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Penny drops and the light stays on

I finally understood it.

What’s it? One of those uber-famous quotes that isn’t really a quote at all, but someone must have said it sometime:

‘A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle’

You know, it’s been twisted into any number of wall-hangings and greeting cards, and I’ve heard it generally used as a thank you to describe a random nice thing. -and yeah, I get it, one candle can light another one and stay lit. Fire is one of those things you can literally pass on the flame (just think of the Olympic’s opening ceremony) and it is very moving to see the transfer and the impact of physically carrying the flame in the Olympic torch across the world.

Other things work like that too, but it is more difficult to see the impact with something like laughter, or even with ideas. Often we don’t see the impact until much later, if at all.

The thing that struck me, that made this saying make sense was not the image of the lit candle, but of the unlit one. I had to see it from another angle to understand. If I am an unlit candle, I need, actually need that spark or I remain unlit. It can be given or taken but then the penny dropped – there are contradictions here. Let’s equate living with the lit candle. You can live in a dark or negative (grumpy) state, but then how can you live if your candle is out? …only by either being perpetually given or by taking someone else’s spark. That sounds draining!

You know when people say to think on beautiful things, and to keep positive people in your life or they’ll suck the life out of you… well I could see it (I am a very visual person)- that candle going around eating other flames and then going back out because it wanted to.

Why is this important? No, I’m not going to start analysing tea-towel quotes as a regular past time. It matters in the larger picture of learning (and teaching), because it is important for me to remember no matter how smart I (think I) am, how experienced, how on top of things, there will be times when concepts sit like oil on water and just don’t mix. I may not know that something wasn’t explained. I may not see it as a gap in understanding or as a problem. I may not think it could be relevant or connected to me.

but so often, it all is. 

Image CC BY-NC by Nick Southall Featured image by Diana CC-BY-NC-ND

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