While I was in Toronto last weekend, I had several long trips on the subway (from and to the airport, mostly). On one of these I read someone’s abandoned copy of the Metro, which we also have in Halifax and which I occasionally read, mostly while I’m making tea when someone has left it in the staff room. I happened to read the “Free Will Astrology” section, which had (not in my own birthday), where there was a quotation from the Persian poet Rumi: “Judge a moth by the beauty of its candle.”
Like many lines of Rumi’s, this struck me deeply. I’ve been thinking about it for the last few days, mulling it over, turning its meaning in my mind. Many people seem to have one grand attractor, what we rather incorrectly call one’s passion; others seem to have none. Others, like me, have more than one, and find it a little difficult to figure out which is drawing us more strongly. This is part of my purpose on this blog, to work through the strange attractors of my life, the ones that pull me out of what seems to be my path, that make a chaos out of order that is not, in fact, chaotic.
I have been trying to distinguish between my attractors based on the strength of my desire for them, trying to disentangle my heart’s central desire from those that are lesser, albeit often strengthened by external pressures of friends, family, society. But perhaps this is not the best way of doing it. Perhaps we should judge our candles by their beauty, choose according to that criterion.
We do judge, willy-nilly and this is a better way — a more personal, human, way — than by external appearance or by apparent success. This requires listening, to oneself and to others, and imagination, and verve. This is so for others; and for ourselves.
We judge others; we also all desire. We’re moths, fluttering after candles, sometimes one, sometimes indecisive. If we’re caught between two equally possible, perhaps inequally difficult, candles, perhaps we should choose not according to the difficulty of arriving at the end point — everyone knows theoretically that that is no good criterion for life — but by the beauty of the goal. Otherwise we just fall into fluttering around the candle someone else chooses for us, which is almost certainly not so beautiful as the one we hold in the deeper parts of our soul.