Light, Labor, and Illumination

Gloria DeGaetanoClarity

light and illumination

Light, at the end of the summer is a thin light—a bit less radiant than a month ago. Its brashness replaced with a gentler touch, light seems to be saying, “I’m not exactly fading, but I am retreating a bit.” And here in the Pacific Northwest, it adds, “Enjoy me while you can.”

And that I have over these last few months—especially after watching a Nova special on the sun. I gained a greater appreciation for and a new outlook on light. I may have learned this is 6th grade science class, but if so, I’d forgotten it:

Light here on planet earth is old, really old.

Originating in the sun’s deep core, light moves to its next external level, after about 100,000 to 125,000 years. There it stays for about a month, and then moves to the outermost edge where after about a week, light finally leaves the sun, beginning its 11-minute journey to planet Earth.

Walking in sun light this summer I pondered: How old we are! Every cell in the human body, newly born or recently renewed keeps alive thanks to ancient light. And that goes for the spinach salad we ate for lunch, our beloved pets, even the lawn we water to keep green during the dry spells. Even the water. Actually. Everything.

Wise old light circulates in, through us, and around us.

Now that I and the sun’s core have become best buddies, I started noticing those “coincidences” that always happen with more attunement—like, say you tell your husband you are tired out and so ready for a Hawaii vacation. But you are out of sugar and cinnamon and you promised you would make cookies for the PTA sale, so you have to go to the store instead. On the way, a car with a license plate from Hawaii swerves out in front you and you think: How do cars from Hawaii get to the mainland?” while freaking out, “I was just telling my husband five minutes ago we need a trip to Hawaii.” Still wondering if this is a sign you need to check out flights to Hawaii as soon as you get home, you enter the store and what is the first thing you see? A display for Hawaiian pineapple on sale. You walk the aisles shaking your head. With cart full, you’re still too dazed to see that your check-out gal is wearing a T-Shirt, “I (Heart) Maui until you are swiping your card.

Well the same thing happened to me this summer, with light. Two “coincidences” were most interesting.

The first one was that  while taking a stretch break one afternoon, my eyes wondered to my bookshelf to a book I started several months ago then put aside. I decided it was time to read it. In Sunlight and in Shadow is Mark Helprin at his finest. Exquistely crafted words and story—heart-opening, redeeming, haunting. And of course, light plays major roles, subtle and direct.

The major, “coincidence,” though, was with friends over for dinner. The subject of Neil Douglas-Klotz came up. He is a spiritual teacher in the Sufi tradition, well known for his translation of the Our Father and the Beatitudes from the original Aramaic. I brought out Blessings of the Cosmos, and one of our dinner guests read some passages out loud. If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading this book, the language is abundant in layered meanings, poetic and expansive—like sitting down to a uniquely rich, well-balanced dessert—one you savor because you don’t want it to end—that’s Blessings of the Cosmos.

The next morning, I decided to re-read a few of my favorite passages, along with Dr. Douglas-Klotz’s explanations. Here’s the one with the message of the moment:

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (Matthew 11:29, King James Version)

One way to translate this from the Aramaic that Jesus spoke is:

“Why not absorb yourself in my work:

Here’s newly ploughed earth ready

for a crop of guidance and illumination.

Jump into the whirlwind of wisdom,

The impassioned spiral of understanding yourself.”

(You see what I mean?)

Douglas-Klotz’s textual notes on this passage resulted in a light-bulb (pun intended) moment for me. He states, “Instead of being enmeshed in burdens created by a desire to posses something, Jesus recommends absorbing oneself in niri, a word usually translated ‘yoke,’ but which also can mean any labor that points one toward illumination and light.” (p. 48, bold type, mine)

Gosh, what a vast chasm between “yoke” and “any labor that points one toward illumination and light.”

Back full circle to light this Labor Day, I am re-dedicated to discover, and enjoy, future labor that brings light and illumination.

Maybe you would like to do the same?

Copyright, Gloria DeGaetano, 2016. All rights reserved.


Blessings of the Cosmos” Wisdom of the Heart from the Aramaic Words of Jesus, Neil Douglas-Klotz, Ph.D., Sounds True, Inc., 2006, pp. 46-48.