“O mor siriol, gwena seren
Ar hyd y nos
I oleuo'i chwaer ddaearen
Ar hyd y nos.
O'er thy spirit gently stealing
Visions of delight revealing
Breathes a pure and holy feeling
All through the night.”
~ Ar Hyd Y Nos, lullabye from Wales, 18th century
A wakeful night, and these keystrokes do not interrupt the silence, nor do these words require artificial lighting. Late hours well underway, the daylit roads past have since routed into dark passages. Stillness is not always a stagnant state- as it may appear. Transformative silence parallels the soul’s thirst for understanding and assurance.
In this heavily material-minded culture, additive approaches are more automatic than subtractive measures. Indeed, there is discipline in our constructs, but it is necessary to call forth a finer sense of discernment, in order to simplify the spatterings of our spheres. Quiet can blanket with consolation, yet also disarm as fears visit the silence. Often, peacefulness and unsettle coexist. This peculiar balance occurs to my thoughts, pacing my apartment in the dark. An old habit of many years has been to survey the world from my windows in the middle of the night. Even the parked cars look asleep, lined up in staid somber rows.
The reference point of being alive to the waking world while all is at rest has had many connotations for me. It is as though standing sentry, keeping vigil with my thoughts. But then again, there are other lit windows along the street. Then come reminders of aloneness in the world, that I am the sole witness to what I know. But then again, there are souls dear to mine in this life. Spectres of ideas invade my thoughts, attempting to convince me of my limitations. But then again, the night sky reveals expanse.
The hours around midnight are the darkest. The mind is at its most pliable, and awakening at its most prominent. Whence come the reminders that cause our tosses and turns? Perhaps an impression the Spirit wishes for us to remember. Or a message of something to be avoided. The stillness I find once awake presents an immediate mystery of dusk and shadowed slumber. And in reverence of the silence, I keep the radio at its slightest murmur. Indeed, such hours become a Gethsemane through which my thoughts both confront and reconcile. Past shipwrecked hopes come to mind. So many pursuits and projects dashed by unforseen treacherous shoals. But then again, by such misunderstood fortunes I’ll never know the shores from which my steps have been spared. Interiors have ways of closing in at night, walls becoming more apparent. Walking along the garden wall outside reminds me of how barriers seem to solidify and blur in the darkness. Some nights I’ll write a few words, lest they be lost by sunrise. Obscurity can bring the impenetrable to unveil ways to look ahead- even through wisps and shreds of clouds.
Several days ago, on a rare sunny day, I caught up with a friend over coffee. The venue was a strikingly sun-drenched garden café, yet this was simply a backdrop for his descriptions of his fears. The contrast was impossible to disregard. Yet this friend launched into societal and political anxieties with a passionate fervor- matching depth of misery with intensity of energy. Listening and chatting I didn’t dare judge, as in my own way I was masking worries of my own. Bad news has its own draw as a catalyst for racing minds, and my responses tried to point out what was good- even the bright weather. We both had plenty to talk about.
At my desk, a few nights ago, I interrupted my habitual reading and listening to the news. Indeed, it is good to be informed, but it’s also good to be cheered. And I wondered about what brings cheer. How strange to have to strain to imagine what causes joy. Consolation and inspiration. A sense of completeness, of recognition, of discovery. The satisfaction of accomplishment- in its many forms. Beauty, art, music, joyful expressions. Being among signs of creation. I tried to remind my friend (and interiorly myself) to try not to count upon things that do not encourage or strengthen. In so doing, it’s easier to remember that which is well and good, despite the currents. Admittedly, I pay for the wakeful nights with drowsy days, and although these are unintentional, there are thoughts to gather which I would not have found any other way.