#26 - North African Proverb: If You Cannot Be a Lighthouse, Be A Candle.
Reflections on being the light.
Proverbs on Blast is a newsletter of reflection on PROVERBS and the gems they offer for personal and professional growth. Posts are written by a learner on a quest for more wisdom (me). Please keep reading. Comment at the end. Share this post. Subscribe for more.
Will you shine as the light that you are?
Will you settle into the fact that you are an embodiment of light and your being here means that none of us need languish in darkness?
Darkness is pervasive with too many dim spaces in the world. And too many times, gloom and doom blankets places that were once brightly lit with the sounds of merriment and the abundance of joy. There is no guarantee that we are secure from darkness anywhere and no assurance that any of us will be spared. Against this painful reality, a North African proverb echoes the timely challenge that "If you cannot be a lighthouse, be a candle."
The proverb presumes that everyone can give light but concedes with the option that some people will be able to emit far-reaching brightness while others may be capable of giving only short-ranged flickers of light. It used the word “cannot” to remind that its challenge is not about what we may desire to be but about what we are capable of being and possibly already are. Resting on the binary options of ‘big or small,’ the proverb calls us to be what we already are—a lighthouse or a candle.
At first glance, the idea of being a lighthouse may seem daunting. After all, lighthouses are towering beacons of light that guide ships to safety through treacherous waters. I found some fascinating insights about them that I’d like to share with you.
Some of the key features of a lighthouse include:
A Tower: The main part of the lighthouse is a tall tower, typically constructed of stone or concrete. The tower is cylindrical or conical in shape, and its height can vary depending on the location and terrain.
A Light source: At the top of the tower, there is a lantern room that houses the light source. Traditionally, the light was produced by a lamp fueled by oil, but nowadays, lighthouses typically use electric bulbs. The light is usually focused by a lens or series of lenses to create a beam that can be seen for several miles.
A Fresnel lens: A key component of the lighthouse is the Fresnel lens, which is a type of lens designed to focus light into a beam. The lens is usually made up of a series of concentric prisms, each with a slightly different angle. This design allows the lens to bend light and produce a powerful, concentrated beam.
A Daymark: In addition to the light, the lighthouse typically has a distinctive color pattern or marking, known as a daymark. The daymark helps ships identify the lighthouse during daylight hours and distinguish it from other nearby structures.
A Foghorn: Many lighthouses also have a foghorn, which is a loud horn that emits a deep, low-pitched sound to help ships navigate in foggy conditions.
A Keepers' Quarters: Historically, lighthouses were staffed by keepers who lived on-site to maintain the light and other equipment. As a result, many lighthouses have attached living quarters, which can be simple or elaborate depending on the location and the time period.
Overall, the combination of these features makes lighthouses important navigation aids for ships and an iconic symbol of the maritime world.
If you want to know how powerful a lighthouse is, checks its rating in two ways—nautical miles and candlepower. Nautical miles is the distance by miles out to see that its light is visible. Candlepower is a measure of luminous intensity, equal to 0.981 candelas.
Did you know that there are 17,800 lighthouses in 250 countries throughout the world, 680 of which are in the United States? Many of these notable lighthouses have unique features, history, and significance. I scoured the internet for information on the tallest, brightest, and oldest.
In determining the height of a lighthouse, the measurement is typically from the ground to the top of the lantern room. However, some measurements include the extra 3 to 6 feet of the lightning rod. So, do the math if you see different heights listed for the same lighthouse.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the tallest lighthouses in the world are:
Jeddah Light: Located in Saudi Arabia, the Jeddah Light is the tallest lighthouse in the world at 436 feet (133 meters) tall.
Maritim Strandhotel Travemünde: Located in Germany at 390 feet (119 meters) tall. Its light beacon is at 374 feet (114 m).
Île Vierge: Located in France, Île Vierge is the second tallest stone or traditional lighthouse in the world at 269 feet (82 meters) tall.
For those in the US, the tallest lighthouse is the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in North Carolina at 193 feet.
Brightest lighthouses in the world:
Hercules Tower: Located in Spain, the Hercules Tower is considered the brightest lighthouse in the world, with a range of 32 nautical miles (59 kilometers).
Cape May Lighthouse: Located in the United States, the Cape May Lighthouse is considered the second-brightest lighthouse in the world, with a range of 24 nautical miles (44 kilometers).
Oldest lighthouses in the world:
Tower of Hercules: Located in Spain, the Tower of Hercules is the oldest lighthouse in the world, with a history dating back over 2,000 years.
Pharos of Alexandria: Located in Egypt, the Pharos of Alexandria is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and was also one of the oldest lighthouses, but it was destroyed by earthquakes in the 14th century.
Please search online for more fascinating details about lighthouses. Many of them have their websites with information about their history, features, and visitor information.
Being a Lighthouse
By providing guidance, support, and inspiration, lighthouses and people alike can help others navigate the challenges of life and find their way towards safety, comfort, and success. Here are some examples of how people are lighthouses:
Mentoring: By sharing their knowledge and experience, mentors guide and inspire others to reach their full potential. Dead or alive, they offer advice, support, and guidance to help someone navigate the challenges of their personal or professional life. You can even mentor someone. You can mentor in person or virtually through zoom meetings, phone calls, WhatsApp or via any other preferred mode of communication. Look around you or gaze far away from you. Just be a lighthouse. Mentor.
Counseling and therapy: Mental health professionals can be a lighthouse for individuals who are struggling with emotional or psychological issues. By providing support, empathy, and practical tools, therapists can help their clients navigate difficult situations and find their way toward healing and growth. IF this is your forte, do it for work and consider using your skills to help the needy pro-bono. If this is NOT your forte, please stay in your lane. This would be one of those instances where you cannot be a lighthouse but can be a candle. Take pride in being a candle and let your light shine, as a candle.
Leadership: Effective leaders can be a lighthouse for their team or organization by setting a clear vision, providing guidance and support, and inspiring others to work towards a common goal. A good leader can help their team navigate through challenges and achieve success. You don’t need a leadership title to lead. You just need to look around you for what needs to be done and done right. Do so. The safety and success of others may depend on the light from you as a lighthouse.
Emergency responders: Often, police, firefighters, and other emergency responders are a lighthouse for people in crisis by providing safety, comfort, and assistance during emergencies. They help people navigate dangerous situations and provide a beacon of hope during times of chaos and uncertainty. This is an appreciation inclusion. Are you in any of these categories? If yes, thank you for being a lighthouse for the rest of us.
Parents and caregivers: Parents and caregivers can be a lighthouse for children by providing love, support, and guidance as they navigate the challenges of growing up. They help children develop the skills and resilience they need to thrive in the world. Every adult can do this for children whose paths intersect with yours. For non-biological children, your support and guidance may be transient, but its impact can be far-reaching, extending to multiple areas of their lives and for the rest of their lives. You are a lighthouse. Be a lighthouse.
Being a Candle
But our North African proverb says that “if you cannot be a lighthouse, be a candle.” It hints at the fact that not everyone is capable of being a lighthouse. Not everyone will get to loom above everything and everyone else and be visible from miles away. Not everyone will be able to stand tall and immovable while buffeted by winds and waves. Not everyone will get to be able to influence as many people as will be in the massive and multiple sea vessels that will rely on a lighthouse’s guiding light for safety. But those who cannot be a lighthouse can be a candle. And while candles may not be as bright or as powerful as lighthouses, they can still light up a room, provide comfort during difficult times, and bring people together.
Thus, in a world that can often feel overwhelming and full of negativity, being a candle can make a lot of difference. The light may not have the reach of the nautical miles of a towering lighthouse but being a candle requires using our resources and abilities to make a positive impact on the world, no matter how small that impact may be. Every act of kindness, however small, has the power to create a ripple effect of positivity that can spread far and wide.
Here are reminders of how you can continue to be a candle in our world:
Share your talents and skills: If you have a talent or skill that others can benefit from, share it with them. Teach someone a new skill, help them with a project, or offer your expertise in a particular area. Don’t be paralyzed into action by the fear of putting yourself out there. As a candle, you would be dispelling darkness nonetheless. You would be using your talents and skills, which are not solely for your use in the first place. They were a gift to you to use for yourself and in service to others. Intended to be shared, you need to commit to sharing them. Try volunteering to give back of your time and resources to help others. Volunteering can make a big difference in their lives and in yours. Go online and find a cause or organization that you're passionate about. Contact them and ask to speak with someone. Offer your support in any way you can. Why sit or wallow in darkness? Light up. Be a candle.
Spread kindness and positivity: Make someone's day. Smile at strangers, compliment someone, or do something nice for someone without expecting anything in return. The lyric of a song says that “There is a candle in every soul; some brightly burning, some dark and cold.” Is the candle in your soul blazing or has it gone dark and cold? Let it burn bright. Warm spaces and people with its glow. Lighten gloomy places with its light. Use your words to dispel doom from settling in people’s hearts. Speak to and about others in ways that will brighten and cheer your hearers. Speak of your life in ways that will uplift and ennoble. Foster growth by giving the space for others to fail. When they do, give them the grace to get up and go on. We share the world with bad people and bad things will still happen. But do not be engulfed by darkness or give it the opportunity to thrive wherever you are. Be a candle and shine.
Be a good role model: The way you conduct yourself can have a significant impact on those around you. Be a positive role model by demonstrating integrity, compassion, and respect in your words and actions. More people are watching you than you are aware of, especially impressionable children.
The clarion call of this proverb is for everyone. It’s for you. It’s for me. “If you cannot be a lighthouse, be a candle.” Let your light shine as softly or as brightly as you are capable of. Watch out and be the light for people. Sometimes, all a person needs is someone to listen to them and offer a kind word or a helping hand. Be there for your friends, family, and colleagues when they need someone to talk to or a shoulder to lean on. Learn to identify signs of distress in people. Learn the universal signals that can let you know when someone is in danger. Put yourself in the shoes of others and be a human being to all. In fact, let your words and actions be a template for how to treat others. That would be you being a light, however soft your glow, however short its range. Again, no harm in being a lighthouse and no shame in being a candle. Just be one. And let the light shine from you to brighten, cheer, and give warmth.
Whether as a candle or a lighthouse, how are you letting the light in you shine? Share in the comments section?
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