Monday, July 5, 2010

Rage Against the Dying of the Light

It's a phrase I heard once. It was part of a monologue/poem (Dylan Thomas--see Merriwether's comment below--thanx!) that I can't scrape up right this instant or even find the correct reference to. I wrote it down in a journal that has been gathering dust in the boys' bedroom. I don't normally condone rage. In fact rage, in and of itself, isn't usually productive. Used in this sense, though, it has another meaning. A use, in fact.

In my world I see the light dying left and right. People all around me are fighting a battle against the darkness and they even name it thus specifically. Some have named it directly. "Darkness." Others call it cancer, illness, death, handicap, divorce, separation, infidelity, marital problems, affairs, depression, anxiety, addiction, unemployment, salary cuts, disagreements, fighting, interpersonal struggles, pettiness, hatred, scorn, judgement, ignorance, racism, poverty, or just plain old pain (physical or mental). And that is the short list. Take a look at the short list. You'll find enough rage there to power a large city until the year 5000 if we could find a way to harness it, couldn't you? It tells me something. We were made for that kind of passion. Were we made for that kind of rage? Perhaps. But not to due harm. Not originally.

We were made to rage against the dying of the light. We were made to persevere. We cannot do it alone, but we were created to do whatever we must to survive and we were created to muster our passions to fight. Fight for what is good and right and necessary to end the reign of darkness first in our own lives and then in the lives of others. The difficult thing is that this battle doesn't look like the battles we are used to fighting--WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, etc. But it takes more concentrated effort, involves more risk, and has the potential for world-wide casualties. There is a timeline and there is a distinct enemy. The overall war has been won, but the real battles are being fought to determine what I call the "collateral damage."

For eight years, I've felt buried up to my eyeballs in the sludge of darkness. Of the twenty-six issues listed above, at least twenty-one have applied to me--some at least twice. At the very least. For the first two years of this era I call "The Great Depression" (because it was), I was "fine" (I hope you know what that really means). And then I wasn't. It REALLY wasn't. In short, a nose dive of epic proportions. I went from being a highly educated, well-mannered housewife who was active in her local church. A believer. A Christian. To....well....still highly educated, still a Christian, but very short on belief and activity. There were reasons for it. Big reasons. Some were under my control. Some were not. Long and short of it was that the darkness got to me. And it's damn hard to escape once the darkness has hold of you. Even if you're definitely fighting for the light.

But it can be done. This month is an important landmark for me. About three years ago, something happened that forced a change. I had a decision to make. Get my stuff together, scrape my life up off the highway where it had been splattered by a Mack truck or move on. And by move on, I mean leave everyone behind and MOVE ON. I wanted (and still want at times) to move on. It always has been and always will be true that no one will understand the events of the past eight years as I see them. That's the truth of experiencing darkness. There isn't another human being alive (or dead for that matter) that can see it through your eyes. It isn't an excuse, just an observation. They can only see it from their perspective. And if you expect their help, you have to accept it from their perspective whether or not you agree with it. You have to listen to their opinions about you, your kids, your ex, your choices. If you live in the same house with them, you have to listen to them tell their friends all about it on the phone. You see it in their email that they forget to close when they ask you to work on their computer. It slips out of their mouth when they aren't thinking and they try to say "I was only kidding," but it's a subject no one in their right mind would ever kid about. You overhear it when they think you can't hear them through the bedroom door or the porch windows. That can be a lot to carry around. You will have to carry it around the rest of your life. You will have to come to grips with the fact that what they've told you to your face is not really how they feel behind closed doors.

Sometimes people are far more willing to discuss the bad than the good. Sometimes when you're caught in that battle with the darkness it's easier to hear the bad. So if you want to see the good in yourself then YOU are going to have to go looking for it because no one else is going to do it for you. I'm guilty of blog is hardly ever sweetness and light. What a pity because that's hardly ever a good sample of how I think all the time. Weird. In short, this month proves to me that I really can do what I put my mind to. And I can do it in spite of all evidence to the contrary. Yay me!! I did it.

I did it with very little human support (Buddy and Attrition only). I did it when some people told me I would fail. I definitely did it without any encouragement. I did it with A LOT of discouragement. All the mental wrestling and cheer leading was mine and mine alone. I saw the head shaking, heard the name-calling, and the discussions in low tones and I did it anyway. Was there rage? Yes there was. A lot of it. Very much rage against many people who seemed to think that there was no reason for me to succeed. Call it righteous anger. Anger towards darkness in it's most elemental form. Often I thought I would fail just because there were people who wanted me to (not many, but then it doesn't always take many does it). I felt that helpless. For years. But that gave me focus. Something to fight against. Opposition for my moral compass, I guess. And suddenly, it was no longer anger but peace.

For the first time in a long time I had that sense of being able to look at something and say this...this right here is not right. It shouldn't be. Someone should do something. And the thought crossed my mind that maybe that someone should be me. Because it's all fine and good to use the word "someone," but never to actually be that someone is kind of cheating. It's our way of shovelling our real job here off onto humanity in general and avoiding our true responsibility. We're actually responsible for the light while we're here. It's our job to help bring it. Carry it. Nurture it. We want the luxury of saying "that's not right" or "someone should do something" with out actually doing anything to make it right.

What good is the darkness if you learn nothing from it? It's going to come. It gets around to everyone sooner or later. Usually sooner. And you pretty much have three choices. You can let it mow you over flat and never get up again. You can let it hit you and give in to it--there are more ways of doing this than you can shake a stick at. Sneaky stuff, that darkness. Or, you can rage against the dying of the light. I'm pretty sure there's no clean way of doing this. There's no way of doing it without "getting it on you," but as long as you believe and persevere I am certain that the darkness cannot overcome the light

Very sure.


  1. Do not go gentle into that good night,
    Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
    Because their words had forked no lightning they
    Do not go gentle into that good night.

    Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
    Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
    And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
    Do not go gentle into that good night.

    Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
    Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    And you, my father, there on the sad height,
    Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
    Do not go gentle into that good night.
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
    -Dylan Thomas

    There's no rage left in me.

  2. Actually, I'm wrong. ALL that is left in me is rage.

  3. Merriwether. I don't know your darkness, but I know well being consumed by rage. You have been on my mind daily. Know that I have committed to battle for you (and of course your family) daily on my knees. It was done for me and it is the least I can do for you. However long it takes. I'm I figure....what, at least maybe 50 more years given my family's average life span? So...count on it.