March 31, 2009


A Chinese proverb - 'Don't curse the darkness - light a candle.' Used by Adlai Stevenson (1900-65), praising Eleanor Roosevelt in an address to the United Nations General Assembly in 1962 - 'She would rather light candles than curse the darkness, and her glow has warmed the world.' While intending no disrespect for either Adlai Stevenson or Eleanor Roosevelt, I disagree.

I can think of several reasons why it makes more sense to curse the darkness. First of all, cursing the darkness is satisfying in its own right. I can't begin to tell you the immense amount of pleasure I get from cursing all sorts of things. Including the darkness. On the other hand, lighting a candle can have a number of deleterious consequences.

1. You could burn yourself.
2. You could cause a fire, e.g., burn down the house.
3. You could drip hot candle wax on good furniture or perhaps a fine tablecloth. We all know how difficult it is to remove.
4. The candle could be one of those ghastly scented candles, patchouli oil or sandalwood. And once one of those things is lighted, it's too damn late. You're stuck with this foul order that can linger on for days, if not weeks. In short, if you're not completely familiar with the candle why take the chance?
5. the candle provides only minimal illumination. Hardly worth the effort. You can't really read by it without worrisome eyestrain. In short, why bother? Or if you must read by it, consult an ophthalmologist. And that's expensive.
6. It's cheaper. You don't need matches. You don't need a candle. You don't need anything. Except a bad disposition. Why not be self-sufficient and do with a little less?

Via Errol Morris

No comments: