Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Lighthouse

 "Nothing can dim the light that shines within."
-Maya Angelou

The aphorismatic idea that the eye is the conduit to the soul has always been sacred to me. Once I have laid eyes upon something they christen as "beautiful", that something most certainly will leave an imprint on my very being, becoming a small portion of my soul itself. When I was a little girl, I remember feeling a wondrous sense of awe at a willow tree. (A... tree you say? How normal.) But, for whatever reason, seeing it's languid, sweeping branches made an impression on my little heart and that quiet wonder grew with me into adulthood; it gave breath to something within me that slowly burgeoned into the reverence for nature that I feel and the maternal-like attentiveness for taking care of it. Seeing is not just a visual faculty though, is it? For when we really envisage something, we feel it. And I don't just mean "sight" as in ocular adeptness, I mean seeing in each and every sense of the word: perspective, understanding, discernment, appreciation, perceiving. Truly seeing causes feeling, causes a stirring within us that cannot be subjugated. And that, that is how the eye first becomes window to the soul: when we have understood, discerned, appreciated, percieved, and thus inadvertently adopted that very small form of intelligence as a part of ourselves.

The definition of intelligence is "the capacity for learning, reasoning, understanding... the faculty of understanding." Notice what that definition implies: that intelligence is determined by one's capacity, or potential, for learning; their aptitude for understanding. I ascribe to the belief that true intelligence guides men to action in that their intelligence is then radiated by the lives they lead. And therein lies the poetic counterpart to the eyes being the window to the soul-  we radiate what is most deeply important to us, what we most seek after. These are the things that quietly and gracefully feed that inner light to which Elizabeth Kubler-Ross was referring when she said: "People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light within." I'm quite taken with the bidirectionality that this whole idea propounds: If the eye is the window to the soul, let what we choose to "see" be that which will radiate light from within and cause the kind of reflection that inspires.

Someone rather enlightened (cough cough... John Locke) once expressed the idea that "the candle that is set up in us shines bright[ly] enough for all our purposes." What I think most encouraging about this is his postulation that we all have an innate prerequisite for anything we desire to accomplish or understand. That light is within everybody- but flickers and burns with as much unique precision as the "Author of our existence" used in designing each one of us. Of course, we see countless things every day, but I'm referring to those things we see that compel us to look twice- and that, upon that second glance, make us feel something. I think that light to which Locke refers is fed by those things that we have cause to give a second glance, or notice, or thought. If we don't feed that light, it dies, and we radiate nothing. But if we do choose to feed it, then, like E.K.B.'s human window, it creates something so extraordinary within us that it is radiated outwardly.

I spent my entire college career pursuing a career with which I was never, no not once, enthralled. Of course, there were sparks of interest here and there- but I never felt deeply connected to what I was studying. I never felt like learning the postures of my future vocation was an extension of who I was. A cryin' shame. Though no education is ever wasted, I desperately wish I would have chosen to explore something that did ignite and feed that little flickering light within me- something which in learning more and more about It, I could feel like I was learning more and more about myself. I feel that way when I read, and when I write. I can become completely intoxicated by cadences. I feel so very kindred to and grateful and hungry for the endowment of words and their subtleties. I don't know if it's the potential that lies within each one- the innumerable ways in which it can be applied and given new, personal meaning, or in some cases, in the very word itself. For whatever reason, there is a thrill that overcomes me with the mere possibility of expressing a thought- knowing I can choose any concoction of words to do so- and that in doing just that, I put my very brand on that thought- it becomes mine. The light that shines faintly within me is fed so much by this passion. I think it burns it's brightest when I pursue this outlet. The very deepest recesses of my soul surface and find sustenance. "The understanding, like the eye, whilst it makes us see and perceive all other things, takes no notice of itself; and it requires art and pains to set it at a distance and make it its own object. But whatever be the difficulties that lie in the way of this inquiry; whatever it be that keeps us so much in the dark to ourselves; sure I am that all the light we can let in upon our minds... will not only be very pleasant, but bring us great advantage, in directing our thoughts in the search of other things... The actions of men are the best interpreters of their thoughts"... Yet another astute proliferation of the Enlightenment and it's champ, John Locke. If I am interpreting his notion correctly, I would argue that he is encouraging us to cultivate our intellect as doing so will inadvertently shed light upon the mysteries that lie within ourselves; will give us insight into our own natures, and this will allure us toward seeking out more knowledge and more understanding, which will feed that inner light that is within us.

A very great lady once said, "Our outward appearance is a reflection of what we are on the inside. Our lives reflect that for which we seek." There are paths awaiting me... Paths that will kindle that inner flame until it is at it's veriest, and I want to pursue those. Ultimately, pursuing intelligence, in all it's forms, can do nothing but illuminate one's life. It's deeply important for me to live the kind of life that is a reflection of the things for which my soul craves. If eyes truly are windows to the soul, I want mine to radiate the things that characterize a beautiful and meaningful existence. Whatever that may mean for me. Let nothing dim the light that shines within me, and let me seek especially after those things that will feed it's glow.

Peace and Love.

Image source: http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2698/4279956730_472d6b3264.jpg