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Visiting the dark placesPosted Friday, June 22, 2012, at 8:57 AM
A few weeks ago, after publication in this space of the poem "god is watching," a couple of people asked if I was OK. So right here and now I want to squelch any thoughts that I may be "losing it."
I'm a writer and a poet ... maybe even a lyricist. Most of the time the words I write come from my own experience, but sometimes they don't. The aforementioned poem is a mix of both and should not be interpreted as indicative of the author being in a "dark place" or any place other than sitting in front of a computer keyboard or putting ink to yellow legal pad.
With that said, I feel this is a good place to address the "dark places" issue, because I believe it opens up a window we all need to look into.
I, for the most part, usually tend to lean toward being optimistic. In most cases, you'll find me looking at the bright side of any situation, the silver lining behind every cloud, you might say.
I can usually make lemonade out of even the most sour of lemons.
But I believe most folks live in an emotional state of flux. What do I mean? I guess I would say that if anyone is on the mountaintop ALL of the time, there is probably something amiss.
I think we ebb and flow and that, sometimes, we may wander into a place that isn't as sunny and warm as it is where we usually trek.
Heck, I'd wager to say that even the toothy, dark haired, smiling ear-to-ear preacher on TV -- the one who encourages us to make every day our best day -- has bad days and off weeks and nights when he just can't sleep for all of the thoughts running through his head.
It's called being human.
And some are more prone to the roller coaster ride than others. The question, then, isn't whether or not we visit the dark places -- the back side of the wilderness -- so to speak, but rather what we do with it when we find ourselves there.
Throughout the centuries artists, writers, composers, and theologians seem to have harnessed the energy for the eventual betterment of mankind. From Mozart, Beethoven, Van Goh, even Martin Luther were reportedly all prone to visiting the dark places. Not that I place myself in that company, but you get the point.
Some made the best of it, and some succumbed to it. Dear Vincent finally took his own life to escape the turmoil inside.
In the contemporary world, we can see the effects of the dark places in the movies, books, and music of our day.
Frank Capra is just one of the silver screen's legends who not only visited the dark side, but took us there with him time after time, along with Alfred Hitchcock and Rod Serling. Tennessee Williams, John Steinbeck, Stephen King and others have taken us to the edge of darkness using their literary talents.
Carlos Santana, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Kris Kristofferson, Hank Williams, and many more songwriters and musicians all worked -- from time to time -- out of some shadowy place within themselves.
Recently it was revealed that even our generation's "painter of light" battled the dark side and had relapsed into alcoholism just prior to his death.
Again, I believe it's not whether or not you visit the low places from time-to-time, it's what you do about it once you're there. Do you choose to learn from it, to grow from it, to appreciate the sunny days more, or do you stay there and wait for someone or something to pull you out?
Falling into low places -- occasionally -- is nothing to be ashamed of. If it happens too often or on a somewhat consistent basis, you should try to get professional help from a physician or counselor.
I said all that to say this: I'm okay for now ... but if you ever see me standing too close to the edge of the shadow lands, reach out and gently take my hand and maybe -- just maybe -- we'll walk into the sunshine together.
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Bob Stewart is pastor of Union Baptist Church. His long-running column ranges in topic from matters of faith to observations about life in Saline County, politics and the sights to see in travels throughout America.