The rule of no realm is mine, neither of Gondor nor any other, great or small. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, those are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail of my task, though Gondor should perish, if anything passes through this night that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I also am a steward. Did you not know? J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
These days darkness falls at about 4:30 in the afternoon. On days like this one, with thick cloud and light snow, night comes even earlier. We will have these early evenings for another six weeks or so, before the darkness really begins to retreat.
I’m tying to keep in mind that darkness ebbs and flows. (I guess light does as well, although I seem less attuned to that.) I am reminded that in the midnight hour, the darkness may seem here to stay.It is not, of course. Yet, within us resides the age-old human fear of unrelenting winter and darkness.
A while back Jennie and I created a toy theatre piece about Coyote stealing fire. (I’m particularly fond of Coyote stories.) In the stories, Coyote comes to the aid of The People who spend each winter in darkness and cold, thoroughly miserable, while ogres enjoy cooked food, warmth, and light. This thieving is no easy task as the greedy, ferocious, if not exactly bright, ogres guard fire jealously. Against all odds, Coyote eventually succeeds in stealing the precious flames, although he nearly destroys the world in the process.
I believe our great stories are about building community and supporting healing. They remind us that creativity, humor, cooperation, and resilience can go a long way in dark times. These stories are very important now, as they are at times in every age, for they tell us that evil cannot rue indefinitely.
Still, in dangerous times, when the dark is rising, those who have experienced trauma may well find themselves thrown back to moments when others had control and inflicted great harm. Then, it may seem the evil they survived has returned for them, and that all hope of a kind and safe future is futile. In such dangerous moments we may forget that the rising darkness must crest, collapse, and withdraw. Such is the way of the world: that which ascends must recede. Still, in harsh times we may find ourselves struggling to keep heart and to trust Nature.
I imagine part of the problem is one of time scales. Those who are subjected to ruthless power do not know when, or if, they will be freed, nor whether they will survive the onslaught. We know only that evil must, eventually, cede the world to a brighter day. Sadly, that promise may seem woefully inadequate to the needs of the moment, and that brighter future appear very far away, indeed.
Yet, all is subject to change. Often the change that is needed is hidden in the very structure of evil, and transformation appears as if from nowhere. As Tolkien advised, “Let us remember that a traitor may betray himself and do good that he does not intend. It can be so, sometimes.” (The Return of the King)
There are many here who rule no realm, yet care for all that is worthy and now in peril. I imagine you are one of these righteous ones. If so, please remember: you have allies in the work.