I am afraid of the dark, yet light often is no less frightening. When in the dark, nothing is more appealing than light, yet in the light, often I want to hide in the darkness again. Light is powerful and necessary to life, but it can also be overwhelming. Likewise, my frequent loneliness leaves me feeling exposed, as if I were beneath the world’s largest spotlight, which highlights my inadequacy. Loneliness can contribute to growth and reflection, even while it overwhelms and exposes. Above all else, God becomes clearer and seems closer both in the light and in loneliness.
Through deeper analysis, five striking similarities between loneliness and light appear: they each overwhelm, expose and isolate, allow deeper insight, can either fade or disappear in a flash, and they each guide man to God. Light and loneliness both reveal who man is, uncovering him before his own eyes and the eyes of others, and leading him to kneel before the throne of God.
Before delving into the powerful similarities between light and loneliness, their differences must be clarified. First of all, humankind’s experience of light is external. Light may be considered or analyzed internally, but its source and realm of existence is always external. Contrarily, while loneliness may have external symptoms, it is always experienced internally. Loneliness is handled by man’s internal self, and light by his external self. Simply, while both may have more scientific explanations, light is a perception, and loneliness is an emotion. Thus, while they can be likened, light and loneliness have an inherent divide in their natures that must not be forgotten. Even this difference, however, can be used to explain their natures: light is to man’s external self as loneliness is to his internal self.
The nature of light and loneliness means they are often blinding to the person experiencing them. While light is what allows sight, staring directly into the source of light incapacitates man’s eyes. Similarly, when man is lonely, he can see nothing but his own pain: he failed his class because he had no one with whom to study; he ate alone because he was too shy to sit with anyone else; and he does not know God because he has no one with whom to seek Him. His solitude and separation consume him, allowing him to see nothing but a bleak haze of singleness. His seclusion is like the sun: from a blinding orb around which all other life rotates, rays beat down, stretching their fingers to reach every corner of his existence. Like the sun, too, loneliness can be blinding when stared in the face.
In his loneliness, man is exposed to himself. When the light pouring from the sky does not blind the man below, it exposes his world to him. Where once he was lost, he now sees how he fits into his surrounding panorama. In the middle of a field in utter darkness, there may have seemed to be nothing around him. But when his world is brightened by light and his eyes are opened, he sees that instead of being the only thing in his world, he is but a speck in the midst of towering mountains, downfield of a rushing stream, far below the billowing girth of fluffy clouds.
Similarly, when man is lonely, he is compelled to see not only the surface-level interactions and transactions of multiple people, but also to see the reality of his heart and mind, whether good or bad. As if he were hiding among shadows, it would have been easy for him to hide his true nature in the midst of his friends. In shadow, details can be obscured, but light illuminates, isolating these details and presenting them in stark relief. For this reason, when man is afraid, he hides in the dark or in a group of people. In light and loneliness, man is incapable of hiding from reality.
When man is alone and painfully aware of it, he is forced to reflect upon his own nature and being, as his is the only soul to which he has intimate access. Light, too, is what allows man deeper insight into his world; without light to grant man sight, he loses the ability to gain a broad view of his world. His other senses may allow him to analyze small spaces, but he will not be able to gain as comprehensive a view as he could with his eyes.
This clearer vision allows him to understand more of the world around him, teaching him things he would have otherwise never known. How could man have known an apple can be either red or green if he had never seen it? How could he have known there is a moon in the sky if there were no sun to give it light? He certainly would have never known the delight of looking upon another person’s face.
Loneliness gives man a similar freedom of vision, only internally instead of externally. When man is lonely, he is forced to learn the bumps and ridges of his mind, the heights and valleys of his soul. If a man were never lonely, he would not learn how to be good company for himself, which makes a person better company for everyone. If he were never lonely, he may not ever learn the value of silence. And if he did not know loneliness, he might not know the shape of God’s imprints on the hidden parts of his soul. His loneliness gives him the opportunity to become deeply acquainted with the rhythms of his soul, just as light allows man to become acquainted with his world. Loneliness and light both guide him to deeper reflection: one to external reflection and one to internal reflection.
Natural light fades, but artificial light can often be quickly summoned and dismissed by a switch. So too with loneliness. Most of the light man has been acquainted with throughout time has been of a slow-changing nature. Much as he might desire day or night, his desiring does not speed the tilting of the planet. Loneliness often has this nature: it is a chronic issue, one that must alleviate little by little. A day of intimacy and connection does not heal it, though it might temporarily assuage it. Rather, man needs the gradual, thoughtful development of relationship following days and weeks and months of intimacy.
And while, as with light, there may be periods of loneliness or darkness in relationship with others, the light returns quickly and allows man to flourish in it. Sometimes, however, loneliness can resemble a more artificial light. Most lights can be quickly turned off and on by a switch, summoning and dismissing the light seemingly immediately. Some loneliness can be like this, especially if it were relieved by meeting a kindred spirit and developing at once a deep rapport. This is less common, though, because it is the repeated deepening of connection which dispels loneliness more permanently. While loneliness can resemble a light controlled by a switch, usually it mimics the gradual waxing and waning of the sun.
In the end, the most important purpose of both light and loneliness is to serve as a guidepost for something far holier. Both guide man to his Savior, the Lord God, in ways he would otherwise have struggled to find. Light allows man to see the glory of creation—the tender care God took in crafting each element of nature. From the varied shades of the colors of the leaves of trees to the brilliance of a desert sunset, nature reveals a God who is as creative as He is powerful, as beautiful as He is just, and as tender as He is wrathful. Similarly, loneliness leads man to his knees, crying out in the agonies of aloneness. It is a painful state, and in man’s pain, God’s voice echoes loudly. If the world cannot satisfy him, who can? Eventually man must reach the conclusion that no one and nothing can quench the ache within him forever except the greatest Friend and gentlest Lover of all. In light and loneliness, God is more fully revealed to man.
Both light and loneliness can aid or obscure vision, but mainly they serve as a window to the true nature of an object or man and as a beacon guiding man to Christ. Of course, the differences between the two cannot be neglected: one is external, one internal, one a feeling, one a perception. Nonetheless, the two are similar since they both can overwhelm man; both his eyes and his self-perception are weak, and too much strain on either can blind him to reality. However, in the light and in his loneliness, man is also incapable of fleeing reality. Light opens the truth of his world to him, and loneliness opens the truth of his own nature. Because of this, both guide man to deeper reflection and more understanding about his world or his nature. Like light, loneliness can either disappear quickly or, more often, fade gradually through the development of relationship. Most importantly, light and loneliness are both instruments God uses to teach man more about Himself. Both propel man to God, revealing the creativity, beauty, love, and gentleness inherent to His nature. Whenever man experiences loneliness or steps into the light, his mind and heart should dwell on the nature of his Lord.
"Blinded—And Given Sight," written by Ellery Hertel, was proffesor-nominated as an outstanding freshman piece published in the Spring 2022 edition of The Crossings "Author's on the Rise."