Wednesday, March 15, 2006

I don't know where the stars end and the fireflies begin

Old stories occasionally need revision.

I want to rethink a story so familiar that it functions more as fact than narrative. It's the story about where light comes from. Light, as I've understood it, is always something offered to us from outside. Light is not something of our own making. I'm speaking abstractly here, and yet I want to be perfectly clear.

We receive light.

This presupposition has undergirded literally all my adult thinking, and perhaps my preadult as well. When I create, I merely take the light I am given and reflect it out around myself. When I love, I do the same. Let us say in doing so I carry the light.

I cannot fault the story: and yet I fear the extent to which carrying is understood as a passive act. In fact, I think it has been far too passive in my thinking. This little light of mine. Mine. If the light is mine, I am not merely medium: I am light. The responsibility is not just to take the light and shine, but to become it.

Weeks before she was sent to her death in the camps Etty Hillesum wrote, "God is in safe hands with us, despite everything."

How can I understand this wholly if I do not believe I am the very person with whom God—or let us say light—is safe? If my own light is dependent on me for safety, then to some small measure light itself is dependent on me. And thus, my responsibility is great. For I am light, and though small, must glow.

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