Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lights vs. Illumination

I admit to being unusual, in that I get into the spirit of the winter festivals by way of music.

So many others prefer lights. Lots of them. Lots too many, sometimes. Well, more than sometimes.

Some of these displays are just butt ugly. Tasteless is too kind a description. Just how much blinking wattage can we add to our house? And bubbles! How about canned music! All night, every night for a month, to the distraction of our neighbors. WooHOO!

Thorstein Veblen talked about displays of material consumption in his Theory of the Leisure Class. All of this costly and conspicuous consumption (yes, some people are using energy saving lights, but however much they supposedly save, they do require energy, after all... and some people think that using them means they can put up twice as many lights as in the past...) is meant to prove something about the person who puts up the lights, not about the festival that the lights are (supposedly) intended to honor.

There was a preacher man who once spoke of each person being a lamp, but hiding that illuminating light under a basket. That preacher man figures greatly at this time of year, in these latter days. And other sages and prophets repeat the message in their own way, both earlier and later in the timelines of humanity.

I will go right ahead and boldly make this gross generalization: No amount of kilowatts can display a person's spirit to the world. It is deeds, even the smallest selfless deed, that show who a person is and measure that person's connection and care of others in their orbit.

Bright light bulbs may offer momentary delight, but it is the smile that lightens difficult moments in a person's day, little kindnesses, a spontaneous offering of food to a homeless person who is begging for change on the corner. These acts are more real than strands of lights, sucking up vital energy, could ever be. These acts create a warmth so much more true than any artificial light can lend its false brightness.

How do we greet the Winter Festival that has arrived? For ourselves alone, in our conspicuously lit houses, or for others, in acts of kindness?

It is up to you and it is up to me.

Light your inner lamps with care and be the light of the world; and may your festivals be merry and bright based on what you give, not what you show!

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