Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Dark Light

August 6th. I know it is only April 3rd, but I felt that this post could not wait. This date, August 6th, has always had a powerful resonance for me. Those of you with some Sunday School training might recall that in the Church’s calendar, this is celebrated as the Feast of the Transfiguration. If your memory of these things is a little rusty, here is the account of the Transfiguration, from Mark’s gospel:

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves; and he was transfigured before them, and his garments became glistening, intensely white, as no fuller on earth could bleach them.

So here we have the divine glory, as it were, radiating from Jesus, on that mountain apart.

During the summer months of 1945, powerful men talked to other powerful men (yes, they were almost certainly men) about ways in which to bring about the surrender of Japan. The decision they finally took was to drop atomic bombs on the people of Japan. The date that they nominated for the dropping of that first bomb… Did they think long and hard about it? Was it merely coincidence? Was it a deliberate decision? Or was it an unconscious process that in fact led to the Enola Gay flying over Hiroshima and releasing its fiery cargo, on that day of all days: August 6th?

On August 6th, 1945, Hiroshima was also transfigured, seared by the very light and fire that binds the universe together. Up until that day, light had been almost universally regarded as a symbol of the divine, of the good, of wisdom. From that day onwards, August 6th 1945, light revealed its “dark” side. So now, August 6th is, for me, a perpetual reminder that light can also be a form, and the source, of darkness. The two transfigurations are forever juxtaposed. It was from the tremendous light of the intellect that the destruction of Hiroshima arose. The light of the intellect, which, according to some perspectives, is the manifestation of the “divine spark” within human beings, brought forth this dark light.

It has been a while since the paradoxical arose in these blog posts. It is worth pausing, for a moment, to consider the word “paradox”. Although the Greek word δοξα originally meant “belief” or “opinion” (as in “orthodox” – right belief), early in the Christian era it acquired the additional meaning of “glory”. “Para” is a Greek preposition with a multitude of meanings, among them, “beside”, “against” or “contrary to”. So a paradox could mean: against or beside glory. In this sense, the dark light of August 6th is paradoxical in a comprehensive fashion. It represents the conjunction of opposites: glory and anti-glory.

Many people do not believe in coincidences. They see in coincidences more than just the operation of chance: some kind of intentional plan, pattern or purpose. I do believe in coincidences. In fact, they happen so often that some of them are certain to appear spookily significant in some way. The insignificant ones we do not even notice. But part of me can’t help wondering whether those who chose the date for the bombing of Hiroshima, even if it was chosen for more practical reasons, were aware of the juxtaposition they were creating. If so, did they see it as ominous, or providential? Did it send a shiver down their collective spine? Or did they see it as a sign that they were about to transfigure the world forever? Whatever their thoughts and intentions may have been, August 6th is one date that never passes without sending a shiver down my spine.

And so I come to why I am writing about this today. It is difficult to believe that here and now, some sixty-eight years later, there are still people on this planet who consider the use of nuclear weapons to be a viable option. No doubt we will hear again the old deterrent argument. The problem with that argument is, of course, that nuclear weapons can never be a deterrent unless the threat to use them is taken seriously. Yet here we are again with nations butting chests and rattling sabres. Somewhere at this very moment there are almost certainly seemingly “rational” people (perhaps no longer only men) seriously considering the option of using nuclear weapons. I am sure they are able to produce very “rational” arguments. I have also heard acutely psychotic people provide very rational arguments for when, how and why, little grey men planted the mind control chip in their brain. To them – and to me also, if I am prepared to accept certain basic premises – their arguments make sense. Unfortunately it is virtually impossible to convince them that some of their basic premises are incorrect. I cannot help feeling that the human race still has many of the basic premises incorrect. Let’s hope we don’t pay an even greater price for this than we already have.

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