In the Dark: A Lyrical Illustrated Invitation to Find the Light Behind the Fear
By Maria Popova
The mind is a camera obscura constantly trying to render an image of reality on the back wall of consciousness through the pinhole of awareness, its aperture narrowed by our selective attention, honed on our hopes and fears. In consequence, the projection we see inside the dark chamber is not raw reality but our hopes and fears magnified — a rendering not of the world as it is but as we are: frightened, confused, hopeful creatures trying to make sense of the mystery that enfolds us, the mystery that we are.
This reality-warping begins as the frights and fantasies of childhood, and evolves into the necessary illusions without which our lives would be unlivable. It permeates everything from our mythologies to our mathematics.
In the Dark (public library) by poet Kate Hoefler and artist Corinna Luyken brings that touching fundament of human nature to life with great levity and sweetness, radiating a reminder that if we are willing to walk through the darkness not with fear but with curiosity, we are saved by wonder.
Two girls venture cautiously into the dark forest, convinced that witches dwell there. Shadows fly across the sky that seem to confirm their conviction and deepen their fear.
But page by poetic page, as they keep walking and keep looking, they come to see that the shadows are not witches but “a wood full of birds.”
The birds, they realize, are kites flown from the hands of kindly strangers — people who have waded into the darkness to make their own light, the light of community and connection, the light of wonder.
Couple In the Dark with Henry Beston’s lyrical century-old manifesto for how darkness nourishes the human spirit and the great Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh on the four Buddhist mantras for turning fear into love, then revisit My Heart — the emotional intelligence primer that first enchanted me with Corinna Luyken’s work — and her tender painted poem The Tree in Me.
Published December 3, 2023