Falling Into the Abyss


The days are getting longer, and the moon falls these days into the Pacific Ocean, right over the Golden Gate Bridge, from the kitchen window of my house, in a place called View. From the vantage point of the Northern Hemisphere, we are facing into winter, that time of darkness, and already the days – one moment at a time – are longer and longer.

I have fallen into the Abyss, and I am grateful – yes!

We are conditioned to not fall into the Abyss, either the Abyss that is out there in the world, or the Abyss that is our-selves:

“Do not go gentle into that good night…

rage, rage against the dying of the light.”  Dylan Thomas, 1914-1953


To choose, to accept, even to welcome the falling into the Abyss is counter-cultural.  To choose to go deep, to go into the deep, the deepest and darkest place, is something we humans do anything to avoid.   Unless we have learned – through practice and experience – that it is in the deep, in the darkness within, that we find greatest light – Light! – we will use our precious energy on all things to avoid that darkness, and finally, that Light.

What are the things we choose?

Some of us choose drugs – alcohol, and other things.  They work, for awhile.  Some of us put a on cheerful face , like pancake makeup, before we leave our house.  After awhile, the cheerful face fools us, more than anyone else.  Some of us work way too hard, staying busy, to avoid the deep and the dark.  Some of us fill our calendars with more dates and more activities in order to stay away from the edge of our sadness and grief.  Some of us eat.  Some of us subtly – or not so subtly – control the people around us.  We tell them what to do, we manipulate the relationship, until the relationship is a web of unexpressed feelings, anger and rage.  Some of us worry, keeping our minds occupied so that we can focus on the worries and not the reality of the moment.  Some of us try to save the world, while we remain unsaved, ourselves.  Some of us are cheerful, maddeningly so, smiling and giggling through the worst of events so that no uncomfortable feeling can emerge.

As communities, we too avoid darkness.  In the days following 9/11, I remember vividly and with great sadness how talk soon turned to war and retaliation.  A loss of that magnitude requires a journey into the depths, the depths of grief and despair, before our minds and hearts are on solid enough footing to know the next best action.  Wisdom and true action, clear action, arise out of the ashes of despair, not out of the best clear thinking – and the best clear thinking is not even possible without a grimy journey through the ashes of despair.


I have taken this journey before, and mostly, I have gone “ungently.”  In other words, I have fought to stay positive, to remain as happy as possible, to stay busy, to not say the truth:  “I am lonely.  I am sad.  I am afraid.”

What my long and deep journey has taught me, however, is that it is the dance with despair itself that begins to have a rhythm.

Now, I fall.  Then, I will rise.

Now, all is dark.  Then, all is Light.

Now, I control.  Then, I am free.

Now, I am in chains.  Then, I dance!


In my reflections, I have written before that the only right action, the only possible action we can take, is the action of surrender.  Surrender to what-is.  Surrender to what presents itself.  Surrender, even if it doesn’t feel good.  Surrender, even if all is lost.  Surrender, even if this is not what I want.  Breathe, let go, allow, avoid a fight.  Breathe again.

In my experience, the only journey worth taking is the journey into the darkness. I have been to some very dark places, and in those places I have learned that I am not alone.  I have learned I am not alone only because I have been to those dark places.  Unless I had gone, I could not say “I am not alone.”  In those dark places, I have learned that there is hope, and hope is more powerful than you and I can ever, ever suspect.

Now, when grief arises, I fight to stay away from grief, just like you do.  I fight to stay happy, like everyone else.  That’s always the first way, the socially acceptable way, after all.  Then, I begin – slowly, like a toddler learning to stand, carefully and awkwardly but with determination – to accept. I fall.

Then, I  am grateful.


Happy, happy and blessed New Year, all! 


2 thoughts on “Falling Into the Abyss”

  1. This was a very, very powerful read. I wonder if your experiences ministering to your congregation are part of what moved you to this understanding…


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