Fiat Lux was the motto of my ("high school," to Americans) Queen's College in Bridgetown, Barbados. I remembered this recently when, while attempting to dust, I pulled out an old copy of The Oxford Book of Verse from the bookshelf and saw the motto on the cover. It was a school prize, for "good work in Form VI b" of which I'd been rather proud. I was a lonely ex-pat in those days and something of a "swot." Studying was how I filled my time as a "stranger in a strange land," while others were spending their free time with family and friends.
What is the definition of that "light"? I used to believe--this being a school gift, after all--that this "light" was knowledge, and while that's certainly a way of looking at this motto, I'm beginning to see that the "light" mentioned here is perhaps a much simpler concept. Maybe it's just as simple as one word--Hope.
Reading an article by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Elizabeth Kolbert, I was struck by this sentence: "Despair is unproductive. It's also a sin." Those two short sentences got me pondering, especially as I am someone who finds themselves often stuck in "the slough of despond," expecially after looking at the news.
Spalding Gray in his "Swimming to Cambodia" speaks of "the cloud of Evil" which continually circles the world, waiting for an opening in which to manifest This image struck me powerfully. When people give up, believing that reality is "hopeless" or "impossible" to change, that attitude simply throws the door open for the Darkness, destroying people, communities, societies--even planets.
What's is the opposite of despair, then? Hope, of course. In the words of the familiar little song:
"This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine..."
~Bishop Desmond Tutu
Maybe that particular light is the one we all carry, the ability to care for others, to share what we have. It can be as simple as a phone call to an aging relative or looking in on a elderly neighbor, or volunteering at a shelter, planting a tree or a garden.
"There is some good in this world, and it's worth fighting for." ~JRR Tolkien
"In a time of destruction, create something." ~ Maxine Hong Kingston
Despair can be cast off through action, perhaps something as simple as cleaning, decluttering, writing a blog or a letter to the editor. Even if you feel defeated before you start and believe you aren't going to be able to make anything in your future better, you did take an action that can improve your immediate surroundings, or, at least, your state of mind.
If it's just seems too pointless to clean or cook or write another letter to your newspapers/political leaders, sit down and write a gratitude list. At first I scoffed at this practice, but consider. Perhaps you can find three things you are thankful for.
If you are in a house, under a roof, more or less warm and with internet access and time to read this--well there's three luxuries right there. On a more basic level, most of us also have friends or family, even if they are far away. Most of mine, especially since Covid, are far away and inaccessible for various reasons, except through the 'net. You might talk to a friend, neighbor, to your cat/dog/bird. Write a poem. Greet the sun, admire the clouds or the birds/squirrels at your feeder, the local Canada Geese who have never learned to migrate.
Or, as I'm speaking here to readers and writers, talk to yourself! Begin to tell yourself a story, which is what I have done ever since I was little and feeling sad and alone.
Happy New Year!
Lovely post, Juliet. I think this is why we write fiction where the good people get rewarded, and evil is defeated. Good fiction brings hope, light, and a vision of a better possible future. Thanks for sharing.ReplyDelete