The dark stirs us in ways that cause us to hide and run away. This time of year reminds us of the hidden recesses, the collective fears of our unconscious ravings, which have nothing to do with any logic we might find in the light of day.

I was striving in this election cycle to remain open to the deep fear of marginalized people, the manic hatred of the disenfranchised, and the sheer confusion of the masses of information and misinformation, which seemed to produce more fear in groups of people pitted against one another. There were times when I felt I could barely breath.

As all of this pressed in on me with a collective weight, that I have not felt so keenly since 9/11, I wondered what the Congress was thinking putting Election Day in November, in the downward cycle of darkness and cold. I’m sure they had no idea about the rise in depression around the holidays, or maybe that didn’t happen back then. Or maybe they just thought it was the perfect time to stir up the darkness that would naturally show its face to us this time of year anyway.

No matter which side of the battle one is on, it was quite obvious to me that boundaries of decency and compassion in public discourse were utterly destroyed. I found myself in mourning, not so much about the outcome of the election, but the way it was suddenly OK to demonize groups of people. This election felt like an ugly exposure of the dark underbelly in this country that has been there all along, but was something we felt we were making progress in changing. Each of us must struggle to make sense of it, to rail against it, to act or not act, to find a way forward.

All of our religions point to the golden rule as the way forward. We are told this is the greatest mission we are given from God – to love one another. None of these religions has any added clauses about how it is OK to not love those who are another color, or gender, or who live in another country. And yet history is full of terror and war being performed in the name of religion. This country was founded on the idea that we would at least tolerate one another; that if our team lost we would still have a voice, power would shift, we could join together with others to make a change.

Why is it so hard to keep the channels of compassion open? Why are we so eager to demonize, to point fingers, to pull the trigger? Are we programmed for this kind of violence – kill or be killed? Can we rise above our demons to be a Jesus, or an enlightened being, or even an honest ethical informed citizen?

I wish I had answers to these big questions. The thing I know to do is to keep digging. Am I falling into a pit of hatred when I think of certain politicians? Am I horrified, and do I demonize someone I know because they voted in a way that I find irresponsible or dangerous? Do I harbor ill will toward the man who stands on the street corner with the political sign that I find disturbing?

This kind of self-examination, I know, would not be enough if we were to face some kind of totalitarian takeover where our very democracy would be threatened, but for now, it is the place for me to start. It is the only thing I have control over – how do I react to violence and fear? How do I harbor violence and fear? How can I keep my heart open when there seems to be vitriol and hatred spewing rampantly? How can I hold the sadness and grief without losing my capacity for the miracle and joy of this life?

Every person has his or her own way of moving forward, but for me, Nature is a daily solace. I went for a walk in the woods the day after the election and through the whispering of the trees and the light glinting off the babbling brook, God said to me “This is real.” Despite what we have done to her, Mother Earth continues to give to us her miracles, expecting nothing in return. In the complex beauty of nature, God shows us a way to be that is free of greed, hatred, racism, and all the other human constructs, which are not love.

I also gathered with my friends and listened to their fears. I sought out the wisdom of my teacher, Beverly Lanzetta, who says in her book “Emerging Heart,” “The mystic in us is the knower of the unknown, see-er of the unseen, who is able to withstand – without sacrificing or abandoning love – the contradictions and confusions of the world.” I pray for the politicians, the immigrants, the poor, and the depressed. And I pray for our country, that it truly lives up to the ideal of being a place of freedom for everyone.

I know some people who are trying to put a positive spin on this rise in hatred and distrust, and there certainly have been many times in history when great good has come from terrible dark times. But for now, for me, it is enough to allow myself to feel it all, and to look the darkness in the eye knowing that there is something much greater, which is beyond this particular battle. Whether you call it God or Allah or human goodness, this is our human heritage. On this knowing, my faith in humanity is unfailing. I know there are millions of people who are working very hard to make the world a better place for everyone. My prayer for healing sings on the wings of the “real,” the miracle of the life we have been given.

The Rev. Cathy Grigsby is an interfaith minister who teaches at the Chaplaincy Institute of Maine and is the co-founder and coordinator of the Interfaith Ministers of New England. She can be contacted at: [email protected]