Depression turns the world into something small. Turns you into something smaller still. It blinks out the stars, blackens the sky, blocks out the sun ,and cloaks everything in varying shades of night. We adapt to surviving in the environment of the dark. Closed-in, closed-down, and boarded-up. We learn to live in little rooms. “Rooms the shape and size of every role [we are] supposed to play”, says Lee Kravertz, “Rooms [we’ve] either outgrown or [we] never fit in to begin with”. A claustrophobia so thick you can taste the weight of it in the air. You don’t know how you got here, and you don’t know how to get out. The entry is invisible, and the exit is even harder to find.
And yet, there is a paradox that sharpens to a point in the closeted space. An anomaly that punches a hole through the heavy fabric of the black. A secret comes to light. A secret becomes the light. “[The] secret of the universe,” Frederick Buechner says, “is a room where life is reborn out of death. A room where you are commissioned in darkness. A room where…morning after morning you are given back to the world.” A place where the suffering becomes a candle. Where the hurt becomes a gate, and the pain becomes a door.
There is an opening in even the smallest of enclosures. A handle in the dark. The trick is to find it. To know where to look. To search for the seams. The tiny crevices where the warmth of something overlooked cuts through the cold.
Carl Jung says that “The doors to the self are few”, and sometimes difficult to see, often because they are in places we either don’t notice or would rather not look. He says that “If you have a deep scar, that is a door. If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door. If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door.” There are moments of rapturous hurt, ache, and longing, places of breach and breakage, places calloused from the constancy of a familiar suffering. These are the places of profound openness. In the fractures of ourselves, where the ecstatic joy of sun-soaked wonder seeps in, we find the deepest of truths. We discover, as Thich Nhat Hanh explains, that “The suffering inside us reflects the suffering in the world”, and “if we can transform our suffering” then we can transform that of the world’s as well. When we open up, the world opens too.
“Every room”, no matter how cramped, no matter closed, no matter how small, says Anne Lamott, “gives us layers of information about our past and present and who we are”. Even the darkest corner of the most confined quarters shows us “our shrines and quirks and hopes and sorrows, our attempts to prove that we exist and are more or less Okay.” We run our fingers along the edges of our unseen things; “the clutter and the cracks”, the “bleakness” and the “brokenness”, says Lamott. The things we lost. The things we carry. The things left undone..
Between recollection and reconnection we walk a labyrinthine prayer around a black-sun center. A pilgrimage of murmurs circumambulating our inner-court. Weaving through what Tamsyn Muir calls, “that microcosm of eternity between forgiveness and the slow, uncomprehending agony of the fall.” That’s where we find it; a door.
In every little room there is a door. There is an opening. An opportunus. A porta fenestella; a small window where providence comes to speak. A tonglen. A sending and a taking. A place where suffering compresses, and compassion starts to breathe. Breathing in the texture of constriction, and breathing out into vastness and enormity.
There are entryways to awareness that connect us to everything. There are locks, but there are also keys. Where the light comes in. Where the darkness flees.
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