We must never let the light go out

I know a little bit about darkness, growing up as I did at the 49th parallel before the advent of electricity.
I know how inky black the night can be when the moon is asleep and the stars are behind clouds. And the only light is a flickering kerosene lantern you hold in your hand.
I know how it feels to stand in the pitch blackness and see two monstrous lighted eyes travelling up Route 12.
I know how black it is when you go upstairs to bed and blow out the kerosene lamp before stumbling across the room and climbing under the beautiful blue chenille spread. And I know how short the days can be in the dead of winter.
But at the same time, I remember one grand and glorious night in the late 1930s when the darkness was swept away by incredible sheets of glimmering, glowing light.
High above at the centre of the heavens, all the waves of light came together at one point and then shimmered with eerie brightness to the four corners of the horizon.
The night almost was turned to day as the northern lights blazed above.
But then, just as suddenly as they had come, the pulsating curtains of light began to fade. Slowly, the reds and oranges, the blues, greens, and yellows gave way. Until finally, we were left standing once again shrouded by the midnight blackness.
And we learned right then that there is no darkness in life like the darkness that comes when the lights have gone out.
There’s something about the end of a century that causes us to remember the points of light and darkness in the last 100 years. The rising of hope that we’ve felt as a people and sometimes the death of that hope.
We’re at the turn of the century. It would be easy to curse the darkness . . . thought has given way to war . . . and the war on poverty has been ineffective.
We could grieve that so many thousands of people have been driven from their homelands. That safety seems elusive on our city streets. And that the simplicity we crave has given way to an electronic complexity that threatens to change our lives forever.
Just as that splendid show of aurora borealis at first offered glorious light and hope, then gave way to blackness on that winter night, so our splendid hopes for the century have faded. And the temptation is to focus on the darkness.
But that’s a mistake. We must instead live by the old Chinese proverb–“It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”
In 1983, Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary wrote a song called “Light One Candle.” He speaks of lighting candles for the injustices of life. For the children who suffer and those who lose their lives in useless wars. For the peace and hope we all seek.
And that’s exactly what it’ll take in the new century–thousands of people who light first one candle of hope and then another. Thousands of people who heed the warning of Peter Yarrow when he writes in his refrain, “Don’t let the light go out!”
So what about you? What candle of hope could you light for the new century?

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