An old Hasidic tale…
The rabbi asked his students: “How can we determine the hour of dawn, when the night ends and the day begins?” One of the students suggested, “When from a distance you can distinguish between a sheep and a dog.” “No,” said the rabbi. “It is when you can look into the face of human beings and you have enough light in you to recognize them as your brothers and sisters. Up until then it is night, and darkness is still with us.”
The student is never right in these stories, is he? You think you have the answer, but no, once again, you`ve got it wrong. All your study and striving in life means nothing, because you still don’t have it right. And you probably never will. At least, it feels that way.
Because, as always, the answer is within you — the last place we remember to look. Why? Perhaps because it seems to all be happening OUT THERE. That’s where the action is, the really interesting stuff. Out there. Not in here. In here there is only me, and I’m sick of me. I’m tired of being in the dark. I want to be out there, where it seems to be bright and interesting, warm and inviting. There doesn’t seem to be enough light in me. So I reach out there, out there, out there.
I reach out to you, because I think I can see your light, and I want to be warmed by it. I reach out to God, whatever I think that means. I reach out to anybody – like a plant, I turn to any light I think I see, in the hopes of receiving nourishment, fulfillment. I want reassurance, warmth and comfort. I reach out there, to the flash and pop of modern life. I reach for food, or drugs, or alcohol, or money, or sex – whatever I think will give me that buzz and blast of light. Come on baby, light my fire. When there is no real light, artificial light seems like it’ll work. And it does, for a while.
For a little while. Then you start to feel cold again, and you realize, yup, still in the darkness. Still in here. Still me. All of us/only me. All in the darkness together, but it’s too dark in here to see anybody else, so I think I`m alone. And really, I am.
Because there will be no real light in the world until I nurture the light within me, and you nurture the light within you. Find the light and protect it, build it up, until we can all see by it. Not OUT THERE. In here.
In us. All of us.
Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled—
to cast aside the weight of facts
and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking
into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing—
that the light is everything—that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and falling. And I do.
A guiding light lost to us. RIP Mary Oliver 1935-2019.