Have you ever been in a desolate area, on a cloudless night, enveloped by darkness and look skyward at the vast expanse of stars? Darkness is a contrast to light. Despite it being counterintuitive, darkness is an illuminating highlighter in the same way that absence makes the heart grow fonder.
The Book of Radiance, Zohar (1:51a), highlights that even within a flame there is contrasting bright and dark light:
Come and See: In a flame ascending are two lights: one, a white light, radiant; the other, a light tinged with black and blue. The white light is above, ascending unswervingly, while beneath it is the blue-black light, a throne for the white, which rests upon it, each embracing the other, becoming one. The blue-black light consumes anything cleaving below, while that white light hovering over it never devours or consumes, nor does its light waver. Above the white light hovers a concealed light, encompassing it. Here abides the supernal mystery. You will discover all in the ascending flame, wisdoms of the highest.
Rabbi Geela Rayzel Raphael found a way to bring together the homonyms evening (balancing) and evening (day ending) in her version of a traditional prayer:
Sacred words even the evenings
Wisdom opens gates locked around our hearts
Evening the evenings
Evening the frayed edges of our lives.
Our light often rests on the shoulders (and crevices) of our darkness—the moments when we begin to see those frayed edges of our lives and “even” them out through a full acknowledgment of our own darkness.
The evening is a time to reflect on the uneven aspects of our perceptions of dark and light—our reactivity to deny or disengage from the dark and be “blinded by the dark.”
A practice for the dark evenings of winter:
Light a candle and gaze at the flame (in as dark of a room as possible) and let the reflection and refraction of the light enter the darkness of your eye. Become a pupil of the light that comes from the radiance of the blackness—the harmony of dark and light.