Don’t recoil from an increasingly dark world; it needs each of us to flood it with the light of a single candle

History has tides all its own that seem, like the ocean’s, to lap at our feet utterly uncontrolled by humankind. War. Revolution. Tyranny. Acrimony. Out-of-control animus. Hatred and conflict, unleashed with great force like a kraken. At times, whole nations can be pulled under, taking untold innocent lives with them.

This is such a time.

Suddenly the world has darkened manifestly. Rarely has the exhortation to light a candle rather than curse the darkness been more urgent.

Savagery and terrorism is back with a vengeance – its supporters only having multiplied inexplicably – and civilization is forced to fight back just to survive.

Nothing seems to be beneath the terrorists and tyrants, except a chilling trail of cooled blood and fractured lives. But a greater danger is the ignorance, distractions, comfort and complacency of the masses, fed fat by the dishonest, corrupt and complicit media.

For, even in the land of the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment, of all places:

  • A man is headed to jail for speech – satire, no less – because it is disfavored by the powerful.
  • Another man’s home is raided by a menacing SWAT team for having protected his son – taken from his family in handcuffs likely because he was on the “wrong” side of the abortion debate.
  • Americans who hold unfashionable views, and who dare to direct pointed questions at the nation’s imperious leaders, are silenced by a cynical government and a complicit social media.
  • A high school football coach is fired for praying silently – in his head! – in a public place.

What to do, when inhumanity and blood are flowing as human freedom is ebbing?

Simply: act.

Retreat from the world is not an option. As the philosopher John Stuart Mill counseled us:

“Let not anyone pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.”

Yet, I have acquaintances, as I suspect you do, who take no part, form no opinion – political agnostics who view disinterest and detachment, even in matters of great moral gravity, as an airly superior posture to those of us fighting it out in the trenches.

When the world dims thusly, then is it most crucial for us all to heed the honored axiom that it’s better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness – or to just ignore it. Together our solitary candles fashion day out of night.

Lighting your candle means pouring yourself into service to others, into your community – joining or forming organizations that advance the causes in your heart, making a modest difference one step, one fellow human being at a time. II Corinthians 2:14-15 alludes to spreading the fragrance of Christ among the people. Indeed.

Amid such evil as now surrounds us, good men and women must take part in lighting the darkness however they can.

Upon the Nov. 12 start of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights celebrating “the triumph of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and good over evil,” this most timely invocation was given at a Kansas City-area Rotary meeting by Dr. Hemender Singh Vats:

Let’s pray for that voice of reason that resonates through the acrimonious political cacophony 

Let’s pray for the power of human connection that can cut through the layers of distrust 

Let’s pray for the lives of the innocent who are caught in the web of wars thrust on them 

Let’s pray for food security and a safe home for every human 

Let’s  pray for the health of all around you 

And above all let’s pray to God to rekindle in us the light of love we all have within us and the desire and power to make our world a better place

We don’t necessarily have to be of the world to be in it. But we need to be in it now more than ever.

Rather than withdraw from the enveloping darkness, it is incumbent on us to light it.


(This column originally appeared on

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