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Craig Howell

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A Thousand Candles
by Craig Howell
Sunday, June 07, 2009
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peace amidst the Iraq War

It was an unseasonably warm day. The sun shone and people were everywhere, bursting from their suburban cocoons where the winter had forced a retreat for the past week or more. The evening came accompanied by a brash display of color in the western sky. The large full moon rose slowly and provocatively, hoisting itself above the world, looking down and awaiting the madness.

I got in my car and headed to our state capitol building. I left my car, walking intermittently slowly, then quickly, then slowly again, excited, but wanting to immerse myself in the experience, to fix this night in my memory. I felt like something special was happening.

As I neared the rear entrance, I produced a small red candle seated snuggly in a ceramic container -- cinnamon scent, leftover from Christmas. I smiled at the appropriateness…yes, peace on earth, good will to men.

I stepped onto the already crowded extra-wide marble steps and lit it. I looked around me at the sea of humanity and was taken by surprise by my emotions. Overwhelmed, I pulled in my breath, my eyes welling up. I really just wanted to burst out in tears of joy, but I held back. I kept my feelings to myself, but I didn’t feel alone. On the contrary, I never felt so connected.

We were here burning our little candles, hoping and praying. It was a silent vigil – that is, no loudspeakers blaring and no, “What do we want….When do we want it.” Just people together standing, overlooking a city, which could be Anycity, USA.

Faintly, sweetly, angelic sopranos in unison slowly entreated over and over, “All we are saying is give peace a chance.” I knew John Lennon was with us. The man who so vocally promoted peace, who was silenced by the violence he protested against. The plaintive tune rose and fell and there was murmuring and silence and prayer again.

My little red candle was drowning in wax. I carefully tipped it. The crimson liquid splattered on the steps like a trickle of blood. Please God, let there be no war, no blood spilled in the name of peace on earth.

The moon was high in the sky now, as strong as the sun was today. The candles are burning and it seems that everything is in full force, in unison, moving as one soul, one entity.

Then abruptly I hear what could, in another country, be air raid sirens blaring out. It is the city’s fire engines racing to an emergency, foreshadowing the urgency of our situation, reminding us that we live in an unsteady world.

A small sign with a photo of a head shot of George Bush Jr. sways to and fro in front of me, strips of silver duct tape covering his mouth. I’m not here for the politics. I don’t really care who wants war or why, I am against the whole idea. I think the world has seen enough of it. I hope they have.

But it is hard to separate the drive to war from the driver. It is a sad day when our leaders seem to resist what we instinctively know is truth, and become deaf and dumb to the energy of the people. Not just the people – to all the living things of the world, to life itself. When men forget their sacred stewardship of the earth and for each other, then we are in trouble. And that moment came and went a long time ago.

I believe in the sacredness of life. For one soul to perish unnecessarily is one too many. War is never an acceptable answer. War is an outmoded vehicle spewing toxicity into the air, a danger to everyone. Evil will devour itself and disappear into the dust. Peace will always promote more peace. If we focus on peace it will return to us. Like a lover, there is a bond, an unspoken energy that draws it to us when we desire it so much.

I got back to my car and drove around to peruse the view from afar. There they all were, at least 1000 strong -- flickering fireflies on the tiered steps of our state’s capitol. I slowed to catch a better look. These fireflies with their own light, each with their own inner light, showing that they believe there is a chance.

Will a thousand candles make a difference? In our hearts we must believe. In our hearts we have faith. In each heart there is the flame of a thousand candles, calling out as one voice, a peaceful choir standing, listening for an answer from the darkness beyond the light.


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