Sparking Light to Illuminate the Ending of a Dark Year

As 2020 draws to a close, the darkness has never before felt more dark and the yearning for light more urgent.
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With the Winter Solstice a few days away, people are gathering in ritual and celebration—lighting candles and kindling fires in the darkness. We believe this act of bringing light into the world at the darkest times makes a difference. As 2020 draws to a close, the darkness has never before felt more dark and the yearning for light more urgent.

From a health pandemic that has now spanned all four seasons, to the changing seasons of the climate crisis, to an election “season” that seems never-ending, bigotry and hate, divisiveness and lying, bullying and cruelty has produced a virulent social pandemic whose power to infect cannot be mitigated by donning a mask or by keeping physical distance. Just the opposite: recovery and healing can only be achieved by the warmth and light generated through connection to each other.

The holidays of this season call on us to kindle flames that brighten our resolve to survive and help us find and comfort each other in the darkness. Imagine on Monday gathering with people from all the different faiths on your town common or a favorite city park and together holding aloft lighted candles. Perhaps you prefer sitting in a small circle of loved ones under a starry December sky around a backyard fire. Or simply lighting a candle by yourself in your home. Whatever ritual you choose, this season calls on us to kindle the eternal flame of justice and peace, to illuminate the way for all who seek connection, to help carry us through the darkness.

Imagine, too, people from all the different faiths gathering around the fire, or celebrating amidst the sea of candles, coming together in a collective invocation of light—joining their flames to invoke a power beyond ourselves, a power that contributes to the turning of the earth toward harmony. It isn’t hard to do. Making a light in the darkness is a simple act of faith—each burning candle feeds a powerful flame of connection.

“Light one candle for the terrible sacrifice justice and freedom demand,” singer-songwriter Peter Yarrow wrote more than three decades ago. “Light one candle,” he went on, “for the wisdom to know when the peacemaker’s time is at hand.” In this dark hour, when we yearn for the return of the light, we affirm our faith in the universal act of lighting a candle.

Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing there is a field. I'll meet you there. —Rumi

Steven Botkin is a psychotherapist and co-chair of the North American MenEngage Network.

Rob Okun (, syndicated by PeaceVoice, writes about politics and culture. He is editor-publisher of Voice Male magazine. Both are members of Rising Together, an activist affinity group formed in November 2016.

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