Candles, Lumens and the Sum of Light [a short-short story]

 

“We should take care of the misery in front of us,” she said. She said that we needed not to consider the larger issues of the world; that every issue we think we need to emote over as we do pathetically insipidly are all connected to people who suffer them and show us their symptoms. “That’s what we need to do,” she said,.”take care of the misery right there in front of us,” she said.

She paused.

“Lamenting poverty is the crap you tell yourself you should be doing to make yourself feel better about yourself as a conventionally good person; but the conventions of our day are what leave people in poverty, leave people hungry. Be unconventional and feed a hungry person; but do it without show,” she said. “There are no greater issues than the one in front of you, the person whose misery needs your attention,” she said. “Taking care of the misery in front of you is addressing the larger issues,” she said, “Miserere nobis,”  she added.

She paused briefly.

“You can only add your light to the sum of Light so others can see better than they would,” she said.  “Remember that light is measured in lumens, in effect, how many candle flames, no? One candle, two candles, a hundred candles, a thousand . . . each of us holding a candle is what it is in effect.”

She paused. She continued pausing. I acknowledged to myself the absence of speech. She had finished. I said nothing. I had been waiting for her to continue, politely, I assume as I had assumed. I then waited too long, I thought, to say something. I was not sure, but it seemed as if the opportunity to speak what I had thought I might have wanted to say had passed. I would have to revise what I think I would have said, or so I imagine I was thinking I would need to do. I did not say anything.

We entered the restaurant we had been walking to for lunch. I ordered a bottle of Sancerre. I thought we should drink more than a glass each. It was a beautiful day and there was no reason to get monastic because of what she said. I was not sixteen and so was not prepared to emote my way through the remains of my day. I knew how I felt, what I did do, have done, will do again. I had never seen her practice what she preached. Maybe she too did not want to be seen praying, as I remembered from the Gospels? Did it matter–and no, I do not think all traditions are the same.  But who does not know that the synagogues that Christ spoke of are not also Churches and Mosques, Public Libraries and our schools, one or another public forum? Please.

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