My friend Mayhem (a nickname given because she has a degree in mathematics, and my iPhone, for once, had an epic win of an autocorrect from “mathmetician” to “mayhem”) is a Jew who has recently become obsessed with Joel Osteen — the megachurch pastor in Houston.
Throughout the day, she will occasionally text or tweet Osteen-isms. This pleases me to no end. In response, or perhaps non-sequentially, eee sends across some Oscar Wilde or T.S. Eliot or some lines from a guru somewhere. So there I am, in receipt of some Bible-based wisdom from a Jew quoting a televangelist, and snippets of poetry from a half-Viking lost in the Jazz Age, and I think — how could a woman ever be so lucky to have a these angels in my ears?
Or, at least, these sages on an iPhone vibrating on my desk.
I have been thinking, a lot, lately about what it means to be a beacon for others. This, of course, instantly puts me into “Candle on the Water” mode.
I have a thing for weird ’70s movies. Pete’s Dragon is a film I love more than breathing. I love every bit of the soundtrack; the cinematic genius of the early-era of animation spliced into live-action shots. I adore the shiny-faced, toothless Shelley Winters in the role of brutal adoptive mother; Mickey Rooney playing Mickey Rooney (i.e., not actually acting); Helen Reddy as a vulnerable-yet-iron-willed daughter-of-the-town-drunk with a touch of “Brandy You’re a Fine Girl”* mixed in as she waited for her true love in the way that only the woman of a seafaring man could.
*Yes, I know that’s not a Helen Reddy song.
The point is…I wonder a lot whether I am walking the walk. Whether I am walking and waiting and shining and listening. Whether, even when times are hard and the waves are rough, I am willing to climb to the top of the lighthouse and light the torch.
And then it gets me thinking about the parable of the lamp under the jar, and I am instantly transported back to the text messages from my televangelical Jew friend, and I am off down the Jesus rabbit hole.
Whether or not you’re a fan of the Big JC, I always say that the Sermon on the Mount is something worth reading — whether you’re looking at it from the perspective of a seeker; a scholar; or a skeptic. In the parable of the lamp, Jesus, preaching to his disciples, says:
“No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.”
First, for what purpose is this light? What am I illuminating; creating; reflecting? Second, am I listening?
Third: What am I hiding?
If I can think of the top five things I hide from the world, they would be as follows: I hide my anger; my fear; the way I love others; the fact that I actually hate raw carrots but I eat them because they are good for me; and importantly, I hide my happiness.
I am afraid to show I am happy about things, because I am sometimes afraid the world will take it from me. I’m afraid that the other shoe will drop — that my happiness is contingent upon it being private; unknown. That the minute the world gets a hold of it, happiness is no longer mine to have.
This begs the old “tree in the woods” question, then. If I hide it, do I really have it?
I’m happy. I love what I do. I’ve worked hard for it. I don’t want to hide that; I want to celebrate these good things, and I don’t want to be afraid that they will be taken away. I suppose that’s the thing. I want to have faith that there is more good to come. And I want to live like I deserve good, and that I can be good to others.
I suppose that’s really what this is all about: Being the Helen Reddy, not necessarily the Mickey Rooney. Being patient, mindful, watchful. Believing that the things that are worth waiting for are coming to us; tending them; being true to them. Tending light instead of creating chaos.
The bigger point here is that, this holiday season, I am striving to Be Good. Not because I’m concerned about what Santa is bringing me, rather because I am interested in reflecting and creating light; holding out for good things; believing I am worthy of great things; and because I want to be the Nora and not the Lampy.
For what it’s worth, I think the threat of becoming a Mickey Rooney character — metaphorically or otherwise — is enough to make one stop and think about the light one shines out in to the world.