The Glow in the Night
There is a place at the bottom of the world known as the bowels of existence, a quiet, dark, lonesome, and dangerous place where you can’t see where you’re going, forgotten where you’ve come from, and walk blindly yet with the most careful trepidation to avoid as best as you can all the pitfalls and wells beneath your feet. All people visit this place, at one time or another. If they don’t, they tend to consider themselves lucky, as having lived good lives – but in fact they are ignorant of a very real thing. A very real place unlike any other.
People, when they visit, meet with one of two fates: either they make it all the way through and emerge from the other end completely transformed; or they fall into one of the wells and confusedly swirl around in it forever, thinking they have escaped. There is no way to escape the bowels without going the whole way through it, and those who think they have escaped come back to the reality, from time to time, that, despite what they had thought and hoped, they are still stuck in the dark and seemingly limitless bowels as they were yesterday. I say to you, if you ever visit, don’t let yourself be one of the many who fall – that is the fate of most visitors.
There is no darker place imaginable than this; you are completely alone and you have no guidance; you feel as if the whole world has left you behind and moved somewhere out of your reach. Depending on how deeply you fall into the ultimate low (for many just scratch the surface), you wander around sometimes for years, thinking, believing, worse, even knowing, that you will never get out and life will never be the same again.
No one lives in this place permanently, everyone only visits. It has no inhabitants – except for one. The guardian of the low. She, like you, plays her part in mundane life – but when you get to the bottom of the trench she remains alone to stand with you. She feels what you feel, knows what’s in your mind. But more importantly, she sees your possibilities, the light at the end which you cannot yet fathom and the certain hope of which you cannot even dream.
Around her neck she wears a golden pendant that emits an eerie soft glow, the only speck of light in the never-ending darkness. Its greatest comfort is that it lets you know there is another in the same lonely place you are in. Though she may want to, she cannot do much to help you bypass the pitfalls. Carrying on is a million times harder than falling into one of the ditches – we all know that falling happens on its own, while staying afloat costs constant effort. So it is here. She can only talk to you and hope that you are one of the ones that make it through….
Another thing: this place is not only dark and full of shadows, it is full of mirrors, too. And when you look into the mirrors set in the darkness and shadows you will see monsters reflected. You will see all the horrible forms of your face that you never thought your face could take – and they will be everything you most hate. Every mythical creature you hated in the world above will have its place in your reflection – only this time it won’t be a distant vision you loathe in principle, it will be you. These reflections are real the way the trees are really black before daybreak. In that light they are; in another, they change. Unfortunately, while in this dark place the lighting doesn’t change much, so these reflections are all you tend to see, and what you come to believe is the real you.
Don’t take this too literally, because when you are in the low not everyone can see it from the outside. You still live in the same world as you’ve been living in before – at least your body is – you still go to work every day, you still wake up and go to sleep, you still need to eat, shower, and use the bathroom – none of that changes. The change is from the inside, and that dark place you’re in is within yourself.
One day, a boy who never suspected it received such a hard blow that the ground was blown out from under his feet totally. Without realizing it, he started tumbling down the steepest slope, and after a confused while he found himself in a lonely, lonely place, where nothing was as it was before, and nobody was with him. He was lost, as were so many before him, yet so few that he knew in his short life. Few he knew had fallen just so deeply.
Then in the distance he saw a faint little glow, barely anything. It was the only thing lighter than the night. He followed it, and soon came upon a woman, wearing a necklace with a pendant that emitted that faint glow. He took comfort in knowing that another person was there with him. He inquired about her.
“I am always here,” she said. “People come and go, but I stay. I know this place. In the midst of a place where it seems there is only darkness, I am the only light. For, there always has to be some light. There always has to be something to grab onto.”
She could only talk to him and comfort him, make him feel assured that he wasn’t alone – which was a huge help. But she could not traverse the dangerous course for him – that, every step of it, he had to do on his own, much as he hoped she would be the one to whisk him away from this mire.
“I don’t have wings,” she laughed. “I’m the guardian here.”
But he could not understand it, how the guardian of a dark and dismal place glowed all white….
“I am so grateful for you,” he said.
“My presence isn’t just a gift, it’s also a test,” she warned.
We all know that when life gets hard, we become less pleasant people. And sometimes in the course, we “don’t care anymore” so much that we let ourselves act a little like those monsters we see reflected. Carelessly. We become rude, allow ourselves to stoop to actions that are less than noble – but we should never feel that this is excusable behavior – that is just another pitfall of this place. The trick of it is to keep to your values, what you know is true and what you want to preserve. If you care to preserve nothing – well, then, why are you even trying? You may as well let yourself fall if you have nothing you hold sacred, nothing you want to keep from being swallowed up by the darkness around you.
The boy and the guardian talked often about the mysterious place. She was a great help to him, and tried her best to explain many things. She told him constantly that he had to keep trying. But, depression consuming him, he was in no mood to try anything; he was in the mood to let the feeling of his own worthlessness consume him (for you see, he had just seen his own reflection as it looked in the night and shadow, and he never imagined that he could look like that), leaning back and indulging it to swarm over him like a flood of ants, or an ocean wave. Without care, he began acting more like a hungry wolf than a man. The guardian commented on this one day:
“You’re acting very meanly,” she said, liking his company less and less; it was making her feel unsafe and disgusted, for she felt that no matter what circumstances he was in, a man should never allow himself to stoop so low and allow himself to be disrespectful to others without care for how he was acting.
“Well I’m a mean person,” he said, feeling down about himself as always nowadays.
“No you’re not,” she said, for she knew how this place warped one so much.
“I’m just in this bad place right now,” he said.
The girl thought about it for a minute and then slowly said, “…I was once in this place for the first time, like you… and I never did these unsavory things. I know what is and isn’t possible in the realm of human actions inside these circumstances. In short, you don’t have to be a monster. See, that’s what this place aims to turn you into. But though you feel like a monster is what you are, the most important thing is to always try to stay human.”
The boy began telling her about all his discoveries and revelations from that place they were in; for he didn’t know just who she was – to him she seemed an innocent girl naïve to the world. Not realizing she knew this place better than he himself did, he started telling her of its horrors.
“…And you can’t get out. You just feel like a piece of shit all the time.”
But she smiled.
“You don’t have to tell someone who’s been there how it is. I see where these roads lead as concretely as the lines on my hand. Nothing you say can change my beliefs, because I have walked it all firsthand.”
The boy was quiet. All this was very confusing for him. They continued walking together, she always there with him. And she hoped, and hoped, that eventually he would get out.
December 9, 2009