Darkest before the dawn
I've been up a lot before sunrise in my life. I used to take a lot of nature photographs, and in order to photograph the sunrise, you've got to get up while it's still night. And you know what I learned? In nature, it’s not "always darkest before the dawn." The truth is, there’s usually quite a bit of light out before the actual sunrise – and even if we count “dawn” as the first little bit of light, it’s still not necessarily darker then than any other time during the night. Most of the time, the darkest time of the night is whenever the moon's not out.
So, let me rephrase this to something more accurate: in nature, “It’s always darkest when it’s dark.”
Although this statement is true, it probably doesn’t make a whole lot of difference to you. If you’re looking for something to help you during life’s trials, “It’s always darkest when it’s dark” doesn’t quite cut it, while "It's always darkest before the dawn," however much of a lie it might be, sounds more hopeful. But like most platitudes, it's meaningless -- it doesn't quite cut it when you sit down and analyze it, no matter how often you quote it -- or how often it's quoted to you. Here's the truth, from one who's been there: It's going to stay dark until you do something about it and let some light in.
As in nature, in our lives, it’s always darkest when the light isn't in your life.
If you’re depressed, going through a difficult time, or trying to fight your way up from a significant challenge – all times when “It’s always darkest before the dawn” is generally quoted by well-meaning people who haven’t ever been up before dawn, or been significantly depressed, for that matter – then this platitude tends to confuse the real issue: in order to make it less dark, you’ve got to let some light in. In other words, you don't have to sit around, waiting for the dawn -- you invite the light into your life, and let the "dawn" of a new life light up your life and your mood.
In nature, it doesn't matter if it’s the stars or the moon or the lights from a passing flying saucer – if you want light, you need light. Dawn will do – and a full-fledged sunrise is even better. There is no feeling quite like that of feeling the warmth of the sunrise on your face, particularly when you've been lost in a dark, cold twilight.
So many times, the discouraged and depressed wait around for the dawn, rather than finding some kind of light switch to turn on instead.
So here’s Gibson’s second axiom: If you want it to be less dark -- in other words, if you want to seek the dawn -- look for some light.
Do you have challenges? Address those challenges! Challenges are made to help us become greater!
Depressed? Hey – everyone is depressed some times in their lives. Did you know that Churchill fought depression? Did you know that Lincoln was described as “melancholy?” Did you know that many of the other great people who have graced life’s highway with their names and deeds have fought depression, some of them for much of their lives? We all have problems! What you need to do is to let a little bit of light in your life, and quit sitting there in the dark, waiting for the dawn.
How do you make a little bit of light in your life? Learn something new. Help someone old. Challenge your beliefs. Challenge yourself. Change your habits. Change your mind. And if you can do nothing else, ask someone else to lend you a little bit of their light -- ask for their help.
Here’s the second lie about the "dawn axiom:" You know when you walk into that dark movie theater, it seems extremely dark – you stumble around looking for a seat, occasionally annoying other people. But, eventually your eyes get used to it, and you look around you and say to yourself “Hey – where did all these people come from?” Your eyes gradually get used to the dark, and you can see quite well – after a fashion. But if you look further, you’ll find that the people in the theater don’t seem to have any color in their clothes or their faces – they’re all gray, except for the areas where light reflecting off the motion picture screen hits them and illuminates a patch of color here or there.
Still, you can see enough to keep from sitting on the lap of the fat lady in front of you – so you’re all right with it. You could exist there in that room for a while, and be perfectly happy.
Well, here’s the great problem of living with the darkness while you "wait" for the dawn to find you. Living in the darkness -- whether it's depression, significant challenges, or an occasional downturn, is like sitting in that movie theater. When you first enter the theater, it’s dark – so dark. But after a while, you can see a little bit. After a while, you can exist there quite comfortably for a while. But that life in the theater is colorless. There’s not enough light to make your life colorful and worth living. Eventually, of course, you figure that out – but altogether too many of us sit there, gazing around, and saying “Hey – I’m just waiting for them to turn the lights on so I can find my way to the exit.”
When we get melancholy, many of us get used to this kind of colorless life -- and we forget what it was like to have a colorful life.
Here’s the key to this story: You’ve got to seek out the light. You have to bring it into your life. For the interim, you can ask for some light from others -- friends, family, or books, for example -- to help you start to find your way out of the dark. Maybe if you're depressed, it's something chemical -- you might have to look at taking an antidepressent for a while. There's no shame in that.
Eventually, though, in order to drive the darkness completely out of your life, you have to actively make light – like Lincoln made light, like Churchill made light, like Jefferson made light – you’ve got to actively work to add a little bit of light to the world, and in doing so, bring light to yourself. I know it sounds difficult. I know for most depressed people, it sounds impossible. But here's the truth: sometimes troubled times lift of their own accord, but quite often, if you leave them alone, they get worse. But if you actively decide to address your challenges, and in doing so, put those challenges behind you, then you seek out and find the light -- and in so doing, you can light up your own life and others' lives, as well.
Sure, it’s dark before the dawn – but you can always turn on the lights.
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