Q&A: Barbara Brown Taylor
Author Barbara Brown Taylor talks about her new book Learning to Walk in the Dark.
What made you want to better understand the concept of darkness?
When I moved to the country, my relationship with physical darkness changed so radically that I began to make friends with other kinds of darkness as well. Over and over, I found that darkness was full of hidden treasure that I had simply been too frightened to find. Spiritual darkness was the scariest at first but also the most rewarding to explore.
How has seeing light and dark as a continuum—instead of opposites—helped you to better understand faith?
Since I grew up in a religious tradition that taught me to fear the dark and embrace the light, I spent a lot of time feeling aberrant. I wanted to look in closets that faithful people were supposed to keep locked. My dark moods produced better poetry than sunny ones did. God felt closer under the night sky than in a well-lit church. So I figured there was something wrong with me. When I came to the understanding that light and dark exist on a divine continuum, I was saved. Who knew? I might be a person of faith after all.
The chapters of this book are framed around “lunar spirituality,” tracking the phases of the moon. How does light and dark in the natural world interplay with your spirituality?
My spiritual life is no different from the rest of my life—or yours either. Life has more than one brightness setting. The light lasts longer some days than it does others. A year has dark seasons as well as light ones. No one would dream of telling us to avoid December because it has more dark in it than June, yet when it comes to faith we are taught to steer clear of darkness. Why is that? Living a full life includes accepting the full human quota of light and darkness. The moon is a steady reminder of that.
What is a gift that you discovered in the dark?
The best gift darkness has given me is the gift of slowing down. I am a quick person. But when I cannot see where I am going—physically, emotionally, spiritually, take your pick—then out of necessity I drop down into my lowest gear. All of a sudden, I can hear, smell, think, and feel things that were hidden from me while I was rushing around in the light. I know exactly where I am, even when I cannot see where I am going—and that is a great gift.
Click here for a review of Barbara Brown Taylor's book Learning to Walk in the Dark.