Bringing light

The view from our Bed and Breakfast room in Magog, Quebec, May 2009

The view from our Bed and Breakfast room in Magog, Quebec, May 2009

“Most people are mirrors, reflecting the moods and emotions of the times; few are windows, bringing light to bear on the dark corners where troubles fester. The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.”Sydney J. Harris

It’s so easy to be reactive; to allow outside influences to determine our moods, our deeds and even our beliefs.  Mirrors can reflect light, of course, so it’s not necessarily a bad thing to return a likeness of what we see.  But reflected daylight is never as true and bright as what streams through clear, clean glass windows.

If Harris is correct in stating that education strives to turn mirrors into windows, we must take care how we define “education.”  When we, as students, simply reflect back what we hear our teachers saying, or more likely, what we think they want us to say, that’s just another sort of mirror.  There is nothing inherently more sophisticated about taking all our cues from an academic as opposed to a celebrity, or a neighbor, or a friend.  If anything, it’s riskier to think we can be impartial about the views of those who will grade our work.

Education can turn a mirror into a window only insofar as it removes anything that obscures truth.  In that sense, education may be largely a subtractive effort; elimination that facilitates illumination.  When windows bring light, they are not the source of the light, but conduits through which it can shine.  It’s not about us, what we know, what we can do, or even what we choose to reflect.  It’s the process of clearing away our delusions and distractions, and letting the light of truth shine through us.


  1. hunh?

    • Galatians 2:20 — or if that still doesn’t make sense, I quote the immortal words of Kehlog Albran: “FATE? I thought you said FREIGHT!”

  2. Great thoughts. I am a little nervous nowadays about our “educators” and their purpose. So it is imperative we “remove anything that obscures truth” as you so eloquently said. 🙂

    • Yes, and that’s difficult to do because, as the Bible often warns us, false notions are sometimes disguised as light and truth. As humans it’s so hard for us not to have mixed motives (“I want you to do what is right” vs. “I want you to agree with ME about what is right.”) James 3:1 is a haunting verse indeed! Thanks for being here! Hope all is well with you and your family.

  3. hilzonsix

    How true and beautifully stated. Blessings.

    • Thank you so much! I appreciate your visits here.

  4. lovely photo and good article.
    well done.
    groetjes, Francina

    • Thank you, Francina! I appreciate your visits here. Have a lovely weekend.

  5. What an inviting photo for your contemplative post. Food for thought.

    • Thanks, Alys – I’ve always enjoyed photographing light coming through windows. Especially when they have lace curtains!

      • 🙂 You do it well.

        • Thank you, Alys – that’s a great compliment!

  6. Sheila

    Julia, you give us something everyday to ponder, enjoy and then wonder what you’ll share tomorrow. I’m so thankful for you! Continuing to send up prayers, Sheila

    • Thank you Sheila, it has been so nice to have your encouragement and support here. The nice thing about scheduling these posts so far in advance (besides not getting in a panic when I am overwhelmed with stuff to do) is that I don’t even know what’s coming up tomorrow, unless I check! 🙂 I am so happy you like the blog. And we really need and appreciate the prayers!

  7. A great quote and what a wonderful thoughtful post. Thanks for giving me something to think about. 🙂 Sometimes we have just got to open the window. We forget that we can think for ourselves. It’s up to us to sift through to find the truth to form our own thoughts and ideas. That takes lots of time and effort but we are definitely worth it.

    • Thank you, I’m so happy you like it. It does take a lot of effort to think things through, and sometimes I fear that the wonders of our digital world, where information (and misinformation) is served up in neat little packages as we sit passively in front of screens, is dulling our ability to see through the bright shiny distractions. As you say, though, it’s worth the effort. Thanks for being here.

      • The internet was made to share information. It has made people connect in ways that are wonderful. It has made us develop skills that we didn’t think possible. But we perhaps need to remember to hone our skills that don’t require instant gratification.
        We are connected social people naturally but moving away from the trendy me-ism and now-ism will make it a healthier place to live. Popular doesn’t make it right. I hope we don’t lose the ability to think for ourselves! 🙂

        • Amen to that!

  8. It is sometimes hard to sift thru all the nonsense and see the just of things. There’s just soooo much coming at us from every angle. You’d think with improvements in worldwide communications (instantly) we’d be better at it. But it doesn’t seem like we are. People sometimes seem more narrow minded then ever and less tolerant and accepting of others ideas. I can’t even watch what’s happening in Syria at present. It’s 2013 !!! How can this be? Is it a lack of education?

    • I’ve read some interesting theories out there about how all the 24/7 instant communication is messing with our brains, but one explanation for the rudeness of the current zeitgeist that really made a lot of sense to me has to do with the fragmentation of what used to be community, into very narrow, well-defined groups of people who pursue only what interests them personally. In other words, at one time we were all pretty much “stuck” with each other; whoever lived in our family, neighborhood or village constituted most of our world, and we had no choice but to get along with each other, for the most part. There was very little of what we would call entertainment, and even in the early days of TV, everyone was pretty much watching the same stuff. Nowadays we can retreat to our separate little (increasingly electronic) world and surf, text, chat, etc. with only those people and topics we choose.

      We’re not just intolerant of other people’s ideas; we are intolerant of waiting on them, listening to them, making time for them — at times, we are intolerant of even sharing space with someone else, especially on the freeway. What we’ve gained in special interests and abundant choices, we’ve lost in patience and good will. It’s sad, but I think there are many people who are aware of this and trying to re-build community spirit.

      Re: Syria, I think that’s a whole other ball game, an older sort of conflict. The difference is, now we know more about these kinds of things that are going on all over the world. While most of us are fairly helpless when it comes to solving such problems, we can learn from them and try not to make the same mistakes in our own nations. It’s easy to get fed up with the democratic process, but it sure beats the alternatives.

  9. merry

    Beautiful. And well said…

    • Thank you, Merry! I appreciate your visits here.

  10. I see a lot of truth in that theory. A good number of people just don’t know how to be part of a community or at the very least act in public. Be it on the freeway, shopping for groceries, eating in restaurants or just sitting in a park. I find people have really loud, intrusive conversations. I asked two ladies not to talk during a movie recently and they scoffed at me. These ladies were well into their 50’s. They were insulted that I asked them to be courteous. I was shocked.
    That’s one of the things that’s hard about the internet and instant communications. The world seems so much smaller. Like it’s happening close to home and it sucks to feel helpless. We are so lucky to live where we do, you are right on there too Julia.

    • I would have done the same thing you did in the movie theater; I cannot believe it when people do things like that (or when their cell phone not only rings loudly, but then they actually ANSWER it and, without leaving the audience, have a conversation — as if speaking in a low voice wouldn’t create a disturbance! I have seen such things once or twice at conventions, church, or other gatherings and it always blows my mind).

      It really is upsetting to feel helpless in the face of so many hurtful and catastrophic situations. At such times I try to remember not to get overwhelmed by what I can’t do, and focus instead on what I can do. At least 99% of the time I can think of someone I CAN help who is much closer – even if it’s just a handwritten note of encouragement, a small task or a kind word. I know you understand because you do all these things! Thanks for being here.


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