Advent I: Enlightenment

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. (Isaiah 9:2)

***

A funny thing happened this week. The power went out. But that wasn’t really the funny thing. The funny thing was my reaction. I was walking through the living room when it happened. One moment I could see exactly where I was and where I was going. The next moment all I could see were the windows as dim squares of greyness in a sea of black.

My first thought was, “There goes the evening.”

The next thirty seconds or so brought mild confusion, then that irrational panic and fear that sets upon us in the dark. A light source was what I most needed, but I also remembered that we only had three matches in the house and no flashlight. But nevertheless, some form of light was needed simply to allow me to think clearly. Then I remembered that my iPod screen illuminates when it turns on…

Now with a pale and admittedly somewhat spooky light, I set about lighting candles with one match and using them to light a fire. I pondered the situation as I did so. No electricity meant a rather severe readjustment in how I would spend that evening, and possibly that night if it stayed off long enough. The oven wouldn’t work, which meant no dinner. The computer wouldn’t work, which meant no internet—and incidentally no writing. The television wouldn’t work, which meant no movie. The phone wouldn’t work, which meant I could contact no one who wasn’t an immediate neighbour. And of course, with snow still thick on the ground outside, there would be no heat. What exactly would I be doing?

My iPod was fully charged, so the night didn’t have to pass quietly at any rate. But I looked around and realized that there were enough candles (Mom has them arranged decoratively around the living room) to let me read by, if I moved them around a little towards the couch. I could easily bundle up in warm clothes and blankets. And though I couldn’t cook, I would be able to make a sandwich so I wouldn’t starve.

As these thoughts crept one by one into view I reflected on the day. I had found myself worrying a great deal: What of the many possible stories I have in mind should I write, and what project should I focus my attention on? Should I write a Christmas story again (something I was forced to neglect last year)? I’m currently reading a series of historical novels, and wondering if I’ll be able to finish before my intended goal of New Year’s; should I let myself read other books on the side or crack on regardless? Should I let my interest in it wane and move on to something else? I had been contemplating a trip to a library branch that is open late to check out a book I knew they had; that was obviously now moot.

Much worrying, often over unimportant things. Now, in the dark and soon to be cold house, life began to feel a little easier. There was almost nothing to do except curl up with a good book and read—one of my favourite activities. And I could do so without any interruptions from the outside world, not to mention guilt. I could simply relax and enjoy myself without having to worry. Light began to come to the darkness. I went downstairs and was in the act of putting on my heavy sweat pants…when the power came back on.

And my first thought was, “There goes the evening.”

But with an almost fanatical determination, I held onto it. I left the computer off. I left the TV off. I even left the lights off for a little while. I made myself a sandwich, and I read.

You don’t need electricity to reach enlightenment. In fact it’s sometimes better to turn it off.

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