Friday, January 14, 2011

Awake Inside the Dark

Awake inside the dark...

This is how the verse begins--the second verse of one of my favorite songs (video below).

Yes, and sometimes I do. Just the other night I awoke in the middle of the dark. Something was pulling me down to the center of something. My head, leaning off one side of the bed, felt a magnet's warmth.

I saw a deep pool of blood, my fingers just barely missing it, but tracing its shape.

I did what one does: I breathed out and it was a scream, echoing against the shaking of my body--I, pinned flat to the bed by someone who understood what I was seeing, not seeing. The kind of scream that says I'm as close to horror as I might get in this world. Because it's first the horror of the unknown, tainted with blood and fear of death and trauma--and then we realize that we have come into contact with remnants of the known.

I get these nighttime bouts frequently.

And so just the other night...I wandered around until the first bit of daylight, so that I would not awake in the dark.

So much of my work--even this blog--is anchored by my reading of Maurice Blanchot, particularly his idea that it is darkness that illuminates more brilliantly than light. And one of my Facebook friends today quoted a phrase from a 1968 sermon given by Dr. King: "Only when it is dark enough can you see the stars."

It's when we think we cannot see that our pupils are dilated. We suspend our disbelief not only when we want to imagine, but also, unwittingly, when we want to see. But what are we to do when the darkness reveals madness and horror? What are we to do when the reality of what we find in the darkness differs drastically from the reality of our daily existence. What I mean is this: I know that there was not, that night when I awoke in the dark, a pool of blood on the floor, but I saw it when I was awake, and this experience is incompatible with the life I live during daylight.

And yet it is no less real. It is likely the real more real than real.

Perhaps these near brushes with death and the horror of infinite absence give us a special kind of sight. Think of Abraham, after the binding of his son Isaac--he called the site of the trauma Moriah, a place of vision or seeing.

But what does it mean to see, even when the object of our sight is illuminated by darkness? I suspect I am not supposed to want to merge my two realities: the one I experience in the dark, and the one I walk around in when it is light. But I can't help but see the interplay between the two, and I suspect that my dark reality cannot but come to bear on its counterpart.

1 comment:

Buffy Turner said...

Oh, wow. Two things: 1) I *just* listened to that song from you yesterday, and died over it all over again, even though I've listened to it at least fifty times now, and 2) I got such goosebumps reading that Abraham named that place "Moriah." Awesome. So exciting.