Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Darkness & Light—Day & Night

I consider this post to be a follow-up to yesterday’s post, especially the prayer, May the Light of God shine upon ________for the greatest possible good. But before I get to that I want to share what happened a few minutes ago.

Since my guests and their two kittens lived in my house, Alex, the cat who owns me, has been spending more and more time out-of-doors. That is where he is at the moment and I rather envy him because the sun is shining and my computer link to the weather bureau tells me the present temperature in 54 F.

A few minutes after Alex got my attention by taking a swing at my groin with his clawed paw and demanded I open the door and let him go outside, I heard a lot of cat chatter. So I investigated and found Alex having a rather heated conversation with another cat. Since I neither understood what the two cats were talking about nor desired to intervene, I preformed a retrograde operation—the army’s euphemism for “moving backward” (retreat)—obtained my camera, and snapped this picture:

When I later looked at the picture, I realized that it could be used to exemplify this blog post that was already forming in my mind. I am speaking of “light” and “darkness”—or, more to the point, “day” and “night.” On one level, Alex—who is mostly white—represents light while his “friend” represents darkness. Alex, for the most part, reflects the light; his friend absorbs the light. I do not want to carry the analogy any further than that nor do I want to delve into its theological milieu. Rather, I want to tell a story.

I am sure that I read this in one of the several books I own that were written by Anthony de Mello. I met de Mello, an Indian (from India) Jesuit Priest, when he visited St. Louis while I was in seminary. I could probably write a book on de Mello and how his use of stories has affected me spiritually. Perhaps I shall do that someday. Now I will simply share one of the stories Father de Mello told:

Once upon a time a holy man asked his followers how they could tell when the night had ended and the day had begun.

One replied, “When you can see an animal at a distance and can distinguish it as a cat or a dog.”

“No,” the holy man said.

Another follower suggested, “When you look at a tree in the distance and can tell if it is an oak or a maple.”

Again the holy man said, “No.”

“Well, then, how does one tell when the night had ended and the day had begun?” asked the guru’s disciples.

And the holy man replied, “When you look into the face of any man and recognize your brother in him; when you look into the face of any woman and recognize in her your sister. If you cannot do this, no matter what time it is by the sun, it is still night within you.”

Yesterday I posted a short prayer that I have learned to pray when I am in conflict with another. The prayer asks that light shine upon that person “for the greatest possible good.” Today Thomas, Your Ever Well-Wisher, posted about “five ways of removing annoyance”—another person. Both are ways of dealing with people who irritate or even abuse us. I recommend that you take a look at Thomas’ post. Both speak in their singular way of bringing light into the night of antagonism and wrath.

Father de Mello’s story illustrates how the darkness of night within us can only end when we see that irritating other person as a sister or brother. May those who have ears to hear and eyes to see listen and understand.


  1. I like that concept. I was raised Catholic, but I've read about the Eastern philosophies. They have so much to say that I don't get from Western religion.

    As much as some people irritate me and make me angry, I know that these words are true. Yes, even the guy that shot my car. :-)

  2. Alex and the black cat look like they are having a conversation. I liked the story. It is true. I need to read his books.

  3. I have read de Mello’s books. I now remember that story. I need to remember it more often.

  4. That is quite a story. Will you post more like it?

  5. That is so true... how do you know when the day has ended and the night has begun? The amount of light? The time?

  6. This is a great post. I'm going over to read the one you linked to.

    Sometimes we all need a reminder of day and night.

  7. Good story with a lol of meaning.

    I was going to leave you a hug, but I saw the number of hugs was at "69" and the adolescent in me decided not to be the one to change that magical number. :)

  8. Squirl: My own study of theology began with the religion I was born into, Christianity. However, by the time I went to college I was searching for answers everywhere. I seemed to find many of them in Eastern religions, especially Buddhism. That prayer actually came from a series of books I read many years ago entitled “Life 101.”

    Abbey: I think Alex and his cat friend were conversing in some way. Alex now has lots of cat friends. I think that’s why he spends so much of his time out-of-doors. He is usually a very social cat! I recommend the writings of de Mello without reservation. He has taught me quite a bit.

    Mike: Good thought. There are many times when I pronounce the curse before I remember the prayer.

    Azsonofagun: Good idea! I will post some more of de Mello’s stories.

    Jody: Thank you. I’ll take that as a second vote to post more of de Mello.

    Kylz: My answering would be “the recognition”—i.e., love of all humankind.

    Lawbrat: Thank you. I think you’ll find the words in Thomas’ post parallel de Mello.

    Mike-in-Tucson: I accept your hug with your registering it on the click-thingy! Thanks!