Extend or Extinguish
Sometimes the hardest part of writing a blog post is the title. It is the first thing you see and needs to grab your attention. It must, however, also fit the post. The recent political campaign for president in the United States was a very good example of this. Every candidate in an election must sell themselves to the voting public. As a salesman, this candidate bypassed the needs and issues. Instead this candidate relied on buzz words and the deep fears that motivate people. Each campaign stop was a title only, lacking in substance but very big on buzzwords and catchy slogans. One candidate was a very good salesman and that candidate ultimately won the election.
The word “snuff” is an interesting word and part of the title I would have preferred to use today. The word has various different meanings, though the use of it definitely grabs the attention. Originally the word “snuff” comes from an English word in the fourteenth century, “snoffe”. It referred to the charred part of the wick of a candle. It became a verb meaning to “put out” and later came to mean to put an end to”. Thus it also became an adjective meaning something violent. However, the Dutch had a similar word “snuffen” which meant to sniff through the nose and it was the Dutch definition that gave tobacco taken in through the nose the term “snuff” that made it most famous. This tobacco had a different grind than the tobacco smoked, a courser, less refined grind, and soon people were using an affectation of “sniffing” in the air to those people they felt were beneath them or of a coarse heritage or behavior.
During this season, whether one is celebrating the Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa, Christmas (and yes, it IS still the Christmas season) or Hanukah, we are called to do the opposite of the various meanings for the word “snuff”. We are asked to remember the light of the world and the light within each of us. We are reminded that we all come from the same humble beginnings of birth, the same process regardless of the home or hovel or mansion to which we will live our lives. We are encouraged to live a better life, one that encourages another rather than create violence and havoc in their psyche.
“Oftentimes, people reflect on their lives and wonder how they came to be at a certain crossroad or exactly how they got where they ended up. This can apply to anything in life, be it career choices, our choices of marriage partners or even personal decisions we’ve made, crises we’ve lived through.. A path is just that; a means of getting from one place to another and made up of individual stones or paces we take one after the other…When we start out on a certain path in our life, we don’t have the luxury of seeing where our footsteps will lead us…That’s the beauty of living…Every decision we make along the way leads us to more paths and so on and so on until by the end of our days, our life is one continuous string of smaller paths we have taken…All combined to make the final trail…Is it fate that leads us to veer from the original path we had in mind or is it something called destiny? Or is it a certain amount of luck, good and bad, or personal choice?”
This quote is one from last year’s Christmas series and though someone must have said it, I still cannot find to whom the credit goes. I dislike it for just one small thing – it fails to mention the effect our choices have on others. Every single choice we make or word we utter can have a huge effect on another. As John Donne wrote, “No man is an island.” We are all in this thing called life together. So whether you are celebrating the recent Winter Solstice, the coming of the end of this year, the fourth day of Christmas, the fifth day of Hanukkah, the third day of Kwanzaa, just today as Hump Day, you are going to have an effect on someone. The astronauts circling the earth on the International Space Station have an effect on us and they are about as far as a human being can get. We all impact each other.
On this day, December 28th, what impact will you make? Will you serve another or snuff out their hopes and greatest wishes? My original choice for a title was “Serve or Snuff”, by the way. Will you extend a hand to someone or will you extinguish the flame of their soul? Recently a friend confessed to having had nightmares for the past six weeks, all based upon an incident that occurred at a place of worship. Faith, beliefs, spiritualities, and religion should not create nightmares. No one should have the ability to give another person nightmares. We would all probably agree to that and yet, do we make it a point to live in such a way to avoid doing that very thing?
It is within our power with our words and actions to help another’s flame of life burn brightly. Will you serve another or snuff out their hopes and greatest wishes? Will you extend a hand to someone or will you extinguish the flame of their soul? It really is not such a hard thing to do, to help another light the flame of their hopes and aspirations. When we do that, the world will be a beacon of hope and joy, something we should celebrate each and every day. Then we will truly have joy to the world.