We’ve heard this story many times.
The one about the hippy who travels all the way to Bali. Climbs a mountain, sits on top of it for a week, and is enraged when God fails to reveal himself.
Then there’s the one about the young co-ed who finds herself walking down the magnificent Champs De Elysees in Paris, wondering how she could be walking down one of the most famously beautiful streets in Europe and still feel so empty.
Welcome to the human condition. Like John Milton said in Paradise Lost:
“The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n”
Despite what we may increasingly think, it’s not the outside world’s job to fulfill us or to fill us with radiance. That’s our job.
It’s our job to be the candle.
And that job is a lot easier, not to mention enjoyable, once we’ve made the conscious decision to make it happen.
This man certainly did. Alexander Papaderous had a traumatic wartime boyhood when German paratroopers invaded his native Mediterranean island of Crete in 1941.
After the Second World War ended, he decided to dedicate his life to promoting peace and forgiveness.
For the rest of his life, he always carried a fragment of a mirror he pulled off a crashed German motorcycle during the war.
The mirror, like the aforementioned candle, became a metaphor for him. He would be the reflector of light. He would be a mere fragment of something that would bring light to dark places.
As he said himself:
“I am a fragment of a mirror whose whole design and shape I do not know. Nevertheless, with what I have I can reflect light into the dark places of this world.”
As it always is with the most important decisions, it’s our choice. Hopefully, we’ll make the right one when the time comes.
Rachel Levine (1957-) is the Assistant Secretary for Health in the United States Department of Health and Human Services and the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the Senate. She’s also a pediatrician and former Pennsylvania Health Secretary who’s been on the front lines of some major health crises like the opioid and the COVID-19 pandemics. One of her greatest accomplishments? Prioritizing the health and well-being of all individuals, regardless of identity.