Looking at continuities between past and present, Audrey Greene reflects on the “religion of light”
Religion of Light
by Audrey Greene
I can imagine that ancient woman, huddling in her cave, above the village. The harvest had been good enough, she thought.
But with the harvest came the darkness. The sun still came each day but then left, sooner and sooner. Where did it go, why did it go? The cold was coming again, as it had before. What, what could be done? They still had the fire, that gave them warmth and light. It could not grow the crops, but it would have to do for now. Then she remembered, they would light bigger and bigger fires each night, as they had done during the last dark time and perhaps the sun would return as it had last time.
I can see that woman, and all the other women and men like her, huddled in terror as the sun died away and the cold came again. And what could they do but keep their own small lights burning? To warm themselves, to chase the darkness to the edges of the cave, to keep out the marauders, to see each other’s faces. When the harvest was in, there was nothing left to do but huddle together around the fire in the growing darkness and tell stories.
That’s it, isn’t it? The cave, the cold, the fire, the stories we tell each other. Very little has changed. Sure, the cave looks a little different, but the stories are essentially the same, there are not that many plot lines.
We face the growing dark and cold again. It’s difficult not to feel the fear. But when I see all these stories of solstice, from ancient Saturnalia though Santa Lucia to Kwanzaa, I see people looking for just a little more light.
And that’s why we come here, not just for the warmth of community but for light…the religion of light, not radiated from a single source which seeks our unending obedience and praise, not filtered through a rigid hierarchy or translated into immutable laws, but from each other!
How great is that? We each have some light.
Some of us are incandescent, some of us are positively luminescent, we all flicker once in a while. But we know that together, our light is more than enough to get us through the dark. With music and words, with memories, and myths, let us celebrate our light.