The image of a burning candle continues to serve our world as an important metaphor.
In Poland, for example, as well as other Slavic countries, there is a beautiful tradition that dignifies candles. During baptism, a little child receives not only new spiritual life but also a large candle that commemorates the occasion, and this candle is called gromnica. This large candle was often placed in the main window, particularly in the midst of an unrelenting storm. It served as a light and a sign of hope.
This very beautiful tradition served its final purpose at the funeral. The candle was lit for the very last time and flickered ever so slowly until it consumed itself. Symbolically, it kept the human corpus company from beginning to the end. The light on the wick, that once ushered them into the world, was now their last companion and guide in the afterlife.
You may consider this very gloomy but to me this is in fact a very beautiful tradition. Its observance has much to teach us. Our society has sanitized and distracted our lives so much that today we are far removed from the reality and inevitability of our own death. I think a healthy respect for death often eliminates unnecessary stress from things that just don’t matter.
Our dreams, our desires, our entire life, takes its direction from the wick.
The wick serves our flame and gives it the opportunity to shine. That tiny little tongue of light is very muted and unnoticeable in the middle of the bright day. It appears weak, only because it is overpowered by the majesty of the sun.
When it grows dark however, in the coldness of the night, our little candle has the ability to light up even the darkest of places. It has the power to light up the dimmest human soul.
As overwhelmingly busy people, we often forget the power we have been granted. We don’t appreciate the ability we were given to make an impact on someone else. We can truly make a great difference. We can be a source of joy to those we love, and we can also inspire those we have never met.
The wick serves the flame.
It gets all the attention and glory, but it is the wax that fuels the light.
Wax is wax, you say.
It is boring. Common. Forgettable.
We should take a brief moment here and examine the power of candlewax. It seems very imperative that we do so for it holds the secret of our hopes and desires. Without wax, there is no life. Without wax, nothing changes. Something or someone must always pay the cost. There must be a victim that serves a higher purpose. There is simply no other way to light and burn the tiniest of flames.
But you cannot throw money at a problem.
You just can’t sacrifice money.
You either have it or you don’t. You spend it or you don’t. When you don’t have money, you can get some. When you have too much, you can give it away. Money is not wax. It was not designed to serve as a sacrifice.
What we can sacrifice, is our time. We can choose to do this over that. We can elect to work. We can bust our ass, and hustle.
Parents are the prime example. They put their own desires aside, at least for a little while, so their children can have the opportunity to get healthy and strong; a chance at happiness and a meaningful existence.
We often wait until tomorrow, or some other another day, far in the future to finally begin, but should ask why today can’t be our turn? When is the right time to burn and hustle?
If we have no time to give, we can sacrifice and give up our addictions.
We smoke. We drink. We immerse our lives in reality television. We devour grievous amounts of calories. We feast our eyes on romantic novels. We consume copious amounts of music. And we do all this just to pass some time; to relax or to hide and run.
We titillate ourselves.
We fan ourselves with whatever suits our fancy, but let’s be clear about something.
Sacrificing our additions or going to work on our dreams will hurt. It will burn and it will itch. You will become a sign of contradiction and everyone that cares about you will look at you, see the scorching flame, and act with incredible pity. They will be misguidedly compassionate. They will attempt to help you end your suffering.
You don’t want to end the suffering. That’s how you give birth to something.
They will tell you to turn back for the sake of your health. To turn away for the sake of your family. To walk away from the pain. That it’s just not worth it. They will tell you to be satisfied with what you have. Stay the course. Forget the wick. Save your wax.
Don’t go back.
Don’t regress to a life filled with comfort. It will be very tempting, after all, who wants to suffer? It will be very tempting to return and put an end to all the pain and hard work.
Things will be slowly return to normal, but remember the sun always sets, and your life will eventually pivot back to your previous reality. You will end up returning to darkness, a place you wanted to abandon.
Take courage in the fact that sacrifice is not reserved for martyrs. Pain is not set aside for saints, but all mortals.
There is no escaping our end. We are all given some time and an myriad of talents. We can either play it safe and save our wax. We can bury our minas in the dirt, or we can let go of our misguided ideas and feel the burn. We can light our dreams.
I have decided to risk my life and burn the wax.
For better or worse, I will feed the wick. Some people may openly object, perhaps laugh and even scorn. Others will whisper their approvals. In either case, I know that an unreflected life is not worth living, but there can never be a light without hard work and sacrifice.
I hope you will light your wick as well.
Don’t get cheap with the wax.
Become a light.
A flame in a window.
Comfort for others.