Pursuing the Crack of Light
“There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
-Leonard Cohen, “Anthem” (1992)
The last few years have been difficult for me. I have experienced family drama and estrangement, several difficult surgeries and a scary illness. All the while, I was preparing emotionally to transition from my identity as a university professor to that of full-time artist and writer.
I experience these personal challenges within a matrix of dire worldwide suffering. I grieve with my wife, colleagues and friends over the unrelenting violence against America’s black men (and let’s not forget the women, too); the implacable fear and hatred of Muslims; the cold-hearted, xenophobic exchanges about immigrants and refugees; the reinvigorated slurs against LGBT people; renewed evidence of women’s sexual vulnerability, from war zones to corporate offices; and the inexorable and multidimensional assault on our precious Earth.
All the while, I watched a vulgar and contentious presidential campaign, followed too quickly by election results and leadership punctuated by more vulgarity, braggadocio, and impetuousness.
How is it possible to face personal and communal estrangement and grief without falling into deep, paralyzing despair? How can we find hope when the world seems mean, violent, dangerous and unrelentingly cruel? As we all know, hope slips and slides. I catch it momentarily; then it drifts away, sometimes morphing into indifference, and other times, into despair.
I am comforted by a line from Leonard Cohen’s song “Anthem”: “There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” Those words have sustained me as I’ve drifted into the depths of personal and communal darkness. I cling to the lifeline of my art practice, because I believe that creativity is, at its core, a means of pursuing the faint traces of hope—that crack of light—in the midst of all that fails us.
I remember my beloved therapist some 30 years ago explaining to me that hope and despair—as all such binaries and absolutes—are not opposites, but merely points on a spectrum. They coexist. One is defined by the other. And neither is a permanent state of being.
I am discovering again that hopefulness will always elude me unless I allow myself to experience despair. In When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, Continue reading