Richard Randolph

July 3, 1955--Oregon
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In Praise of Soft Light

I like soft light best,
candles and moonlight.
Such light always overlooks a blemish
to highlight the deeper beauty-
the sparkle in one's eye,
the glow of a fire, the contours of the night.
It's not concerned with getting to some final truth,
but instead, naturally gregarious, invites us to talk
of our dreams, our aspirations, indeed anything,
usually over a glass of burgundy,
by a gentle fire, facing out to the stars.
And it doesn't care if we get a little drunk,
stretch the truth, or even cry.
It always tells us to just get it off of our chest,
and whatever dark secrets we reveal,
it always pats us on the back and forgives us in the end.

But I sympathize, too, with those who gravitate toward the sun.
who revel in the bright light of truth
and assert that they will leave no stone unturned
regardless of the consequence.
They are, I know, motivated by high ideals.
I see them working tirelessly in their labs, universities, and hospitals.
They seem to me spelunkers of the underworld,
bringing previously unknown marvels to light.
And they are brave and beautiful in their way,
but I fear them, too.
They remind me too much of Oedipus
whose relentless search for truth
led to his own destruction.
Like many, I fear the darkness,
but I'm fascinated by it, too.
I love driving fast at night,
or walking underneath the stars,
and sometimes I challenge myself
to walk across a room in utter darkness,
though I often hurt myself as a result.
'How could I be so stupid! ' I say,
but later, upon reflection, I try again,
and I can't help feeling that such endeavors,
as insignificant as they seem, are important.
Like yin/yang, good/bad, truth/deception,
we need them all, and they are all my friends.
And though I fear and dread them a little,
I also admire those brave souls who explore the darkness,
nearly as much as those who seek the light.

Perhaps, in the end, it is only a matter of temperament,
but I've been hurt too many times by the truth to love it overmuch,
and the darkness has proven too dangerous to be more than a passing friend.
On the other hand, when I consider my life,
my happiest times have usually involved
moonlight, candles, a crackling fire, sunrise, or dusk,
and such light has always suggested
that kindness and forgiveness are best,
and so I will always praise soft light
and try to heed its gentle lessons.
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