The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life
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Saturday, November 5, 2011
Personal Reflections ... Photo ...

. . . than to curse the power company. This picture shows some of the power lines in my town. And some of the trees that became their worst enemy during last week’s freak mid-autumn snowstorm. Most of the town lost power, given its love for tall old trees which crash down on power lines during crazy weather. My block had to wait five days until the power company could get around to help us.

During those five days, I got to know a lot about candles. I had three flashlights, but one of them stopped working after being dropped. I didn’t have any extra batteries for the really bright one, so I had to conserve my lighting resources, depending as much as possible on old-fashioned candles.

Candle-keeping is definitely a lost art. But during those 5 dark evenings last week, I learned a lot, including how to make impromptu candles in cups (as seen above), how to clean wicks and even replace them, and how to safely carry candles about when going from room to room. One does become resourceful during an emergency.

During those five nights, things slowed down for me. I couldn’t do things quickly, everything required extra caution. But there was something mesmerizing about the candles themselves as they burned in the dark. I was amazed by all the minutes I would spend just watching a candle flame in the dark. It seemed comforting, even spiritual. Many churches recognize this; you don’t see candles burning in churches for nothing. A flame against the darkness does make one take their mortality more seriously. But it is also comforting when all other lighting options are down.

It’s unfortunate that as lighting technology progresses, the spiritual factor declines. Early humans had their roaring hearth fires, but eventually our ancestors figured out how to localize and transport fire by inventing candles. The spiritual effect declined just a bit, but was not seriously depleted by the candle. But then came the incandescent bulb, with its glowing wire. The spirituality factor dropped quite a bit with Mr. Edison’s innovation; but a glowing hot wire still makes intuitive sense to us. Then came fluorescents and now halogen bulbs, which rely on excited charged gasses to squeeze out photons.

And as we now go entirely to fluorescent and high-tech bulbs, we move our evening psyches into an unfamiliar world of quantum abstraction in obtaining our light. I just returned from a 5-day furlough from that world, and no doubt I’m glad to be back. And yet, there was something nice about candles, despite their inadequate dim light and flickering and soot, and all the work needed to use them and keep them safe.

So here’s my tribute to the lowly, low-tech candle. Thank goodness that we still make them, if mostly for decorative purposes. You never know when the old stand-by might be needed, both by the body and the soul!

◊   posted by Jim G @ 6:51 pm      

  1. Jim, Once again, lovely pictures. But you got me thinking too: How different life would be without electricity–especially lights.

    How much more of the sky we would actually see and become aware of; the ancients used to study the stars and see all the various “characters” in it. I have trouble finding the dippers. But I’m sure if we did not have so much light at night, seeing the stars and even the moon would be an enchanting experience, one much different from how we see the sky now.

    Life would take on such a different rhythm if we did not have light at night. Things would necessarily slow down. I’ve read that with the increase in light people can maintain a 24 hour work time. E.g., TV is on 24 hours a day. Is it strange that in this time of light 24 hours a day that people have trouble sleeping (and thus all the ads for sleeping aids)? One can always find someone or something on TV in the middle of the night. How many people work nights (and sleep days) and think nothing of it. Day/night melds into one. Hospitals operate 24 hours–a good thing. So many factories and corporations work 24 hours. Big cities are known for being 24 hour operations.

    How different life would be without electric light at night! How different the rhythm of life and society in general would be without light at night. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — November 6, 2011 @ 12:08 pm

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