Early this morning, I awoke from my sleep for no apparent reason. It was the wee hours of the morning, no sounds were coming from my roommates and the fan in the window was still churning quietly beside me. I turned to the other side of my bed in a fruitless attempt to drift back to sleep. I rearranged pillows, held my breath and counted to 53 before losing track. Nothing seemed to help.
Thinking a snack might do the trick, I grumbled my way out of bed and into the kitchen. Taking a small biscuit off the shelf, I lathered it with honey. In the darkness, I dripped some on my hand which in turn became terrible sticky. Moving to the sink to wash it off, I slammed my toe onto a chair, prompting a one legged dance around the kitchen, chanting damning profanities under my breath. With all the festivities complete, I sat down on the guilty chair to reassess. My eyes were adjusting well to the darkness, but nonetheless, the best images I could conjure of my familiar kitchen were blurred and grey, dim representations of what I knew to actually be there.
I thought back to many nights as a child when, being convinced of the many horrors lurking beyond the confines of my sheets, I had similar difficulties catching zs. Similar to many children, I was convinced of there being monsters under my bed, ghosts in the closets, murderous intruders outside my door and a ravenous wild animal waiting to pounce on any limb that happened to protrude beyond my mattress. On the worst nights, I would spend an hour summoning the courage required to go and wake my parents. By the time I’d arrived at their bedside, I was practically delirious with fear from all the monsters I’d out-maneuvered, not to mention the burglars I’d dodged to get there. It was with a groggy dedication that my parents spent many long nights assuring me of the safety of my bed and, for my father in particular, even longer nights sleeping on the floor of my bedroom as an added reassurance.
It’s been said men love the darkness and as I child I could never understand this. Darkness was fearful and full of doubt, lit only by the comfort of my father’s presence or perhaps the breaking of dawn. But as I grew older, and with age became independent, I found that darkness was something completely different. Instead of terror, it held wonder and mystery and where my imagination used to scare me into needing a father, now it leads me to view the world as I please without light correcting my blurred vision.
So as I sat at my kitchen chair, rubbing a sore toe, I realized that darkness now allows me to imagine a world in which I am strong. This requires a “matured” imagination, an ego and something that has come to be labeled “courage”, though I’m not so sure that’s what it is. Anyone can face a world shrouded in darkness, a world where their perception is the only thing guiding them and they can love, fight and wander as they please. It’s the world that’s been revealed for us to confront that is terribly difficult to love.
I don’t love the darkness so much because it hides my evil deeds but I love the darkness because it lets me live in the delusion of my own security. I am, after all, an independent adult. My imagination has been subdued to this idea of courage; armed with this notion I have no need for a father sleeping next to my bed, in fact I have no need of him even remaining within 800 miles of me. As a child there were monsters, as an adult there’s just my deluded reality and a vague, groggy belief that I can always make it on my own. But if faith like a child is anything, then it is the faith in which darkness is terrible, dawn beautiful and the only safety from my greatest fears is the form of a father sleeping on the floor beside my bed. My deepest fears, I learn, come from within me; they are not created by anything other than my perception and pride and their conquering is also the conquering of something inside of me which, despite all notions of courage or independence, needs to die.
True courage, it turns out, is not facing the darkness and deluding myself into some sort of independence. No, courage is something much more brave and humble. Courage is giving in to the security of a father who is always beside me promising there’s nothing to fear. True courage is allowing myself to sleep in the sound reassurance that all is well and I am as safe as a child.
Although, I must say, biscuits with honey help too.