A dark light

‘Dark light’ is a song from Kiss’ ill-fated album, ‘Music from “The Elder” ‘– a much maligned musical opus but one which to my mind was very under-rated. What makes this song unusual, apart from the fact that it was composed and performed by Kiss’ errant guitarist, Ace Frehely (he was hardly ever allowed to contribute to Kiss albums), is the contradiction in the title. The lyrical theme is that of darkness descending which falls a little short of the grand meaning I’ve come to imbue this concept with, but anyway, here’s the chorus:

A dark light, a darkness never ending
A dark light, the devil gets his due
A dark night, is everywhere descending
A dark light, is coming for you

I guess ‘Dark Light’ has appeal to me because it embodies the sense of paradox and contradiction that life can sometimes be. There’s a tarot card called ‘The Hanged Man’ that addresses this whole idea. It is one of the most mysterious cards in the tarot deck and represents a ‘truth’ that we control by letting go, we win by surrendering. The figure in the image has made the ultimate surrender – to die on the tree of his own travails. Yet he shines with a glory of transcendent understanding. He may have sacrificed yet he has emerged the victor. While no adherent to the idea that the tarot can be used to predict the future, from a meditative point of view I ‘get’ that sometimes the solution to a situation lies in the opposite of what we think. When we most want to act, that is when we should wait. When we want to force our will upon someone, that is when we should release. By making these paradoxical moves, we find what we are looking for.

So, here’s my whole take on the concept. We can’t truly appreciate the enlightening, noble and pure things in life without darkness, evil and the transgressive being present as a contrast. This forms a backdrop to a discussion I’ve had many times about the value of appreciating horror and dark fantasy as legitimate genres to both read and write in. Both paradox and the balance between good and evil arise frequently in the lyrics of Ronnie James Dio, most notably in Black Sabbath’s song, ‘Heaven and Hell’:

‘The world is full of kings and queens who blind your eyes then steal your dreams, it’s Heaven and Hell.’

This is one of Dio’s most enduring and meaningul songs. It’s been covered many times and used to feature as the pinnacle of eighties Sabbath shows. The fact that many have produced their own versions (e.g this delightful 11 year old’s performance) tells me that the emotions generated through the song are felt across multitudes and continents.

I reject the notion that humans are inherently sinful, or good for that matter – there’s good and bad in everyone. It’s a recurrent and noble aspiration to maximise the good and minimise the evil, but I don’t doubt that neither will be totally eradicated.

There’s actually a word that describes this whole scenario of ‘light and shade’, as Led Zeppelin’s guitarist, Jimmy Page referenced. The word is Chiaroscuro. I’ve actually written a song of my own with this as its title. You can check it out here. I’m not going to unpick the lyrics here as I like to think it’s a song that different people will have their own take on. But you can see that it’s a concept I’ve spent a long time thinking about (believe me, if you write and record a song about something, you’re investing heavily with energy, blood, sweat and tears!) Jimmy Page was primarily describing how Zeppelin’s music balanced lighter and heavier moments (hence their band’s title). They were particuarly renowned or juxta-posing pastoral, acoustic songs with heavier, darker classics. Check out the contrast on their first album between ‘Babe I’m gonna Leave you’ with ‘Dazed and Confused.’

If you’re interested in exploring some of the images that feed into the darker side of my inspirations then check out my Pinterest board entitled ‘Dark Light’ here. Beware – some of the artistry is inherently disturbing – you have been warned.

However, I’d like to finish with a brief exploration of Light and Goodness, and maybe suggest some ideas you might like to consider yourself.

One thing I have benefited a lot from in the last five years is the practice of meditation. It’s one of the first things I do in the morning and helps me ground myself, set my furious brain at ease and generally get into the right frame of mind for the day. One thing you learn in practising mindfulness is that you have to come to terms with the things you can’t control – however uncomfortable that is. One insight is to hold those experiences that cause you pain, stress and anxiety close, simply acknowledging them without judgement or frenetically trying to rid yourself from them.

Mindfulness is also about living in the moment and appreciating the good things that life has to offer. So, straight after my morning session I spend fa little time listing five things I can be grateful for. I call this a journal of gratitude. Some days it’s harder to find five things than it is on others. But even the simplest of life’s pleasures can be noted. Here’s yesterday’s sample:

  • Fitting pieces into a puzzle depicting Machu Picchu (there’s something very satisfying when a puzzle piece clicks into place.)
  • One of my son’s friends complimenting me on a vegetarian risotto that I cooked.
  • The taste of a good cappucino
  • Enjoying making up the voices in my recent audio narration project
  • A good night’s sleep without my hip aching

I don’t often read through these lists. Just the act of recording them, however, makes me realise there is always something to be grateful for.

If you want to find out more regarding mindfulness meditation (without needing to reference any religious connotations) then I would recommend Sam Harris’ Waking Up book.

Dark Light. One cannot exist without the other. Embrace the paradox.


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