Shahriar Shahriari

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The Traveling Candle

Once upon a time, in a far far away land, there was a candle who loved to travel.

Now this was just an ordinary candle, but it differed from other candles because it was lit. It had a flame that was constantly eating it away, and making it smaller. But this candle honored its candleness, and loved to shine its light on the world, no matter how insignificant it was.

Most other candles would look at it and laugh, calling it a "fool" for allowing this flame to burn it up. However, the candle was not concerned with what other candles called it. It simply continued shining its light.

Because of its difference with other candles, because of its flame, it would not stay in any one place for long. It would simply travel from one part of the land to another.

Every now an again during its travels, a younger candle would come up to it and ask, "what is that on your head?" and the candle would gently explain, "it is what is called a flame. It is what we, candles are made for. To burn our body of wax, and shine our light on the world." And occasionally one of the young ones would ask, "how can I get one?" to which the candle would simply lean forward and say, "here, share mine...."

Usually the young ones would be surprised with this candle's generosity, but the candle would simply explain, "our essence as candles is to shine our light and share our flame, our flame of desire to be who we are. And when we share our flame with others, not only we don't detract from our own candleness, but we also add to the total flame and light of the world. We give another candle permission to discover its essence and be what it is, a candle, created for shining its light.

"But let me warn you," the candle would continue, "it is not easy expressing who you are. Most of the candles laugh at us, and think of us as fools who are committing a slow suicide, because they are mesmerized by their collective illusion of permanence and immortality as unlit candles. They think just because they are not burning, they will never perish. How little do they know. They do not see that they are also mortal. But more importantly, they will never experience the joy of being who they are, and giving the world their unique light."

And shortly after initiating a young candle with its flame, the candle would travel to the next place in that land.

The candle continued doing this for most of its life. Moving from one dark place to another, and every so often initiating yet another candle with its flame.

One night however, when it was very near the end of its life, it settled its short body down with its flame dimming, and sighed a plume of smoke. It was thinking of all its journeys and all its initiations. It had been very interesting and had brought him a lot of fun. Yet the old candle had a yearning in its heart, which it could not quite point out.

So it continued meditating on its dimming flame with a melancholic heart, until the question popped out. It asked itself, "to what avail? What difference has it made?"

And then a deluge of thoughts came upon it, almost drowning its flame in its sorrow. "What have I done other than fool myself into this lonely journey through many lands. What difference have I made? Sure I have lit up a few other candles, but what have I brought them other than the same loneliness and misery? I thought I was bringing good to this land, but all I have become is a source of heartache and slow death."

It was at this time that a strong moth that was passing by saw the flame and came towards it. Seeing the flickering of the dimming flame it connected with the spirit of the candle through its light, and felt the sorrow of the candle.

Then the moth said to the candle, "no, no, you mustn't think that way. You don't realize what difference you have made to this land because you have been constantly traveling forward, and never once returned to one of the places where you had touched a life or two.

"Here, I give you the gift of my eyes. Project your soul into my body, and I will fly you to many of the places you had passed through. You can see for yourself through my eyes."

And with this, the moth took on the soul of the candle and started flying over the many lands the candle had passed through. From high up in the air, even from a long way away, the candle could see many small flickering lights, and as they got closer to each place, the candle saw that these were many individual candles who had discovered their candleness and were burning as brightly as they could.

The soul of the candle felt much joy at this, but could not understand what this had to do with it. So the moth explained:

"In this place, for instance, you brought your light and shared your flame with a small young candle. This young candle felt much joy and started shining its light upon its friends. Its friends saw the young candle's happiness and wanted to experience the same thing, so they shared the same flame, and they passed it on to their friends and family, and before long, the whole place was lit up.

"In the last place that we visited, a much smaller candle was the one that approached you. It lit up in joy and shared its light with other candles for a while. But because it was small, it burned up very quickly and disappeared. Then the other candles created this legend of the small brilliant candle who brought much light and joy to them, and then, in its prime, went out with the same intensity as it lived.

"No other candle was alight there, until some time later, when another lit candle from a neighboring place happened to pass by. The candles seeing this once in a lifetime opportunity asked it to share its flame with them, which it gladly did, and now, as you saw, the whole place is shining bright.

"You see old candle, you may have lit but a few. They in turn however, lit up the whole land." With this, the moth took the soul of the candle back to its body. By this time, the candle was weeping intensely and joyously, its flame growing bigger and bigger, until it consumed both the moth and the remaining wax of the candle.

Shahriar Shahriari
February 1997
Vancouver Canada

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