"It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness" ~ Ancient Chinese Proverb
Just a week or so back I wrote this brief blog post for the Church of Scotland Priority Areas blog, a response of gratitude for 48 hours sharing 'holy ground' with folk from some of Scotland's neighbourhoods labelled the most 'deprived' - a celebration of the wonderful gifts we find around us in communities like theirs, and mine, if only we look for them.
But today I just feel like cursing the darkness. The darkness that can be relentless, draining, despairing, hopeless.
In the last few days, following on from the story with which I began my last blog (on food banks, the shame of poverty, and our broken systems) I have found myself in conversation with solicitors and barristers, a District Judge, council officers, councillors and city cabinet members, and leading lights in homelessness charities and the Church of England in Birmingham. I've caught brief glimpses of compassion and humanity within the systems. And then some of those glimmers of hope have been rapidly extinguished, by another bit of the system behaving with either incompetence, stupidity, or inhumanity. And while it has been abundantly clear that there are good people working away within these systems, what's also been painfully obvious is that the systems themselves have evolved in ways that squeeze out people's humanity, erode their common sense, chip away at their compassion, encourage and often reward the more stupid tendencies that we all have within us.
So today I'm cursing the darkness. Because I can't help myself. Because I feel helpless to do anything else. And because the darkness keeps on being dark and keeps on snuffing out the candles of hope, moments after they've been lit.
And I will continue to insist that cursing the darkness is itself an act of faith. Because while I still have any energy to curse the darkness, there is something within me that insists that this is not how things should be, that things can - and should - be different.
And within my limited capacity as a human being who wants to keep going with all those I care about and who care for me, I will do my best to keep on sitting with "those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death", sometimes in silence, sometimes cursing the darkness with them.
And although I can't see where on earth it will come from, or even imagine how it can be possible, I will stubbornly refuse to believe that we must simply wait until the end of time, or the end of our lives, for "the dawn from on high" to "break upon us". Something within me - something from beyond me - insists that that dawn, that light, is closer to us than we often know. And that it shall break. And that things shall be different. Something holds open that space, that possibility, that insistence, within me.
But for now, I'm cursing the darkness. And I have to believe that that, for now, is enough.
are we really waiting for
and what are the things
we need more
should there be a beginning
still hopes at all
will it break
still believes in it?
(Carola Moosbach, in traces of heaven)