Lights to Light


Diwali – we all call it a festival of lights, a festival of triumph over darkness – victory of knowledge over ignorance, of joy over sorrow, of wealth over poverty, of love over hate, of hope over desperateness. The dichotomy of positive and negative could go on and on. We, humans have a natural tendency to divide things as desirable and undesirable or wanted and unwanted. Perhaps our collective evolutionary psyche has adapted us to see life as that which promotes survival and that which does not.

We have a spontaneous natural proclivity towards the so called positives – light, hope, love, joy, wealth, life, knowledge etc. despite knowing that they will not be with us forever and we don’t have any prerogative over them. Let us have a little change of perspective. Kazhil Gibran says in his remarkable work ‘The Prophet’, “Your joy is your sorrow, unmasked.” One of the greatest postmodern thinkers, Derrida, argues against the world of binaries. If there is no evil, what, therefore, is good? If there is no ignorance, what worth is our accumulation of knowledge?  If there is no darkness, where is the need there for light? If there is no hate, what kind of significant role will love play? Work details that we intentionally prefer to neglect or avoid the ones that make the work that we desire more meaningful and important. Our desirability over desirables essentially depends on our undesirability over the undesirables. The ‘rejection (unwantedness)’ of penury is more pivotal for the desire for wealth than mere indifference

Coming to Diwali, the festival of lights, how do we make sense of this celebration? Is it the real victory of light over darkness? Then why do we celebrate it in the night? Lights can be visible only if the background is dark. Though light is independent, it is in dependence on darkness for its independence in order to be made visible and significant. It is a symbolic festival to show us the intricacies of human relationships. We feel acutely the importance of a person’s presence only in his absence. As long as siblings live together, we have fights and squabbles among ourselves. We never seem to share kind words and acts of love and affection. Once we grow up and leave our parents and siblings, we begin to feel the pain of being away from them. We understand the depth of a mother’s love only on those days when we decide not to talk to her because she didn’t support our childish argument with our father. Then dropping our ego, scratch our head, and go and start an irrelevant conversation, perhaps on a meal she is preparing. Absence sharpens the sense of presence; Distance heightens the sense of proximity. Hate serves to increase our awareness of the absence love and, in this fashion, I can go on and on .

Therefore, let us be aware that whatever we want to get depends on whatever we want to avoid. It is ennobling to know that our vulnerabilities make us understand the vulnerabilities of others’. Our ‘independence’ strangely is dependent on our ‘dependence’. Our ‘dependence’ is also dependent on our ‘independence’. One cannot exist in the absence of the other.

Doni Raja SJ