Subterranean Lights

“You and all your subterranean lights — may they make the world shine, even as they dim and fade. May they light up the world from the inside, like the earth has swallowed a star that won’t burn out.”

hajinbae2
Art by : Hajin Bae

When people die, we light candles to remember them.

To bring a light to the darkness now that they are no longer able to. When someone dies, I wonder how many more lights go out, how many unknown worlds living under their skin are submerged in an eternal darkness, extinguished. Mourning, grief, they feel like a power cut all throughout the city. Like the spark of electricity has stopped flowing, no longer sizzling with life, leaving us individually in our own rooms, our own houses, stranded in the dark. Reaching out in the dark, hands closing around emptiness.

Because when even one light goes out, all of our collective lights shine the dimmer. It may not be apparent all across the complex networks, the bundles of lights that can be seen from space, but there is always a gap. Which is why night rides always make me so wistful, you know. Looking at the city lights, at what every single one of them represents. Life, rising above the night. Light, when even the sun does not shine.

In grief, what comes to my mind first is somehow, always, always, this : “Where is all that light that used to animate your body? Where are the stars in your eyes?” And the thoughts that were like pulsating lights under your skin? How many more worlds slumber now in the darkness, how many more worlds were there that I will never explore? You and all your subterranean lights — may they make the world shine, even as they dim and fade. May they light up the world from the inside, like the earth has swallowed a star that won’t burn out.

But good things can come from the darkness. Sometimes, when we reach out, we find another hand is reaching out, too. And we can hold on to each other until the light arrives, again. It makes us talk, pop our heads out of the window and ask the neighbours if the light has gone out at their place, too. 

“Do you have candles we can light ? I have matches.”  

We can light them together, and share stories until the light arrives, until the light arrives. We do not have to be alone, lonely in the dark.

And I wonder, when we kindle all these candles for the dead, to light up the darkness — do we, do we look like stars to the stars ?

From space, where we are only networks of light, constellations ( This one here is China, and this one is Australia, this is…) does it look, to the stars that came before us, that we did not change so much after all ? And, did you notice ? Much like stars, our individual lights blaze long after we’ve died, because others carry it with them, like a torch, a light of remembrance.

And when one light goes out, how beautiful it is that we pour in our own strength, like a red candle held in one hand lighting another, and say that no matter how overwhelming the darkness, no matter how deep the grief, this star won’t go out ?


Note : Life has its own ways. This was something I wrote on Thursday, a week back, as a general reflection on grief, death and mourning. On Friday, however, I received some news. Saturday, I went to a funeral. And this became too relevant. So now, here it is.

All These Lights

“Then, a fragment of the universe that was rekindled many years ago today, a star that found home in between the ribs of a frail, crying body.”

hajinbae
Gif by: Hajin Bae

Today was born a day of lights.

First the sun that stretched and stretched on its tippy toes, waiting to be picked up by the stratosphere and held up high. I swear I heard, at least once, giggles coming from the sky.

Then, a fragment of the universe that was rekindled many years ago today, a star that found home in between the ribs of a frail, crying body.

There were the fairy lights from the neighbours’, blinking owlishly in the night like new-born stars. Then, the green glare of two projectors, that, for one out-of-body moment, made me feel like I was Gatsby, looking across the water, gazing at that green light intently, captivated by it even with a whole firmament alight before me.

Then later still, in the cool, blue night air, city lights. Blurry and soft, so unlike the harshness of the suburbs by day. And so very still, yet so alive. It was…good to see the world look so small, to be disentangled from the city. And it’s good, just good in so many ways, to be somewhere with soft lights that you know will shine through the night.

And then, the most brilliant of all. The light in my mother’s eyes as she congratulates me on yet another trip around the sun.

Finally, the light that burns on shyly, hidden in my chest.


Note: This is Day 28 of my little NaNoWriMo Writing Challenge. Where’s Day 27 you ask? I’m still editing it >.< It’s proving to be one of the tougher things to write, but I am not giving up. Day 27 will be posted, tomorrow probably. Meanwhile, you can check out some of the entries from the days before, like this one from Day 25.

Sucker punch to the Void

“We do what we do because we want to bookmark our existence, to cry at the Void that we are, we were. For a moment, we were true and infinite and you could not touch us. “

hannakdraws
Art by: Hannakdraws

I used to think that lovers who carved their initials on trees were stupid. Why would you hurt a tree like that? I used to get angry. But now that I’m older I get it, I think.

Cave paintings, initials on a tree, even youtube ‘firsts’… You do it to say:

“We were here!”

To show that there was a ‘we’ once. You carve those initials to show that there was happiness and laughter and joy during a picnic on a summer too beautiful, too blurry to remember. We were alive! We lived, we loved. We were there. So complexly, so beautifully, so mind-numbingly, persistently, resentfully, there.

And even though the love has gone, even though our lives have passed, we are still there. We will always be. A picture of us etched into a tree lost in this world somewhere.

We need others to see, others to know. Because it is not enough to tell ourselves it was real. The memory of how real it was will stray in the black holes of our consciousness. It will be lost if others do not remember. If the memory isn’t shared consciousness, or if it is not agreed upon that it is reality, it will all be lost. If you’re the only one who remembers you, then everything you have been dies with yourself. And after a while, you stop being real.

So we try our damnedest to buckle ourselves to choice moments of this life. Even though in reality, Life is a great waterfall that perennially flows, carrying us with its currents. And any attempts to go upstream, to defy its waters will ultimately lead to a slip, a fall. Even so, even if it is foolish, I understand now.  We do what we do because we want to bookmark our existence, to cry at the Void that we are, we were. For a moment, we were true and infinite and you could not touch us. We shone so bright we illuminated the ultimate darkness of our existence, like the city lights that sparkle so bright they can be seen from space.


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Note: Day 8 of ‘NaNoWriMo’. You can also find the entry for the previous day here 🙂