They say the Devil is in the detail and they might well be right, but I’m not completely convinced. When I was a teenager, full of angst and testosterone, I wrote a poem as young men who write tend to do and it opened like this; I’ve lost my church but not my faith, people stare and wonder what’s gone wrong with me. They seem to think it’s God I hate, but I’ve lost my church, not my faith.
Of course to put this in context I was growing up and out of, a very traditional Irish Catholic upbringing. The simple act of not attending mass on Sunday, required special dispensation from my mother and even at that you needed a pretty good reason not to go. As small children we went to mass with my parents. As we entered our teenage years we were given the limited religious freedom to choose our own mass time. Back then in our parish, there were so many options from 7 a.m. on the hour until one o’ clock and two evening masses.
There were specialised masses like the 10 O’clock folk mass where the ‘trendy priest’ would pick up a guitar and be accompanied by teenagers on more guitars singing folky, holy songs. We later discovered that our particular ‘cool’ priest was using his musical interactions with local teens, to groom them for his own deviant aspirations. But of course in hindsight we learned that the excessive power that priests were given in our particular society meant they were free to commit many abuses with impunity. That particular priest ended up in prison along with many of his cloaked brethren and with them went a respect for any decent men who remained in the priesthood. I tended to choose the mass that would be over the quickest.
When I wrote those words in my poem, none of us except those affected by the abuse were aware of what was going on. My anti-church position was more the expression of a teenager demanding his freedom, declaring my adulthood, rather than anti-church sentiment. I was telling the world something even though if I am truthful, I wasn’t quite sure what that was at the time. The words I wrote can appear to have a different meaning when contextualised. Does the Devil lie in the context rather than in the detail perhaps?
I was an angsty little shit. It’s funny how right wing I am now compared to my left wing teenage self. I’m hardly Margaret Thatcher but ageing does set you off complaining about things you once held precious. I’m less forgiving perhaps, rather that more right wing. I’m no weekend Socialist, my belief and desire for a fairer society are strong and I have my conscience, but I guess my political leanings depend on which side of the pond or equator you live. My American friends are inclined to see the left in much of what my Irish and European friends see as the right. What is European liberal is virtually American communist. The legacy of McCarthyism still lives in the U.S. Psyche I think. On the other hand, my affluence or lack thereof is relative to the Geopolitical world. To a hungry child with no water, I am truly wealthy. Maybe this is the sort of detail in which the Devil lurks?
The darkness that I harbor in my soul for fear of letting it show on my face, found me wanting one day and has never let me go. I doubt there is a soul alive that hasn’t faced down their own demons. All around me I see people fighting with their own challenges, internal strife and worry. For the most part people never share their internal dilemmas and the deeper the well the darker it gets.
Most keep their deepest fears secret and in that place the light is dimmer. Secrecy comes from many sources. People hide their darkest fears and anxieties because of fear, shame, and embarrassment, a desire for privacy, to protect themselves or others, there are so many reasons. The truth is that darkness finds us all and while for some it is transient, it will find us all at different times in our lives and for most it is manageable. For others it sometimes feels overwhelming.
I know only of my own shadow companion and I can only speak from my heart of darkness. I am a contented man in many ways having found my joy through the love of my family and friends, but having spent my life trying to analyse my darker self, I guess at the very least I know from whence it comes.
The boy I was is the man I have become. The lessons I have learned have helped me forge a path through the darkness and it is in this I find most consolation. I see no point in sharing the detail only the path. Sometimes the detail has no value. My hollow is no more or less than anyone else’s. Unable to banish my demons, I have learned to live with them.
I wrote Darkly Wood not as a parable but in some ways it reflects my struggle. Sometimes in that twisting tale, when all hope seems lost, I simply take it away when the reader wants to believe in hope. My dark shadow man, my Mr. Squiggles as those who follow my blog will be familiar with, has thought me to know hope cannot be relied upon to nurture the soul. How awful that sounds even as I write it. But I know from experience that when he sits on my window ledge, watching me at 3.35 in the morning, hope will not save me.
The path I share is not one of hope but one of choice and endeavor. I look to the future knowing good times will come as will bad. I have seen them all before but despair is not for me. I choose to carry on. I endeavor to take each new step every morning especially when he comes to visit. I despise his nonchalant pose, as he sits there, leg dangling, examining his shadow nails in the half-light expecting me to succumb to his desolation.
So I close my eyes knowing sleep will not come but in closing him out, I take back my power if only for a while. Everyone has their own darkness. For the darkest souls, I cannot give advice; I can only share what I have learned. There is a path through the forest and no matter how difficult it gets, there is joy along the way. It is elevating and wonderful this life of ours, but even sunny days will cloud over. It is so nice to walk with the sun on your face but sometimes we walk in the rain and it needs to be embraced as part of the journey of life.
I am glad I walk the path I do. It has shaped me. I know it will get muddy sometimes and I will fall by the wayside occasionally but the longer I have lived, the more I have come to appreciate the beauty of the journey. It has to be embraced. My journey is precisely that, a journey. It is no more or less and every journey offers not hope, but the prospect of joy and as long as I am open to it, some new adventure. I wouldn’t give up that opportunity for the world.
When hope feels like it is an insufficient ally, one has to find a friend in resilience or just plain stubborn spite against the thing that wants to drag you down. My path is not to let it. There is always a way through the darkness, not giving up is winning and it is a victory more glorious as the darkness grows smaller in the rear view mirror. Find it where you can, there is no formula. I find it my own way as I thinks we all must do.
Day follows night and there are twinkles in store for me no matter the menace of my shadow man. I endeavor to walk the path one step at a time. I choose to have faith in the good that has yet to befall me and because of that it always does. Sometimes I have to be patient that’s all. There is more in store for me and I will keep that thought in my sorrow pocket for when I may need it and the rest is just inconvenient detail… and the Devil in there – he can go to hell…
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