Darkness is the Absence of Light

April 19th, 2024 by Kelly Kienzle

Below is a post, different from my typical essays.  I was thrilled to be invited to include the following essay in The Shadow Anthology, a collection of works that explores the question: What happens when we finally address the darkness we have tried to hide, avoid, and outrun?  Please check out the other essays, comics, and graphic art created by a phenomenal group of artists!

Darkness is the Absence of Light

Darkness emerges in my life like a sudden, massive mountain. I slow as I try to climb, then stumble, and finally lose my will to move forward at all, swirling in self-doubt and confusion.  Why try to push through?  The darkness will win.

Yet is this mountain of darkness as solid and unmoving as I perceive it?  Can I prove it exists?

I cannot.  So what is darkness?   Darkness is the absence of light. And as the absence of light, my dark mountain actually signifies the existence of light, somewhere.  Light is sitting within this imagined mountain of darkness.

Light Sitting Within
If I re-imagine my mountain as holding the potential for light, can I climb it now?  In the foothills, where I first start my ascent, are everyday missteps.  I ruin my pasta dinner and a very small darkness descends over me.  Is there light?  Certainly.  I toss the pasta and order curry.  The look-forward-to curry promises lightness to come.

Let’s climb higher, where I start to stumble in the darker dark.

I argue with a friend.  I sever a bond that I need and want in my life.  I am now untethered and adrift. I failed my own expectations and possibly hers too. Where is the light now?  The lightness is that I care, quite a lot, about her.  So I can appreciate the friendship there and anticipate an even better outcome on the other side of this argument that I bravely, if awkwardly climbed into.

The Steepest Face
Let’s climb higher still, onto the steepest face of my mountain of darkness, where I am lost to myself.

My job has so consumed me that I am merely a vessel for the work that I do.  I lose all sense of which direction to go.  I don’t recognize myself and am deeply sad.  I doubt whether I even want to climb this mountain.

Can I find light in this pitch-black sadness?   Yes.  The lightness is the sadness itself.  Because sadness is grieving for something loved and lost, therefore sadness cannot exist without love.  If I love who I once was, my sadness inspires me to save myself from this shadow mountain.  Sadness-love enables me to reach the summit.

Darkness is not just the absence of light but an ironic absence.  Because when we face the hardest parts of our climb, we gain the most energy by our reframing of the hardest parts. The darkest passes hold the most potential for light.  All of these dark shadows are the projections of objects, not objects themselves.  These shadows require light to exist.  And I am the creator of this lightness. I can tell a new story about my shadow mountain, where I can find the light within the projection of shadows.

If you have a peak you want to summit, please reach out.  I would be happy to support you in finding your new way of leading.

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