And Yet it Shines
by Connor Gallagher
I grew up a devout Catholic. Somehow, as heavy as the whole tradition was, there was one idea that entered deeply into my mind: “A light shines in the darkness.”
As an alcoholic, the sentiment behind these words has sustained me and given me great hope over the years. There is a light within everyone and everything that is pure and undefiled. I was sober for 18 wonderful years, and then I took a job abroad where the alcohol flowed like water. Even as I write this now, I am a bit drunk after downing a bottle of wine. I don’t even bother pouring my wine into glasses these days; I chug straight from the source.
And a terrible thing has started to happen, the amazing peace and love I felt for so many years has been replaced by a distorted, sharp inner feeling that is hard to put into words. Why I have plunged back into this terrible habit baffles me.
I do believe everything happens for a reason, though. And one thing I’ve realized is that Emerson was right. Most people do live lives of “quiet desperation.” Most of the people I work with now have no time for the concept of God. They’ve made fancy dinners and trendy clothes and a good worldly reputation their God. And I am ashamed to say, I’ve followed in their footsteps. My mantra has faded; my meditation practice has petered out.
Yet, just the other day, a few of my students came to me about saving Mother Earth. They have planned a series of events, including tree plantings and a pledge to eliminate plastic bags from their lives. The light does shine even in the darkness. In a hungover rant the other day, I pled with my students to help Mother Earth, and some of them had ears to hear it. The light of their innocence shines.
Maybe I am here in the land of death to realize how unbelievably blessed I once was. Not until this self-imposed exile did I realize in a way that burns under my fingernails that Emerson and Thoreau and Tolstoy were right. We humans are meant for simple communal living, not for the trashy bling the world tells us is valuable beyond measure.
The world has me now. Will I be lucky enough to return to the wholesome rhythm of hard work, and fellowship and service to humanity? Only God knows.
As I’m writing this I take note that tomorrow is Easter. Those of you who are in the land of the living at Amritapuri, STAY! Don’t leave for anything. You are blessed beyond words. For those of us in the land of death, may that moment of sanity, that voice of God once again become alive in our hearts and minds.
Afterall, we all once wallowed in darkness until God personally said to each of us, “Come, darling child. You were merely dreaming of darkness. There is only light!”
Just a man trying to get back to the light.
Somehow on Easter Sunday three weeks ago, I ignored my hangover, got on my bike and rode to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. I have been sober ever since. A young, hip Columbian dude took me under his wing on that resurrection morning and is guiding me through the 12-steps. They share practical, down-home spirituality—surrender to God’s will, clear the wreckage of the past, meditate, and help free those who are still suffering from alcohol. It would seem, the Lord is seeing fit to bring this Prodigal Son home.