When the light goes out

light in a window at the end of a dark corridor

From where I sit and write, I can look down a long, narrow corridor, across a 15km gulf of London and see Canary Wharf.

Each morning I look out at the blinking light on top of the tower with the pyramid shaped roof. It has the regularity of a metronome and is a lovely anchor point.

Blink, blink, blink, blink, blink.

It can be seen in all but the heaviest fog and the brightest sunlight, so it’s a reliable beacon.

If it’s dark outside and the the building is visible, the light is visible.

Blink, blink, blink, blink, blink.

It’s dependability is comforting. Soothing. Like watching the heartbeat of London.

But this morning, the light has been irregular. It’s there for a few blinks, then it dims, then it disappears. It comes back moments later, but in that brief period, everything changes.

All the value it confers is lost. If it’s not there all the time, if it’s not dependable, then it’s of no help. Now it’s not comforting, it’s just a frightening reflection of the “real world”.

It awakens our fear of change. The light use to tell me that everything will be alright. What’s it saying now?

The light’s gone out, all bets are off. London’s lost its heartbeat – beware what follows.

An early morning view of Canary Wharf from Haringay

Now, here’s the the thing. That light, on that building isn’t there for me. It’s there so that pilots know where the building is when they fly into City Airport.

If the light fails (as lights often do), then it’s got nothing to do with me, or London or anything except the infrastructure which supports the blinking.

It’s not personal, it’s not a message, it’s not a code to be interpreted.

The meaning I’ve attached to the light is completely personal, but the circumstances which have stopped it from blinking are not. The two are completely independent and the state of the light shouldn’t influence how I feel about anything.

So much of the suffering and hardship we experience is the result of us inferring personal meanings from impersonal circumstances. From thinking that the light should be something other than what it is, and railing against it when it deviates from our expectations.

So much of it is all imagined.

That’s not to say that tough things don’t happen to us. They do. But we would be much better off just working on the things which have a real impact, than worrying about what happens when faraway lights stop blinking.