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ESSAY SYNOPSIS : “What is to give light must endure burning.”


Light can be a distraction:

  • Much has been said about light, almost nothing about darkness. But darkness is much deeper phenomenon than what light is. Light comes and goes darkness remains; it never comes, it never goes. Light is not eternal because it needs fuel, some kind of fuel. We have light on earth because the fuel burns on Sun. The fuel will be exhausted sooner or later. Darkness needs no fuel, it is there for eternity.
  • When there is light we are not alone, we can be everybody else. One is lost in the crowd. The crowd gives a strange sense of security. It gives us ethical norms about what is good and bad. It gives us aspirations, it dictates the norms and values of one’s life. Any danger, one feels that the crowd is there for security.
  • We compare our lives with others, we consume what our neighbors are consuming when we feel dissatisfied we try to compete and dominate others with our hyper-competitive self.
  • We live with hope for the future. Whatever stage we are at, we create an ideal future for ourselves and live with the hope that someday we will be able to achieve it.
  • Existential questions become separated from everyday life: The seriously ill and dying and the mad are separated out from ordinary everyday life and hidden from view in institutions. These are precisely the kind of people who would make us confront the big questions of existence, but in late modernity, society is structured in such a way as to stop us from thinking about the ‘big existential questions’. The existential questions do not appeal to us

We en mass suffer from what Giddens calls ontological security – we don’t really know who we

are, or what to do with our lives.

Competing experts provide different advice – scientific knowledge may have taken over from religion, but different scientific experts provided different, and often conflicting advice on ‘how to live’. There are innumerous self-help books, to tell us about what to do with our life.

  • We are so lost in running the race that we forget for whom are we running it for.
  • We have means to live, but no meaning to live.
  • This is what the security, comfort, and illusion of external light can make us.

Burning with the tragedy

  • When life descends into the pit I must become my own candle Willingly burning myself To light up the darkness around me.“ — Alice Walker
  • Great suffering brings with it the power of great endurance. When sorrow is deepest all the forces of patience and courage are banded together to do their duty. So while we are cowards before petty troubles, great sorrows make us brave by rousing our truer manhood.- Rabindranath Tagore
  • One might face the loss of loved ones, diagnosed with deadly diseases, and come in face to face with mortality, undergo surgeries and accidents that inflict Unimaginable pain. In tragedy, suddenly the light goes off. One feels lonely in the crowd. The security that the crowd provides becomes unappealing.
  • The darkness engulfs us. We are used to the security and comfort of light. Darkness takes away all that. Unable to handle the uncertainty of darkness, we try to escape into some activities, some religious associations, some pursuits of pleasures like alcohol, drugs, or some forms  of entertainment. Nothing satisfies us. Deep down our  darkness remains to  be attended to.
  • Then we confront the sorrow inflicted by the tragedy. Be with the pain and understand it. Know its pulls and pushes. We let the sorrow burn everything that is useless, everything that is accumulated from outside, everything that is impure, everything that is self-centered. Our isolated and petty self is the fuel here, with that burning emerges the light that is our own.

Meeting Humanity

  • The sorrow of tragedy burns the isolation and the confusion created by separation from the world, It gives us fresh light to look at life with deep sensitivity of oneness and awareness of interconnectedness.
  • This new light has tremendous passion for those who suffer. This passion is what Buddha calls compassion. This passion is what inspired Ambedkar to fight for social justice.
  • The personal tragedies are what made common people to turn into great philosophers.

It is this overspreading pain that deepens into loves and desires, into sufferings and joy in human homes; and this it is that ever melts and flows in songs through my poet’s heart.” Rabindranath Tagore