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.

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Good morning, Julia! When I saw your photo description, I had to wonder, what on earth were you doing in Magog? The only times I was through it was during college, when on school breaks from Michigan Tech I’d drive to Rockland, ME to visit my parents. Only once did I pass through during daylight, so it’s delightful to see a photo of this place that (to me) was never a destination, but always on-the-way in another journey.

    • Susan, Jeff and I went there as part of our trek across southern Canada (beginning in Montreal) towards Niagara Falls and thence across upper NY, ending at Cape Cod, MA. It was a great trip. Among the highlights were pilgrimage stops in Cooperstown and Seneca Falls– both in NY of course and justly famous in their own rights– but Magog is worth a stop too, if only for the truly lovely Abbaye de Saint-Benoît-du-Lac, a Benedictine monastery. Visitors can hear live Gregorian chant at evensong, and buy all sorts of wonderful dairy, chocolate and other products in their shop, as well as touring the beautiful grounds. Although Jeff and I chose not to stay there due to the segregated overnight locations for men and women (hence our B&B in town), maybe you and I could meet sometime at The Villa Sainte-Scholastique (for female guests) for a mini-retreat. It is well worth a visit.

  2. Often I’ve thought of being the light rather than reflecting light, so I like this concept of being a window. Having heard “you make a better door than a window” (when standing in front of a television), I especially like this metaphor.

    • Yes, I confess it’s rather hard for me to think of myself as having any light of my own; at most some glowing embers, or maybe a mirror reflecting light from elsewhere. So the metaphor is helpful for me. When I compliment my friend Myra (who has helped me survive for at least the past decade) she always replies “Girl, any good you see in me is Jesus working through me. That’s not me, that’s him.” I tend to think she’s overly modest and humble– but after all, shouldn’t all believers at least be able to think, if not say, the same thing with a straight face? I, for one, could not– but it’s something to strive for, and it’s a totally Biblical way to react.

      • Knowing my own propensity for darkness at times Jesus has got to be the light. We do well to let Him shine through us.

        • Amen to that!

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