Aside from maps and clocks and compasses, I also love lampposts. A clock is time; the human obsession of how much of it is left before we die, how it won’t wait, the only thing we can’t buy. A map is location or dislocation, finding your way or acknowledging you are lost, lost but looking (or conversely following a path predetermined for you). A compass is where we are and how we get where we’re going (our location vis-à-vis the Northern Star). All of it is about the human condition– direction, or rather three questions: where are we, where are we going, how much time do we have to get there?
But the lamppost, it doesn’t take me anywhere. It does not define; it measures, neither time or space nor place. What it does do, however, is light the way from where I am. I’d like to think of lampposts as metaphorical friends on the path of time and spatial travel we call life; or sometimes epiphanies, ‘ah ha’ moments when we are static but suddenly know what is next; a luminous “Eureka!” It’s the light we may use to read the map, mark the spot, set the clock, tell the time, or follow the compass. It may be education. It is clearly literally and figuratively enlightenment that comes at points and appointed times.
You do not take the lamppost with you as a flashlight or a candle. It is not placed in the safety of your own home (except at the entrance of a door or the exit to a garden, welcoming a stranger, signaling entry into a new realm). You come upon them and suddenly, they are before you. You’d prefer to follow them, especially at night, but you never know, on unfamiliar back roads, when they will suddenly disappear when you need them the most. You find them sometimes unnecessarily lit in the day. Some parts of the world, some countries, some cities, neighborhoods, and corners of the earth have less than they should or more than they need.
We take them for granted when they are abundant and lament where light is lacking- we are not just complaining: we are afraid, incapacitated and anticipate imminent danger. We know not what darkness will conjure up, what is lurking in the unseen places…
There is no Bogeyman when the lamppost is lit. We find Narnia when the lamppost is lit.
We have celebrated light since the foundation of the world- “Let there be light!” We have coveted fire since Prometheus’ gift. We have put a candle under a bush. We have praised the sun. We have danced under the moon. We have followed bright stars. We have prayed to be light.
And when all of the lights of heaven were not enough, we scattered light across the earth…