Sunday, April 8, 2012

Church Candles, Camp, and Life

"A candle's but a simple thing, it starts with just a bit of string... Yet dipped and dipped with patient hand, it gathers wax upon the strand, until complete and snowy white, it gives at last a lovely light. All around us is darkness, I light this little candle and it is no longer dark. Although this is a tiny light and it lights only a small area, we can all see it. Each of us knows it is here and can find a way to it. Although tiny, it is a beacon to every one of us. But this little light can grow; can be multiplied, if someone would come join it."

This is a poem that is read by the staff of Camp Redwing on the last night of each camp session. Typically around the pool, or in a field, holding unlit candles, this poem is read by a new staff member and camper duo each session. Only the camper and staff member have lit candles, but at the line "But this little light can grow, can be multiplied, if someone would come join it," all other staff members share the light, spreading it to their own candles and the candles of campers, until the entire camp is lit by the flickering flames. It truly is beautiful, and a favorite memory of all campers. Using candles during Easter Vigil Mass at my church this weekend, I remembered the Redwing candlelight ceremonies of my past summers. Just like I was at every pool-side candlelight, last night I was shocked at the difference little candles made in the darkness of my unlit church. Although it was a safe place, and I was in no danger, the dark was ominous. Scary, unknown, and unyielding, the darkness, whether in a field, by the pool, or in a church, engulfs every one of us. But one person lit their candle, and everyone's eyes focused on the light, focused on hope. It's a human reaction, but it's also amazing what one little flame can do. When you add fifty more little flames, it is no longer an individual effort; it is a group, working together to bring light to the darkness. I think the comparison is clear. It's like life, just like my blogs always tend to be. Life can be quite a dark and scary place... but even one light, one optimistic, happy person, can make a difference. People will be drawn to you, to your example. And, just like I learned at camp, "this little light can grow, can be multiplied, if someone would come join it."


  1. "Hope" is a word that has been somewhat bastardized over the past 50 years or more. It used to be that "to hope" meant "to trust or expect." Nowadays "to hope" means something like "Gosh I hope this happens but I'm ultimately not sure!" I'm wondering what does hoping in "candle light" do? Ultimately the candle will go out, and no matter how positive that light was it ultimately ends. That's not very hopeful to me. I don't see how putting my trust in optimism and togetherness really makes a difference. Interested in your thoughts on this.

    1. Everything in this world will come to an end, including life. But does that mean that you shouldn't live? You shouldn't enjoy it while it lasts? If you look at everything in this "Well, it won't last forever, so might as well disregard anything positive about it," attitude, your life, I imagine, would be very sad! Putting your trust
      in optimisim and togetherness, looking at the situations in a "cup half full" mentality, is scientifically proven to improve your quality of life. I could show you studies, but just think about it. Which lifestyle would be more enjoyable: one which does not trust, does not look at the positives in life, does not choose to believe the best
      about things... or one that does? I think, if you really do not believe in togetherness and optimisim, that this is a deeper issue than can be addressed on a blog. And it makes me sad! I hope you can believe in hope, regardless of what you think society has turned the word into over the past few years. What's important is what you feel,
      and what you think. Disregard society. Don't worry, be...hopeful!

    2. You cite "being sad" as a consequence of not being optimistic. You also stated that being optimistic will "improve your quality of life." Is this really optimism? These seem to be things that define self-absorption. If the only thing I have to be optimistic about is improving my own life then THAT is what is depressing.

      I am optimistic! I am actually optimistic to a fault, contrary to what people believe. My point in bothering you about this is due to the fact that words like hope, light, dark, togetherness, optimism, etc...are all wonderful happy buzzwords that people use but they have begun to lack substance. We can use those words without understanding any of the philosophical and deeper foundations for the ethical claims we are making. For instance the statement "What's important is what you feel, and what you think." Really? Says who? My point is what is the source/substance of hope and your other beliefs on this. What makes it more than just words? I certainly hope (ha!) it's more than "being happy" and "improving your quality of life." Does that make sense? I have a tendency to ramble incoherently