I light a candle

for your coming back

Brilliant and frail

in a darkening room

Beautiful it is and damned

not to last, only endure

Almost as fragile

As darkness itself

John Glenday


Amongst all the things in our world there is perhaps nothing more poignant and disquieting than the ephemeral light of a candle as it breaks the darkness of the night. The veil of darkness hides our presupposed ‘truth’ of things, but the luminance of the candle tears the veil from top to bottom and the trembling fragility of the flame affects and alters the way in which we see and therefore the way in which we understand the world. Ordinary things take on new aspects, and drawing by the light of a candle brings into question the all of the ways in which we are accustomed to representing things in what we recognise as the world. The candlelight calls to us then, the candlelight draws us not towards the world but towards ‘our world’.

Our world – a distant, mythical place, full of intangible and ephemeral entities that are derived from our memories, our hopes, our fears and all the things that lie above, below and beyond everyday life. In our world we are separate from the ‘Other’. Our world is never the same as the world of the ‘other’, but it can coincide. Just as we breathe the same air, just as we can see the Other and define the boundaries that separate us from the Other, physically we can break through the boundaries and communicate with language. With language we allow the Other into our world and, in turn, with language we can enter theirs.

Who then is the Other? Being the Other, he or she can never be the same as us. Yet we can only know ourselves, who we are, because of the Other. Our own identity is constructed in terms of the Other. We inhabit our world only in the same way, and ultimately because, the Other inhabits theirs.

In the light of reason and logic. In the light of day we recognise and acknowledge the Other through many forms of language. Through the language of our senses we can see, watch, hear, touch and even smell the Other. We can have a dialogue with the Other and through all of this we can convince ourselves that we and the Other are kin and that we exist together in the same world.

We can draw the Other. We can render the Other recognisable in a portrait, but in the darkness, in silence, we cannot really ‘know’. We cannot be sure, we cannot rely on our senses and here we enter our own world, a world in which we are able to recognise the  presence of th Other only by what we can remember, by what we think we know.

Once behind the veil of darkness then we cannot rely on certainty. We cannot know the Other and therefore we cannot know, for sure, ourselves.  We might lose ourselves thus within our own world of memories, of yearnings, of feelings of being alone and in not knowing we might fear the unknown that Other has become. We might fear the absence of the Other, an absence that in the dark creates an emptiness that we can only fill with our imaginings. We might begin to feel that we ourselves are the Other.

A lit candle allows us to see through the veil of darkness but we cannot now see the solid  logical and recognisable world that we share with the Other that we know. No, the candlelight shows us another world, a fragile and nebulous world of the Other where things are never really what they seem. This is our world, a world where the Other becomes the unknown, where the Other becomes us and we become the Other. This is a world of shadows, a world of ambivalence wherein we recognise ourselves in all that we see and wherein all that seems solid become fragile in the flickering candlelight as it passes in an out of recognisable form. This is our world,

Beautiful it is and  damned

not to last, only endure

Almost as fragile

As darkness itself