Light One Candle

IMG_2435I hadn’t thought about Diwali in years, not since I took a graduate course in myth and legend and read the Hindu epic, the Ramayana. There, I learned the story of Lord Rama and Sita, his wife, their exile, and subsequent return to their home. It’s that return, some say, that Diwali was meant to celebrate.

Today, Diwali “celebrates new beginnings and the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness,” according to an article in The Independent.

Gallivanta, at Silkannthreades, wrote about Diwali yesterday and about lighting a candle, as was tradition in the land of her youth, Fiji. Gallivanta ended her post by saying, “Join me, if you will, in lighting a candle, for the night is black, and we need all the light we can get. Happy Diwali and may the light of the lamp burn brightly in all our hearts.”

Yes, the night is black.

It seems exceptionally black right now. Not just the fading light of autumn, here in the Northern Hemisphere, and the longer nights, and the snow and cold that keep us isolated from one another.

The news of the world makes the nights feel exceptionally black and dark and cold. The fear of disease, and of fear itself. The fear of unspeakable horrors that humans inflict on others. The fear of wars, and rumors of war.

I’m feeling very sad about Canada right now. I live just a few miles from her border; I love her capital city and its beautiful Parliament, with the Peace Tower and Tomb of the Unknowns and Books of Remembrance.

Canada always seemed a place apart to this American. A little apolitical, a little innocent, a little safe. A little sunny.

But recent nights have been black for Canadians, too. They know darkness now, as they did not before.

The world provides so much to keep us anxious, so much that seems to hide in the shadows and whisper, “Be afraid.”

But then I think about Diwali and how humans, from all cultures, it seems, have used fire and candles and lamps to dispel those shadows and fears, and replace them with light and hope. It’s not only Diwali.

So many fire festivals, in so many lands. So many songs to honor the sun and light and fire, and to bring the light of the human voice to the shadow of silence. So many metaphors that play a key role in human language, and so many ancient places built to admit the light of the sun on transitional days. So many candlelight marches and perpetual flames at graves.

So much light, literal and symbolic, to combat the dark, and push it back, and replace it with the hope of trust and peace.

So, yes, Gallivanta, I will join you in lighting a flame, to celebrate the good and to refuse to give countenance to darkness and evil.

And I will reiterate your wish, “Happy Diwali and may the light of the lamp burn brightly in all our hearts.”