creep, i just found your blog to comment on your reading of st. Thomas Moore, but i found out waaay to much about you and people who do not want you to blog (so one daughter has posted, i saw that, i see that as a bad thing, the only way she can relate to you is on the internet? How does everyone else feel?)

Again, sorry if i offend, but I'm not going to let this one slide!

Loz said...

Tenelus - the post had nothing to do with St Thomas Moore, but I guess you meant you found it because that is a google alert you've set up or something. And if you had read the book you will know that Moore is stating that the "dark nights" are matters of degree. I do not pretend to be Mother Theresa or Jesus Christ I do say that I have been in dark places but I also say that is no different to other people.

I will admit that I have yet to finish the book so your opinion on Moore may end up being totally different to the one I end up holding. Metaphors help give me some insight into what I have gone through and I will readily admit that places in which I find meaning may end up being totally different to the point of view others gain from the same place. That does not make one of us right and the other wrong, it is just a recognition that our context and belief systems are different.

I am not stating that my childhood was the root of all my problems. I am saying that it was through counselling that I began to view issues from my childhood in a different light. Long held beliefs were shown to be false. That was the starting point for me to be able to move forward.

You are right about one thing and that is that I have blamed myself for everything. I am learning that I should forgive myself. Knowing and doing are different things.

For someone who doesn't believe blogging is communicating you have a lot to say on blogs.

Context is everything - a post written months ago and comments on that post at that time may not still be true or relevant. So do not make assumptions about my daughters or how they feel about things now. Had I been starting my blog all over again it would have been anonymous. But sometimes even an old bloke can be naive.

There is also a lot more about me out there too. Some of which I put up, some of which comes from other sources. But you have not made me uncomfortable because I am aware of it. Google is amazing throw in a few more tags and I'm sure more will be revealed.

I have also been offended by experts so I am not offended by what you say. I actually enjoy being challenged.

Jeff said...

Two things: 1. Remember that Jonah was not aware that he was going somewhere while in the belly of the whale. That is part of the miracle of "the path"; and 2. As far as this dialogue between you and this "Tenelus", I say hey, it is YOUR blog. Use it as you want or need to. Only you know how much writing and feedback helps. If you can't run your own blog the way you see fit, then there is really no hope in being able to run your life either, is there? I am kind of in the same place with that. Write on!

Tenelus said...

Interesting you should mention context. Moore was coming from the same context as me, he also took st. john of the cross' work and developed it. There are degrees of spiritual desolation that are not dark nights, and that is what he, and every other spiritual writer, is on about. That said, i don't really care about your interpretation of moore, if it helps you, then great.

I posted because of the other things you read. Don't worry too much, everyone else does it, but your entire blog is like a self centered splurge. What did people do before blogs? You are going to move in with 'your lady' i assume... talk to her.

In life you are always moving in one of two directions - your self or others. Are you heading to yourself? do you think that will make you happy? Hell is in the self, an existence that only has you in it (not you specifically, anyone). You can obviously look at yourself in order to improve your self, but only in so far as it is the tool you use to communicate with others.

The blog is such an easy way to be open and honest with people, you feel like you are sharing what you really believe and that people are hanging on your every word. The thing is, we don't know you, we can't know you, because what you write here is carefully formulated, either consciously or in the sub-conscience, to make you justified. It seems that your form of justifying yourself is to blame yourself. "I'm a bad person, but it's OK because i know i am - Hate me (love me, justify me)" So, i repeat, get over yourself. You don't like talking to people you actually know, because they tell you that it's not all your fault. Surely that's a good thing to hear, right? Well, no, because that leaves you with the other option: That people have done the wrong thing to you - which they have, because we all do the wrong thing - and that your action is not to bury your head in the sand screaming "It's my fault!" but to forgive those people who have done the wrong thing, then, and this the hard part, you have to forgive yourself.

Midlife crisis: self centered, self blaming, non forgiving.
Blogging about it: Not fair to those around you.

Gypsy said...

Bloody hell Loz. I'm glad you have made this blog private, now maybe you can talk freely amongst your friends without "others" getting on their high horse. I don't know if you suspect who this Tenelus person is but they seem to have a "unique" kind of character and it shouldn't be too hard to figure it out.

I've never liked anonymous comments myself. Seems kind of cowardly to me so I'm glad you've shut people like that out. I have always believed that if you have something to say, by all means say it, but at least have the balls to own it when you do. Just wish I could have said that BEFORE you became private. That person was getting on my nerves.

Anonymous said...

Goodness me - this is all a bit much. Tenelus what really is your agenda?
We who follow this blog do so because we connect on some level to this man.
We enjoy the journey, we empathise, we offer our perspectives, we share and we care.
That is our choice.
I can't believe you don't write a blog? How about sharing your blog with us.
Me I am anonymous. I do not have a blog. My writing is personal. But I can assure you I have grown and learnt through my visits to this blog over the last 12-18 months.
You tell Laurie to get over himself - I think it is you who needs to get over YOUR self-righteous self.
I'm gathering you surf the net looking for similar type blogs to try and inflict guilt like feelings on people. There are much nicer ways to get a message across, and some of what you say makes a lot of sense. But really the way you say it. No!


Danny said...

My identity is of no consequence to what i have written. However, i have been in a similar situation to his 'lady', and i realize how much it can hurt to have someone who you trust share details of your relationship with the world.

I don't share my identity online ordinarily, but as this is now a private forum, my name is Danny Moody, i am from a small town named Wollun in NSW, Australia.

I have (kind of) gotten over the issues that were caused my my wife blogging about our relationship, and we are still married, but i know the kind of hurt that can be caused by all of the communication going on the internet rather than her actually talking to me about what is wrong. She thought that she was protecting me from her emotions by blogging them instead of sharing with me, and our relationship grew cold. We both made mistakes, and i love her very dearly, but i don't want Laurie to have to go through the same mess that we went through, nor do i want his "lady" to go through what i went through.

I have discussed this reply with her, and so i know that the people who will be effected by this post are happy with it. Laurie has not done the same thing - unless something drastic has changed.

Making it private is a good move, and i support you in it Laurie, If no one addresses me in this blog from here on, please remove me from the list (i don't know why you added me to the list in the first place, but thank you).

- tenelus

skipper said...


I guess I have been out of the loop for a few days - sorry Loz. I get so tired of the self-righteous, bible beating arrogant people who think throwing scripture around makes them right. He seems a bit obsessed with you - and he has a lot of issues himself. Know we are here for you, and will help where we can...

paisley said...

glory be loz!!! a bit stalkerish may well be an understatement... this one is a religiously loaded loose cannon... what a mess... i am so sorry... i am glad you made this private... you certainly don't deserve that kind of nonsense!!!