A curious thing happened last week. I went to light the candles at my altar, and one of them wouldn’t take. I made sure the wick was clean, and checked the wax underneath. No matter what I tried, the candle simply wouldn’t receive flame from the match. Hmm. My initial temptation was to pitch it and go find one that worked. But fortunately, a deeper voice prevailed. After a moment, I placed the unlit candle at the center of my altar, left the other two burning, and sat quietly for a long time.
When an object is placed on an altar, there is an assumption of sacredness, respect, cherishing. But this mute candle represented everything that should have lit up and didn’t. Whole regions of my life I have allowed to fall dormant. Creative projects dropped. Commitments unfulfilled. Good intentions left to dry up and blow away…all of them, unlit, mute, still. Thanks to the candle that wouldn’t light, now there’s a place for all that on my altar.
I can bow to these unlit places, and know that however I frame my life, it’s probably bullshit anyway. How do I know those areas should’ve lit up? I don’t. Truth is, they didn’t. And truth is deeper, simpler, and more clear than any story I can make up about it. So this dark candle in its place of honor on my altar signals me to be embrace the darkness and let go of all my story about it. This gentle, mute ambassador also reminds me to cherish everything, lit and unlit, and just be alive! We’ll all be dead soon enough. Best to check out the candles that are lit, let my life be illumined by those flames, as I hold the darkness with tenderness and compassion.
The morning the candle wouldn’t light, I went for a walk. I went with my wife and our dogs into the forest. And nothing, nothing needed to be fixed, changed, improved, or messed with in any way. May everyone, everywhere, know this feeling. May our flames burn bright. And may we hold our darkness dear.