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  • Mark Brafield

Going to the dark side


Christmas is nearly here, but first we have to get past the shortest, and darkest, day.

The idea of Christmas as a light in the darkness is as old as Christmas itself; it is generally accepted that the church appropriated the pagan feast of Saturnalia to give us the Christmas we know today, a celebration of light and feasting at the darkest and coldest point of the year.

But perhaps there is more to it than that. Christmas is also associated with ghost stories, and as a child, one of my favourite books was 'The Dark is Rising' by Susan Cooper, the forces of good and evil contending in the spooky half - light of late afternoon Christmas Eve. And is it just coincidence that the new series of Star Wars films are released the week before the shortest day as, once again, the forces of the universe do battle with their sabres of light opposing The Dark Side ?.

But as Darth Vader might tell you, between gasped breaths, the shadows cannot always be ignored.

An old rabbinical story tells of a passer - by seeing a man scrabbling on his knees under a lamp post. 'What are you doing' he asks, to which the man replies that he has lost something valuable. 'Where did you lose it ?' asks the passer-by, at which the man gestures into the shadows. 'Then why are you looking under the lamp - post ?' asks the passer-by, to which the man replies that 'This is where the light is'.

Light creates shadows and sometimes - not always, but sometimes - we need to look into the shadows to see what we might find there, and what the shadows can tell us.


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