Written some 1500 years ago, by an anonymous bard, Beowulf tells the story of a gallant hero who travels north to Denmark to slay the swamp beast, Grendel.
(Image: first page of Beowulf manuscript)
Grendel would visit the local King Hrothgar’s castle and set about killing all whom it encountered, carrying severed limbs and bodies back to its lair at the bottom of a deep dark lake.
Beowulf slays Grendel. That night there is much merriment and feasting, Beowulf and his men retire to a far part of the castle. A second creature enters the hall where many still celebrate. The creature, Grendel’s mother, the source of the problem, wreaks her revenge. Like Grendel, she retires to her lair and Beowulf sets off after her.
The presenting problem is never the real problem. The real problem lies behind all the presenting problems. When the real problem disappears, so do all of its presenting problems.
Beowulf approaches the edge of the lake. Below him in the deep dark abyss lies the beast in her lair. Before he descends there is great temptation to withhold and draw back but with courage – afforded by the finest sword, shield and armour – Beowulf steps forward and descends into the darkness, his darkness. Below, he and the beast engage in battle. He finds the magnificent sword, shield and armour – that protect him so well on the surface – serve no use in the darkness. Beowulf casts them off. He reveals his unprotected self, his complete vulnerability. Beowulf and the beast become one in combat and as they wrestle, Beowulf finds a luminous sword of light that hangs on the wall of the lair – a sword with which he slays the beast.
As Beowulf rises to the surface to reveal the beast’s head, he finds that the luminous sword dissolves. The luminous sword that worked in the darkness has no power in the known world. It leaves Beowulf unable to demonstrate its power. For others to understand the sword’s power, they must descend into darkness and find it for themselves. They must experience their own victory. They must choose courage.
We cannot stare at the sun in a noon-day cloudless sky.
Light cannot be seen in the light.
At midnight, the cloudless sky reveals infinity.
By clouds, I mean ‘clouds of emotion’ – shame, anger, sadness and fear.
Glory comes from our journey into the darkness.