Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Lamp shining brightly

A couple of friends of mine are going through some challenges. One lost a beloved family member; another was just having a really crummy personal day. The quote below came to mind for both of them and prompted me to write my own thoughts:

"Perhaps it will seem to you that the sunshine is brighter and that everything has a new charm. At least, I believe this is always the result of a deep love. And it is a beautiful thing. And I believe people who think love prevents one from thinking clearly are wrong; for then one thinks very clearly and is more active than before. And love is something eternal - the aspect may change, but not the essence. There is the same difference in a person before and after he is in love as there is in an unlighted lamp and one that is burning. The lamp was there and it was a good lamp, but now it is shedding light too, and that is its real function. And love makes one calmer about many things, and in that way, one is more fit for one's work."
~ Vincent Van Gogh

I have always found this quote to be startlingly beautiful. The concept captures so many different applications of how we, as humans, love. It also narrows the reader's focus to a still, silent thought, a moment to ponder love and how it illumines each Soul.

We all have those unpleasant days - at times they can go beyond the span of a day - where nothing feels good. Nothing seems to fit, colors are muted and sounds are muffled. We twist and turn, searching for something outside of ourselves to mitigate this dimming effect. At times, something outward does do the trick. There are moments which require only a change in scenery, or the company of a good friend to lift our mood and banish the gloom. For the moments that extend beyond those quick fixes, Van Gogh's quote sometimes comes to mind for me.

For those who have suffered the recent loss of a deeply loved one, the process of grief is an individual one. Each of us must walk that particular path alone, moving through the various stages until acceptance finally is met. Love from those still here can certainly prove to be a lifeline which we all grasp hold of. There will be, without a doubt, days of darkness to navigate in solitude. Days where your heart is sore with loss and nothing seems capable of soothing. Again, I come back to Van Gogh's quote.

Love is a fickle creature, of a certainty. It is also that which lifts us, transports us to joyous bliss, fills us up with fizzing delight, warms us with a soft, lambent inner glow. We can be pitched into the depths of despair by love, left sprawled on the floor, completely undone and broken. That light...that lamp which Van Gogh identifies as the analogy and symbol of love....it is always there. It may require effort on our part at times to light, or to shelter from whipping winds of change. I daresay we should consider ourselves dutiful stewards of our individual lamps. Without constant care, the lamp can grow dull, can become depleted of sufficient fuel to shine brightly in the darkness.

It is perhaps very simplistic to claim that printing a quote from long ago might have the power to lift the hearts of those reading this blog post. A friend having a challenging day might not feel like being coaxed into a better mood by Van Gogh's perspective. The friend in the midst of fresh, sharp grief and the loss of a loved one might not have the energy to even think about reading a blog post. Others dealing with their own challenges may brush this off as just another blog post full of self-indulgent optimism, hearts and flowers and those inevitable rose-colored glasses that this writer insists on wearing. All of the above have merit. I cannot claim to have miraculous answers or solutions for those who are in the midst of their own personal struggles.

What I can do, however, is reach out in my own personal fashion. I can share the quote above in the sure knowledge that, if it touched my heart and continues to have value for me, most likely it will touch others and inspire. I think that Van Gogh's words are beautiful, full of hope, that they communicate a wish for those reading the words to have courage and believe in the fact that love is eternal.

"...the aspect may change, but not the essence."

We forget, often, in the midst of our personal moments of crisis, that love is an eternal constant. It truly is the most powerful emotion in existence and can banish a crummy day in the twinkling of an eye. Soothing broken hearts obviously requires much more time and effort, but the eternal nature of this emotion, coupled with the healing application of time, is again that one endless constant. How fortunate we are, then, that brilliant minds took time to write personal thoughts for us to read hundreds of years later; to be encouraged, to be inspired, to be gently wrapped in the words of love and brought through those maelstrom moments to calmer shores.

We can believe...and know, for it is true, that our lamp shines brightly.


  1. Thank you Dawn for sharing, this really hit home with me today.......today (wednesday) is my brother's birthday, instead of telling him Happy Birthday like I did for many many years; I will visit his grave! Thank God for eternal love and Thank you Dawn!!!

  2. Sandy, I'm glad the post touched you. I love Van Gogh's words and just felt very driven to share that quote and write about it the other night. I had no idea if it would inspire or soothe others as it has for me in the past, so I'm happy to know it touched you. Tell your brother I said Hello & Happy Birthday from an extra sister! ;-) Love you!