Photo Credit: Photo Gallery from the Canada-Wide Science Fair

When someone speaks knowingly of a heart of darkness somewhere, understand that they don’t realize this heart is only an opening or an entrance into something that is hard to understand. Inside a real heart of darkness there are dimensions. We’re not just talking about a black smudge of mystery signifying the beginning of a cave. What is inside that cave matters far more than some mystical representation of its threshold and the silly notion that the center of the absence of light might be anything significant in and of itself as a place to rest one’s understanding of mankind.

It is this interior that matters — its dimensions, walls, floor and ceiling, the scent of air in the space, the humidity, temperature, and the sounds of liquid moving ever inward through the dark interior. Some hearts of darkness appear invitingly enough — drugs and sex are the most inviting, for sure — but what begins as a cavern of wonder and pleasure can very quickly narrow into a channel that becomes impossible to extricate oneself from.

Another thing that’s important to know is that every single heart of darkness you will ever encounter requires that you go it alone. You cannot have companions in a place where loneliness is pre-requisite.

Out on the periphery of our cities is the best place to find the heart — out in the ex-urban wildernesses of America. Sometimes I head out that way to look for these hearts. You can’t find them at night, of course. At night everything is dark. You can’t see darkness in darkness. That’s why they invented flashlights. The iPad is a flashlight. So are cell phones. The iPhone in particular is an awesome flashlight. You can take a flashlight into a heart of darkness. You can even call people or write to them from inside a heart of darkness, but you can’t be in there with anyone else. It’s just not possible. You need a flashlight that will obliterate darkness in order to see darkness.

My friend Julia Davenport is in this weird heart of darkness right now. She talks with me daily using her flashlight and other means of communication. I don’t know what type of flashlight she’s using. That’s really not a question to ask someone reporting from a heart of darkness. Her’s is the worst kind. If you knew her life, how she destroyed her marriage, is a closet smoker, a drunk, has for years enjoyed sex with many different married men, extorted money in her job working for a famous investment bank, and truly sought to answer big, soulful questions about the meaning of life and love and parenting even, all from inside that heart of darkness out in the ex-urban wilderness of Philadelphia’s metropolitan area, you’d feel pretty bad for her. You might hate her and find her incredibly self-destructive. You might relate to her, too. After all, about 65% of America’s adults are pretty self-destructive. You might even want to read the book I’m writing on Julia’s experiences. It’s weird, like this little essay, but it’s also about life as it happens to many of us.

Stay tuned. Love is the best flashlight ever invented, but it’s one delicate piece of technology. You have to find it in yourself, then you have to get it outside of yourself, and then you have to keep it lit and keep it protected from the weather and other bad things like dream killers, cynics, people who are very busy, and all those angry people that keep showing up in public places and in the media.

Let me know about your own heart of darkness. I know you know what I’m talking about. Most of us are trapped somehow.

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