Monday, July 20, 2015

As a little blond boy I was very fearful and prone to night-terrors. I was very afraid of the dark. When the house at 3642 Belvedere Crescent was dark and quiet, during the loneliest watches of the night, I knew in my nerve-endings exactly what went bump in the night. The house made noises, as houses tend to do. My lifelong hypersensitivity to sound (as per my Asperger’s Syndrome) was my worst enemy when combined with the darkness, the silence, and the isolation. I had an unusually powerful imagination that conjured all manner of nameless, unseen horrors. They came unbidden and unwanted.

For years I slept with the blanket over my head with just my mouth and nose uncovered, so I could breathe. I used to sleep with one hand covering my ear, so I wouldn’t hear evil voices whispering to me from inside the darkness. I held my breath, strained my ears to listen to the silence, to sample its texture. I remember being too terrified to move, too terrified to come out from under the blanket --my armour against monsters-- and reach out to turn on the bedside lamp. I was so sure that something in the dark would touch me, grab me, if I moved.

A hand! A claw! A tentacle! Oh horror!

Sometimes I took my bedside lamp with me under the covers and turned it on, so there would be no darkness inside my protective barrier . It was very hot under there, very sweaty. I remember being worried about smoke and fire. It was too hot, too stifling. I don’t think I was able to sleep like that.

On one occasion I got into bed clutching my crucifix, which bespoke my nascent faith in God. Without much in the way of religious education as I was then, I think my connection to God was stronger because of it. Only a child has a naturally childlike faith, which is how we are to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. This crucifix was made of wood, with the tiny mortified Christ made of pewter. I was using it as a crude talisman against the oppressive spookiness. To me, it was a comfort object, albeit a very special one. I knew what it signified. I knew who Jesus was and why He had been nailed to that cross. I knew the inscription above His head ( I.N.R.I.) held tremendous meaning but had no idea what the letters meant.

My bedroom was at the top of the stairs. It made little difference to my scaredy-ness if the hall light was left on or if my bedroom door was open or closed. With the door open and the hall light on, I had a clear view of the stairs and the light-fixture hanging from the ceiling. It gave off much lux, very reassuring! It restrained the shadows at the foot of the stairs, daring some foul thing to show itself in the full light of reason. Having the bedroom door closed was no better than having it left open, since I couldn’t see what might have waited on the other side. Seeing was just as bad as not seeing. Schroedinger’s Monster is simultaneously there and not there, existing as pure potential to terrify little blond boys.

Comfort object.

As adults, we have existential night-terrors. Enemies of Christianity make the argument that Christians reach out for God for the same reason a child needs a stuffed toy or the glow of a night-light or a lullabye sung by a parent before he can go to sleep. The infantile need for reassurance and protection, atheists argue, carries over into adulthood requiring a transcendant and all-powerful parent-- a Father.

In our case, the glowing night-light is the Word of God and the lullabye is God's Holy Spirit, singing to us from the shadows, from behind a veil of ignorance and a cloud of unknowing.

No comments:

Our Shadows, Our Selves

"Like my shadow, I am and I am not." ~Rumi       God shows us what moves in the darkness so we might flee int...