Cue music: Weapon of Choice. And… begin.
“How is a person like a candle?” Sounds like a set up to a joke: “My love for you is like a candle, if you forget about me, I’ll burn your house down!” It’s funny (and scary) because candles symbolize romance and burning love and actually do burn houses down – 9,300 in the US between 2009-13 according to the National Fire Protection Association.
Candlelight represents the sun, spiritual illumination, goodness, joy. Light symbolizes intelligence and darkness is death and destruction. Candles at weddings symbolize unity. On birthday cakes they symbolize the light of life and the old belief that smoke from candles carries wishes and prayers to gods who live in the skies.
Diarist and Holocaust victim Anne Frank (1929-1945) wrote, “Look at how a single candle can defy and define the darkness.” She knew about darkness and yet, despite her terror, she wrote like a philosopher of enjoyment: “As long as this exists, this sunshine and this cloudless sky, and as long as I can enjoy it, how can I be sad?”
Poet Mehmet Murat ildan said, “If your mind is misty, your life will be misty; if your mind is sunny, your life will be sunny! Your life will be the reflection of your mind, of your thoughts! If there is a candle in your mind, your life will not know what utter darkness is!” (Mehmet Murat ildan).
Ancient Greeks (and not Athenian octogenarians) burned candles as an offering to their gods, but symbolism aside, a candle burning is similar to the life-functioning of a person. Not that we’re on fire (except for Jerry Lee Lewis and his Great Balls of Fire), but we do burn food (chemicals) and turn it into life-energy and waste (not necessarily of the smoky and romantic kind).
According to the National Candle Association when you light a candle, heat from the flame melts the wax made of hydrocarbons and draws it up the wick to burn. A hydrocarbon is made of hydrogen and carbon atoms. Scientists say humans are 96% carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and 4% other elements (Live Science).
According to the Encyclopedia of Human Thermodynamics, Human Chemistry, and Human Physics each human is: “a large atomic structure, or single abstract molecule which has been synthesized over millions and billions of years… if a large chemist was looking down on earth, as though the surface of the earth were a test-tube for his studies, the chemist would view humans to be little molecules reacting together forming products” (Human Chemistry).
To science humans are factories, machines, chemically constructed bags of skin with in-puts and out-puts and parts that can be replaced or repaired. The point is to survive, learn and reproduce.
The question is: “So? What has any of this to do with enjoyment?” Nothing, really. Except, maybe… everything.This goes towards understanding common assumptions. We feel like we’re behind the eyes – a spot of awareness, alone in the universe – and our bodies are like cars and we’re drivers within. We think there is a separation between ourselves and our surroundings, but think of a candle: Would it burn in outer space? We say, “This is me,” and look around pointing, “Not me. Not me. Not me!” (Sometimes we’re shrill.)
If you’re scientific, you say we’re made of stuff and things run automatically: cause and effect, natural selection. Big visible things are products of tiny, invisible things. Living things come out of dead chemicals. If we go in smaller and smaller, stuff disappears and becomes mostly space. If we look at stars, they go farther away.
And if we’re religious, we think much the same except instead of being made by self-perpetuating processes we believe in a creator.
Both are great views – fantastic! – but this isn’t serious. It’s play. A person (Latin: persona) is a mask. Tag! You’re it! Experience. The amazing thing about the world is that you can walk into it – one foot in front of the other. The trick is to pay attention to its three-dimensionality. We don’t appreciate the softness of air or notice how it parts before us without needing a shovel (unless we’re in Beijing).
We’re airy nothings dependent on the world we’re in. Toys aren’t us: Nature is.
In ’69 Jimmy Cliff sang, “You can get it if you really want. But you must try – try and try – try and try. You’ll succeed at last, mmh, yeah.” A cheerful ditty – repetitive maybe – but fun to lip-sync like David Morrissey.
A philosopher can enjoy the song and get it – not as success – but it as enjoyment. It’s a choice: “I will enjoy.” It perpetuates itself in you as self-conscious feelings of yourself as you disappear.
Next time you’re in a department store and you find yourself alone in your brain, far away in thought and the world is out there, just before stepping onto an escalator whisper, “I will enjoy.” Step on. Let enjoyment (and the escalator) take you on. Merge with a world that’s in and of you.
Leave language. Leave analysis. Live as music. Face forward. Let scenery move in the periphery.
A goofy smile is…. optional.