Here’s the thing about the man who challenged the statistic about domestic violence during that nerd’s dinner party: he was an innocent. Intelligent, and probably well-read with a challenging job and significant life experience – but an innocent for all that. And his initial refusal to accept that so many women are victims and survivors of domestic violence was a reflection of that – a reflection of the fact that such horror was, until that night, so far outside of his frame of reference.
And it made me realise: that’s how darkness perpetrates itself. Not by people who seek and celebrate it; not by people who see it and choose not to care, although of course I have to acknowledge the role of those who deliberately choose not to see the suffering in front of them, so that they are discharged from responsibility to work to alleviate that suffering. No: the thing that the darkness really relies on is the innocence of the light.
How can you begin to battle against a foe you don’t even know exists? How can the light, untouched by darkness, even begin to conceptualise that force which opposes it, but which hides from it so successfully that only a select and unlucky few really ever discover it? How can the innocent ever truly understand the guilty, and in understanding it, fight against it?
To fight the darkness you have to have the courage to face it, head on, and to witness what it does, and to be touched by that. But first you have to see it, have to realise its presence in the light most people are still able to take for granted.
Innocence is a blessed state and as someone who is no longer innocent – no longer untouched by the reality of the darkness, even if I’m not to blame in that – I’m envious of innocence but I’m also a little scared of it. Because the innocent get hurt, and the innocent don’t see the darkness or its potential to snuff out the light on which they rely. And yet those innocents who have seen darkness, and have the courage to acknowledge it, and work to shine light on those people forced to dwell within that darkness – those innocents amaze me.
I have innocents like that in my life: people who, not having lived through soul-destroying darkness, still have the courage to acknowledge its diminishing power in my life, and hold their light for me when I have had none of my own. And they inspire me, and I’m grateful.
The darkness relies on the innocence of the light. It’s when the light loses its innocence without losing its lightness that darkness really has a fight on its hands.