Dark Nights Don’t Last Forever… Usually


by Jake Block

When we’re plagued by troubles, and it seems that we’re destined to fail, someone will always chime in with, “It’s always darkest just before the dawn.”  Ok.  It’s technically inaccurate, because it ISN’T darkest just before the dawn, but several hours prior to the rising of the sun, when the limitations of human vision reach the physical boundaries of the curvature of the Earth.  We take their point… the dawn is coming and things will look brighter then.  Brighter it might well be, but seldom do problems disappear overnight.

And so, to rid themselves of problems, people do things.  They pray to their god or gods, hoping that divine intervention can stave off disaster, or at least hold it at bay until we can find a way to work them out.  Some people go the route of the storefront “fortune teller” who looks at their palm and tells them what they want to hear, so long as they cross the seer’s palm with silver.  Perhaps they consult the Tarot, cast the runes, scry in the blackest of mirrors, throw the bones, read tea leaves, I Ching, dial a psychic, or shake that magic 8 ball, until they find someone, somewhere who can give them some positive outlook on the problems that vex them.  And on to another dark night of fear and dread, hoping that their life will be better, come the dawn.

Now, not to disparage the entire range of those who believe in what have become known as the “psychic sciences,” but there is an entire culture of people out there who will happily cater to those who are desperate.  They will take the silver that crosses their palm and demand gold, for which they will gladly ply their trade in curses and cures.  Some make a damned good living out of it, but a truism of life, believe it or not, is that many common problems are transitory, and if left alone, will indeed take care of themselves.  The problem is that we as a people have been led to believe that life should not have pain, suffering or any kind of discomfort at all, and nothing could be further from the truth.

Pain, suffering and discomfort are prime motivators.  Without some degree of pain or discomfort, most people would simply endure hardships that, with a bit of ingenuity and personal effort, might be easily remedied.  We all know of people who will complain about the broken spring in their favorite chair that jabs them painfully in the ass, yet they still use the chair, because it’s their favorite.  They don’t fix it.  They simply endure the pain and complain.  When told that the problem can be fixed by repairing the broken spring, or paying an upholsterer to do it, they will look at you like you’re from Mars.  “Reupholster the chair?  It’s annoying, but not THAT bad!

It’s not that they wouldn’t like to get rid of the chair’s painful bite, but there’s a limit to their desire that is in the expending of personal effort or cash.  Most people can endure a lot of pain, if it’s going to cost them something to get rid of it.  So, they’ll suffer through the pain with that sorry, put-upon expression that screams, “WHY ME?”  Why YOU?  You deserve it, because you could be out of pain and comfortable, and all you have to do is act, but it costs less in effort and money to just suffer through the status quo with the attitude that “this too shall pass.”

Truth be known, there are many people who actually welcome a level of pain and suffering in their lives, because one, it gives them something to complain about and gain sympathy from those who have the time and patience to listen and put up with them, and two, it gives them the opportunity to “play the martyr card,” because they don’t deserve the problems they now face, but they bear them with a form of put upon dignity.  “See me suffer and keep my chin up where others would fold and beg for mercy!”  Martyrs for a cause are simply those who don’t have the guts to take their problems head on, taking risks and positive actions to best them.  While they might make for good stories and cautionary tales, it’s the flip side option, being a hero, that gets the lion’s share of accolades and respect.

Joseph Campbell wrote about the hero’s journey, being the tale of someone who, in service to a cause or against a seemingly invincible adversary, refuses to give in.  They fight, sometimes failing in their efforts, but always to rise again and again and again until they achieve their victory, against all odds.  In their quest for justice, they employ tactics both fair and foul, the ends justifying the means.  Even the “white knight” is capable of dark deeds to vanquish dragon and despot alike.  In the end, he holds his banner high, only slightly stained in the eyes of those he serves.  Minstrels tell his tale, and his legend and glory live on as an inspiration to all.

What’s the difference between the hero and the victim?  I would speculate that heroes tend to be those who have an indomitable spirit, once moved to act, and everyone can be moved to act, given appropriate stimulus and self interest.  That stimulus can in many cases be traced to the pain they feel for their situation or that of a loved one.  When that pain, and it could be physical or emotional, becomes intolerable and one’s self preservation is on the line, action against it is no longer elective, but mandatory.  The victim can always find some reason to embrace the inertia that holds them in place, and that reason is, as a rule, external, with “it or them” holding them in exerting control against them.

Human inertia is that process by which a person settles and accepts his or her lot in life as normal.  One can become static regardless of power, wealth or social status.  The very rich can and do suffer  from life’s setbacks and difficulties just as much as the very poor.  Granted, the outward manifestations of suffering are more pronounced in the poor, who cannot afford the trappings of “comfort” that are part and parcel of the affluent lifestyle.  But the psychological effects of stress and “psychic trauma” are often subtle, like a time bomb ticking quietly in a box until at last it explodes violently.

Human, inertia, is much like the physical inertia that we learned about in school.  The definition of inertia is: 

inertia | iˈnərSHə |

noun

1  A tendency to do nothing or to remain unchanged: the bureaucratic inertia of government.

Physics a property of matter by which it continues in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, unless that state is changed by an external force.”

Rich or poor, when we experience bad times, there is a tendency towards just accepting our lot and wallowing in the depths of despair that traumatic events can cause.  Many times, we begin to accept that as our normal state, when it seems that we experience trauma or disappointments in life more frequently than others.  This stasis is arguably worse than the trauma that inspired it and has been called a wound to the spirit.

And therein lies a key.  Those who give in to bad times and allow themselves to be defined by the sense of depression and desperation are those who are most adversely affected by setbacks in life.  Those who acknowledge that they have had a setback of some kind, and then actively work toward reversing their lot, rebound much quicker.  A positive attitude and a feeling that one can get back up, dust themselves off and start all over again are empowering to the human spirit.

So, what then does one do if life has kicked them when they’re down?  The first thing to do is realize that it isn’t just happening to you.  Millions of people stumble along their life’s path, and some fall hard.  It’s not usual that life or “someone out there” has it in for you.  But even if it is, you should remember that the best revenge is in living well, despite your adversary’s bad intent.

Shit happens.  Get over it and fight back.  And I can hear you voice out there, asking, “When in the hell have you ever been down?”  Well, my friends, there were times I was so down that I had to look up to see the bottom, and it’s true that when you are at rock bottom, the only way to go is up.  The darkest of nights don’t usually last for ever.  That is, unless you let them.

The Orders of The Sect of the Horned God

The Order of Pan
The Order of Cernunnos
The Order of Prometheus
The Order of Dionysis
The Order of Shiva

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