Sometimes I ask myself questions and then laugh because I immediately apply some philosophical meaning to the benign question I’ve asked myself, and then answer that question instead. In this instance I was sitting at my computer writing an email to a group of guys from church that I have over to watch a movie once a month. When my focus turned away from it to trying to clean up my desk, I asked myself out loud, “why am I sitting in the dark?”
In a purely practical world, this is an easy question to answer. You see, my kids like to play in it. They shut off all the lights, get out the flashlights or laser pointers, and run around giggling with glee. Even the smallest sources of light must be extinguished if possible in order for them to achieve maximum enjoyment. It’s one of the things they look forward to during the extended lit days of summertime. When they’re done, the lights don’t get turned back on. Further, my wife has an odd combination of behaviors manifested by a compulsion to turn off some lights every time she passes out of the room, like the kitchen, and a resitance to ever turning off other lights, like the garage. Usually its the ones in the most useful spaces that are extinguised, or where I’ll find her cave dwelling by reading a book in the dark or some such thing. This is the answer to why I’m, literally, sitting in the dark.
Me? It makes me uncomfortable. For as long as I can remember I’ve had an irrational fear of the dark. My parents could tell you stories of the bloody murder I’d scream if the lights went out. It’s why my kids play in the dark. I didn’t want them to have that, so I intentionally played in the dark with them when they were little to try to get them associate fun with it. Mostly hide-and-seek games. When they were at their littlest I’d pair up with the youngest, because they didn’t like being in the dark. Don’t tell them that helped me too. I told you it was irrational. What is a toddler going to do to defend me from whatever lurks in the dark? Anyway, they all gradually learned to actually enjoy playing in the dark. I’ve desensitized myself as well, or at least learned to approach it rationally. Still, especially if nobody is around, I don’t care for it. I don’t know why. I guess it makes me uncomfortable to not be able to see what is around me, even though I know I’m in a sterile environment like my own house. Sometimes I have the urge to rush to a light and turn it on, but I’ll force myself to endure the darkness and even stop briefly to punish myself for being a pansy. All this to say, I prefer not to be in the dark.
So, when I asked myself, “why am I sitting in the dark?” that was the real reason I was asking, not that you really needed to know that for the question that actually immediately formed in the less than practical part of my mind. The thing is, I’m not sure why, but I realized I often consciously ask myself a similar question sitting at work. Usually on a bad day, and in a bad mood. Disgusted with the world. I say to myself, “Self, why are you sitting in the dark? Can you turn on a light?” Not in those terms, until now at least, since I just realized the parallel as obvious as it is. In this case I’m not talking about a physical dark you see, but a dark that has me upset for some reason at something or someone. Sometimes, if I recognize I just need to flip a switch, I can actually turn on a light. There is no need to sit in the dark. Sometimes this is harder than others, because this sort of switch is more difficult to switch than your average GE lightswitch, but it does work if you can manage to get it switched. Usually at work somebody will come along and flip it back off on me like my wife and kids do with the physical light switch, but you just have to keep flipping it back on just the same if you can manage it.
Sound reasoning, even with yourself, works in all sorts of situations, whether it’s overcoming a physical darkness, or a mental darkness. If you don’t find it pleasant, just get up and turn on the light. If you’re so equipped, requesting help from God to get the switch flipped helps too. You might say I’m weak-minded and just need the mental crutch, but that’s probably just because of the bad mood you’re stuck in 😉