Thursday, March 6, 2014

Black is the New Black

     Orange is not the "new black". Brown was never the "new black". Neither was pink. Ever. I just got an email today that stated "Blue is the new black." No, no it's not.

Don't watch this show
     Black is always  "the" black. If there must be a "new black", that color is still black. There is nothing that compares to black. Black is more intense than any other color. It is deeper. It is darker. It stands out in a crowd. It blends into the night. It brings out the best in every other color. Without black, the world would be a very drab place. Overrun with the other colors, void of distinction. Just like salt, black brings out the taste in color. Black is not just the anti-color. Black is not the opposite of white. Black is integral and essential to our vision. Life without black would be truly dreary.

      I think sometimes we view darkness similarly, as a thing we can just do without, or maybe even desire to do without.  As if, just as the season's change and a new year brings a "new black", we can simply choose for something else to replace darkness. We associate darkness with fear, with something bad. Darkness blinds us. Darkness harbors evil. It gives evil a place to hide. A hiding place where it can stalk us and jump out of the shadows at any moment and strike us down. We hate the darkness. We loathe the darkness.

     We strive to eliminate the darkness from our cities. We erect street lights at every corner and put more and increasingly brighter lights on the front of our cars. We light up our front yards and our backyards. We have a nightlight in every outlet in the house. We sleep with the lights on.

     Emotionally we wish we could eliminate the darkness. We wish we could replace it with joy, or happiness, or love (all we need is love), or contentment, or humor. We fill our every moment with some distraction or entertainment just to avoid the darkness. We leave the television on a timer to shut itself off after we have passed out. We log into Facebook and Twitter until our eyes can't process the characters streaming from the light of the screens. We sleep with our headphones on. We fall asleep on the couch. Anything to keep away from the darkness.

     Maybe darkness is supposed to be here. Maybe darkness should be embraced rather than reviled. What if darkness was actually good? What if darkness were the other side of light. I am not talking of yin and yang. Not opposites. Just different aspects of the same thing?

     Think of the positives of darkness. Without shadows, light would pervade every scene. Nothing would be distinguishable. Darkness lets us rest our eyes. It helps our bodies renew overnight. Total darkness increases our other senses. They become heightened within darkness. Black velvet, light absorbing borders bring out the colors and brightness of a projector screen. Darkness helps focus our attention. Darkness is relaxing. There is just as much life going on in the darkness as there is in the light.  Light and dark compliment each other. Interestingly, darkness can function without light but light really needs darkness to be effective.

     Three passages in Scripture really help me frame darkness in what I feel is a proper way.

Genesis 1:2 "Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depths, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters."

     I had always tended to think of darkness associated with the words "formless" and "empty" in this verse. Those things would seem to be negatives. Out of the formlessness, God creates form. Land, oceans, vegetation and living beings. Out of emptiness, God fills the earth with teeming life. Formlessness and emptiness are eliminated from creation. But darkness is not treated the same way. God creates light and He says that light is good, something He never says of darkness. Yet, this light does not eliminate darkness. Darkness keeps its place within the world. Darkness seems to just be. It was in existence before light and it continues even into God's perfect Creation. It is not the result of the Fall. It was always here and has always continued to be here. I have no doubt darkness will always have a place around us.

2 Samuel 22 Yes, the whole chapter but here is the pertinent part: "He parted the heavens and came down, a dark cloud beneath His feet. He rode a cherub and flew, soaring on the wings of the wind. He made the dankness a canopy around Him, a gathering of water and thick clouds. From the radiance of His presence, flaming coals were ignited."

     No, God did not actually come down to rescue David from Saul but what is interesting here is that darkness is not seen as a negative thing that a Holy God would not dare let keep in His presence. Rather, it is something that He is seen to have gathered around Him. And yet, it somehow doesn't diminish His radiance at all.

Psalm 139:11-12 "If I say, 'Surely the darkness will hide me, and the light around me will be night' - even the darkness is not dark to You. The night shines like the day; darkness and light are alike to You."

     A revelation that the Spirit showed me when I was writing the song "The Manifestation" was the reality of this passage is not that the dark somehow does not exist for God because of His light, but rather because of His innate darkness. Yes, He is light, but He also is the source of darkness, to the point that when set against His presence, the darkness seems like a bright, sunny day.

     If this is true, and I believe it is, then darkness is no longer something that we should fear, or try to extinguish, but something we should recognize for its place in the world and for its beauty. Knowing all along that it comes from God and is a part of who God is. In the same way that both men and women are made in God's image, light and dark are a part of the same creative power that emanates from God, Himself.

     Fear of the dark is one of the greatest phobias of humankind. It knows no race or culture or creed. We see the evidence of it everywhere, from the Jack-o-lanterns of All Hallows Eve to the witch doctors of Africa. But it should know creed. Our creed should dissolve those fears. Our creed should see darkness for what it is, not something to be feared but something to be revered, bearing testament to the fact that no matter how much the darkness can overpower our senses and make us feel vulnerable and lost, our God is no farther away from us than when we are in the light. It is not a barrier to Him. And if we allow ourselves to experience darkness in that way, as being a part of God's creation not an anathema to it, it will open us to new worlds of hearing and listening, of feeling and smelling. And ultimately restful assurance of God's presence and power in the world.

     This is even more the reason I love black. And why nothing will ever be the new black. It is irreplaceable. There is no substitute. It represents the darkness and nothing can replace darkness and its complimenting effect on the light. Maybe this is why joy always comes in the morning. We can't replace the darkness with joy. But without the darkness, maybe true joy would never come.

     Spring is almost here, and black is still the new black for me.


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