Monday, December 31, 2012

Darkest before the Dawn

I have spent the last few weeks asking people who their Heroes are and, most importantly, their Heroes who are not the same gender as them. It has been a small sample surveyed so far, but the blank looks that come from women asked about their male Heroes and men about their female Heroes genuinely surprised me, because my Heroes are not only of my gender.

Anne Boleyn
Jane Austen and William Shakespeare
Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter Mary Shelley
Henry Tudor and his daughter Elizabeth
Edith Wharton and Henry James
David Attenborough and Stephen Fry

There was one woman who topped almost everyone’s list of Heroes however, and for Christmas one of my inspirational friends gave me a book of her writing. Glancing through Come Be My Light, I immediately saw that Mother Teresa wrote her letters in a style very similar to one of my favourite poets, Emily Dickinson.

The goosebump inducing revelation from Mother Teresa’s writing is that although she brought light and hope to so many, she felt in the darkness, without God, for most of her life. It makes my hairs stand on end and my eyes prickle at just the thought of such a kind woman feeling so lost in her soul and in her heart. I bet I’ll be a bit of a mess reading her actual words to that effect.

If I ever become a Saint –
I will surely be one of ‘darkness’.
I will continually be absent from Heaven –
to light the light of those in darkness on earth.

Mother Teresa

It feels slightly sacrilegious to be so struck by Mother Teresa’s style of writing and how similar it is to that of Emily Dickinson, for they have few similarities between them bar a bone-deep sense of isolation from the light of life. I have always loved the interested isolation of Emily’s poems, and today, as I contemplate Mother Teresa and her cross, one of Emily’s poems comes to mind.

Adrift! A little boat adrift!
And night is coming down!
Will no one guide a little boat
Unto the nearest town?

So sailors say – on yesterday –
Just as the dusk was brown
One little boat gave up it’s strife
And gurgled down and down.

So angels say – on yesterday –
Just as the dawn was red
One little boat – o’erspent with gales –
Retrimmed it’s masts – redecked it’s sails –
And shot – exultant on!

Emily Dickinson

Today is the day we conceive of the old year gurgling down and down, and tomorrow the day to shoot, exultant, on. And today is always the day that we inevitably promise to do something, anything, tomorrow to light the light of those in darkness on earth.