A Parable of Light

On another plane than this one:

A man lay dying and called his friends to him.

He said to them, “I know that soon I must die, and I have seen that my life has produced no great works or deeds. I console myself with the thought that I have been as kind and generous as I know how, but I cannot help but ask — what good can one person’s kindness do in the vastness of this world?

His friends murmured sympathetically — what, indeed?

“But,” he said, “I have seen a vision. On another plane than this one…

“I saw myself suspended alone in an infinite darkness. I seemed to be made of glass, so that you could see through me.

I was surrounded by a vast, infinite darkness — the void of the universe, and I was alone.

That darkness was complete. I could see nothing but myself.

Every time I felt a kindness, though, of thought or of deed, it came from my breast in a burst of warm light, which flowed out from me and soon dissipated in the darkness.”

The man’s friends listened politely. He continued.

“But then, in the distance, the faint remains of my light of kindness met… another soul, perhaps? I could not see, but it was as if my light had encountered a node of some kind, which glowed briefly itself before fading.

It began to happen more often — more and more glowing nodes in the darkness, bursting into light and fading into the void.

And then I began to see, as more and more light suffused the void, that all these nodes — lit and unlit — were connected by fine filaments, and the more nodes were lit, the stronger those connections became until I was looking at a galactic mycelium powered by warmth and kindness.

Of course, not all nodes gave off the same amount of light. Some shone brightly — others barely glowed before fading. Very occasionally a node would explode with light, completely overwhelming and then freeing everything in its vicinity.

Slowly, the vast darkness was diffused with light, light that had come from me, light that ebbed and flowed, tenuous light, faint light, but light.

I began to understand that I had been receiving bursts of light myself from others before me, and that I always had been. I knew some of those lights were gone now, but what I received from them I passed on so that the light did not fail.”

“I saw all of this, on another plane, and I knew this was the answer to my question: What good can one person do?” The man smiled at his friends.

“There comes a time…

…he said…

…when your light is no longer enough.”

He paused.

“Nor is it necessary.

In my vision, I saw that my light was gone now, too, and I watched as the darkness spread before me like ripples in a pond.

But though I was no longer giving light, the light I had already given continued its journey through the network of nodes, of souls, each soul now giving its own light to the universe. I watched as the light, my light, traveled far ahead, leaving an expanding darkness behind, until there was nothing more.”

He spoke.

“The rest is peace.”

“But…” said his friends.

He spoke no more, not on that plane or any other.

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