“Hello darkness, my old friend. I’ve come to talk to you again.”
The quiet duo, almost morose in tonality, began to sing in my earphones as I walked my accustomed route late one night last week. I almost stopped short.
Oh, it’s not a new song, the recording having been made nearly fifty years ago; it’s not even as if I haven’t heard it a thousand times or more in my lifetime. It’s just that I heard the words in the right setting for the first time on that night.
In the dark.
In a dark mood.
Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel wrote and recorded “The Sound of Silence” in the years just after the assassination of President Kennedy. It was a dark time for many in our nation and they captured the fear and angst of a generation. “In restless dreams I walked alone–narrow streets of cobblestone.” The anguish is almost palpable.
I mention the setting simply to reiterate that both the writing and the singing come out of the darkness. Mr. Simon admits to beginning with the words quoted above as he spoke them into the darkness of his bathroom, where he often sat and wrote in his early days of performing.
My writing will never achieve the stature of his, but often it too comes out of the darkness of night. Frequently, it proceeds from the darkness of my spirit as well. By that, I mean that there are places in my heart where all is not gaiety and party favors.
I think it would be an error to cast this darkness as harmful or evil.
Sadness exists, in spite of my efforts to banish it.
And, that’s as it should be.
As I read my own words written in these times, I have to admit that some of the most powerful sentiments I feel come out of that same darkness. Many of the essays I have wrenched out of my forays into the dim, uncertain night are, in my mind, my most memorable.
You may not agree and that’s fine. There is room for a different perspective.
For, you see, from the same mind (at times) come lightness and exuberance. Will you allow me to follow up for just a moment with another example from the writing of the artists I mentioned above?
Perhaps one of the happiest songs to come from that same era is “The 59th Street Bridge Song.” With the goofiness of Hello lamppost, whatcha knowin’? I’ve come to watch your flowers growin’. . ., we’re just . . .kicking down the cobblestones right along with the carefree duo.
From the pen and mouths of the same artists who lived in the intense darkness, came this joy and exhilaration for life. It seems possible that the sentiments of both songs took place on the same route, too. Notice the narrow streets in the lyrics of the first?
Yep. The very same streets of cobblestone that the duo was kicking down in the second song.
I thought about that on a sunny day earlier this week, as I rode my bicycle with a couple of old friends. We followed a lot of the same route I often walk (and run) at night. You might say the difference was indeed, day and night.
Spirits were light as we talked and laughed, first one person riding ahead, then another. When the road allowed we rode three abreast to share the enjoyment. Carefree, the miles flew by.
We want to spend all our time enjoying life. The fact is, just as half of our life is spent in daylight and half in the night, we will all experience our share of joy and pain. Both are valuable and essential to learning and growing. Both come whether we will them to or not.
Will we learn from the darkness, or will we become bitter and angry because of it? Will we carry the joy of the light into the dark of the night, or is the night doomed to be devoid of hope?
We choose. We determine the manner in which we face the darkness and silence. It may indeed, become our old friend. That said, it does not have to become our destiny and our hell here on earth.
One other thought hits me as I write this: Friends are a gift from a beneficent God, are they not? Even the dark times are lighter when they are around us. I’m beginning to think that perhaps old age may be less onerous with a few of these fine people around.
I think I’ve still got a few sessions of kicking down the cobblestones left in me, too. I’m even feeling a little like that carefree duo of yesteryear. For the time being, at least.
We’ll have to work together on keeping it going. Twenty years from now, we may still be singing those final words.
Everything has it wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content.
(Helen Keller ~ American author/educator, both blind and deaf ~ 1880-1968)
But who knows what she spoke to the darkness, alone, in the bitter watches of the night…
(from “The Return of the King” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien ~ English educator/author ~ 1892-1973)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2013. All Rights Reserved.
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