The Darkness

more darknessI caught the darkness

It was drinking from your cup

(Leonard Cohen: The Darkness)


These are dark times, let’s face it. We’re still deep in the worst economic depression since the 1930’s and the number of people one knows personally who are directly hit by it just increases.

You know how we got out of that last depression? We plunged into the ultimate in creative destruction, World War II. Talk about a great reset.

There are enough power mad lunatics around these days, who’d like to offer us a similar solution. Just yesterday in Boston yet another one emerged. But all that isn’t what I mean by The Darkness. It’s the way we respond that’s the issue. It seems like an awful lot of people have drunk from that cup.

The Darkness

The Darkness is blame culture: whatever is wrong, it’s because of….. someone or something – else. So there’s nothing “I” can do about it. It’s victim culture.
The Darkness is “I’m doing my best but the others aren’t pulling their weight” (as opposed to “we can all try harder”)
The Darkness is the failure of belief that anything can ever be improved. That there’s no point in trying because….well because we don’t believe there’s any point in trying.
The Darkness is not doing what you know is right, because nobody authorized it – or you don’t have a code to charge it to.
The Darkness is letting your friends/colleagues go hang, because you’d be exposing yourself to risk.
The Darkness is not putting yourself out to help people because…nobody helped me, I won’t get any thanks anyway, it’s not what I’m paid to do.
The Darkness is giving people a hard time for doing more than they’re paid to do.
The Darkness is management by spreadsheet and timesheet, which is both a symptom and a cause of all that other stuff.

(My thanks to Louis Dietvorst and Mariel van der Linden for their thoughts that I’ve used here).

Or to put it another way:


For them that must obey authority
That they do not respect in any degree
Who despise their jobs, their destinies
Speak jealously of them that are free
Do what they do just to be
Nothing more than something they invest in

But I mean no harm nor give fault
to anyone, who lives in a vault
But it’s alright ma, if I can’t please him


This isn’t about good people and bad people. This is about the evil that gets into our souls when times are hard, that destroys solidarity, makes management focus on their bottom line (at the expense of the top line) and everyone else keep their head down. And it’s a vicious circle, because it makes all that stuff that caused the darkness just get worse.

And the Light

In The Darkness Cohen shifts the blame to the lover who gave him the drink.

I said, “Is this contagious?”

You said, “Just drink it up.”

He had a choice but he took the easy road, even though he clearly knew where it led.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. The Darkness is the opposite pole of the text from Cohen’s  song Anthem, which I used in How The Light Gets In. In Anthem Cohen offers us a vision of change through imperfection. It’s not the “perfect offering” but the cracks, that let the light in. So let’s make use of those cracks.

You can do something. You can’t change the world perhaps but maybe you can change your little bit of it. Or a little bit of your little bit. Enough that other people might be inspired by that. Maybe even just enough that you at least know you’re doing what you think is right. That at the end of the day you have the feeling there might have been some point in going to work.