Some people are like candles, burning brilliantly for the illumination of others while they slowly burn themselves out.
Others, more constant in both manner and temperament, could be compared to a river. They flow endlessly in the same basic channel, their currents mirroring storms and tides and the influence of innumerable outside forces. Though the river’s waters may boil, rise and recede, eventually they return to their established pace.
I’ve known folks who reflected both of these attributes to a greater or lessor degree, but it seems the happiest are those born in a harmony between the two extremes. They flare to life in the darkest of times, conserving their strength and passing it along to those who would stumble and fall. They show kindness and concern in the darkest of hours, brightening the way for others while at the same time removing obstacles with a gentle and constant pressure. They do not consume themselves, but rather consume life. In the process they find nourishment rather than hunger, joy rather than sadness, peace rather than conflict.
It is not a question of compromise; I’ve never subscribed to the theory that the willow is strong because it bends. It is a question of conviction and principal and common sense. Be yourself at all costs, or you will one day discover that the cost to self is exorbitant.
I was thinking about such things the other night, trying to decide just where I could fit into such a scenario. I’m definitely not of the candle mode, for I’m often in the dark. The illumination sought by those of the hermit bent is generally illumination of self, and though we do have a tendency to burn out on occasion, such is where the comparison ends. Similarly, I could find little juxtaposition between self and river. My waters have often split and diverged from the safety of the main channel, heading this way and that, sometimes lying for a time in stagnant pools, at others racing down the channel in a frenzied cataract. Neither candle nor river nor combination of the duo am I, a problematic situation that has frequently caused no little consternation to friends, loved ones and acquaintances of both the new and old variety.
In truth I would guess that few of us fit specifically into such well defined categories. Only on the rare occasion do we hear of the soul that is truly stout of limb and sound of mind and pure of heart. It is the stuff of Arthurian legend, and even those valiant knights fell humbly to their knees on a regular basis. It is an infrequent occurrence indeed when we perchance to actually meet such individuals, and even if we do, we tend to ignore their gifts. The true warrior of the spirit is the quiet type, bursting to life when needed, sharing tranquillity and silent lessons and laughter in the manner of the patient teacher and valued friend.
Wisdom does not rush, it treads slowly and speaks softly. It is up to us to either listen or disregard, dependent upon our own needs, desires and ability.
And so, the more I contemplated the situation, I arrived at a conclusion with which I could agree. Candle or river or anything in between matters little. Our personalities are not so important as what we make of them. Our desires are worth far less than the ability to desire. A world full of the all-knowing and all-seeing would be a serious and boring place, and frankly, I like a little confusion and hardship in life. It makes the better times all the better, and with experience, leads us to paths that make the difficult not so bad. It allows us to laugh at ourselves, which may be the greatest weapon man possesses in his struggle with life. Look around. There is plenty to laugh at.
Neither a candle nor river am I, but luckily, there are some that are. Remembering that, I can do nothing but listen for the wisdom of others, watch for the flash of insightful light and attempt to avoid the rocks and whirlpools so prevalent on the uncharted course.
The lighthouse beams and the buoys ring their bells. The messages are there.
It is up to the ears to hear and the eyes to see.