Who?…You Are the Light of the World


There is a solitary brightness, without fixed shape or form, that is able to listen, is able to understand and is able to teach the Dharma. That solitary brightness, is you.” – Linji



You are the light of the world…. – Jesus

Life is like what people say about the weather in New England, “Wait 5 minutes and it will change.” Life is change. With ubiquitous change self identity is difficult. It is like Alice in her conversation with the Caterpillar:

The Caterpillar and Alice looked at each other for some time in silence: at last the Caterpillar took the hookah out of its mouth, and addressed her in a languid, sleepy voice.`Who are YOU?’ said the Caterpillar.
This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, `I–I hardly know, sir, just at present– at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.’`
What do you mean by that?’ said the Caterpillar sternly. `Explain yourself!’`I can’t explain MYSELF, I’m afraid, sir’ said Alice, `because I’m not myself, you see.’

A friend came to me quite perplexed a few years ago: “I can’t stand it. It is way too confusing. I am one person at home with my husband, another at work, and still another with the kids. I feel like a chameleon. Then, sounding a bit like Alice, her voice cracked as she said, “I just don’t know who I am anymore.” What seems like the easiest question in the world for anyone to answer, “Who are you?” dumbfounds. You know what I mean. Think of yourself at 17, at 27, at 37. Are you who you were then? Of course not. Lots of changes since then. So, the question “Who are you?” strikes deep into your life. As life changes within and around you, who are you? Jesus points the way:

“You are the light of the world….” and as if echoing Jesus, Linji says, “That solitary brightness is you.”

It is as if he were speaking to you, yes you the one reading his words. Maybe he needs to get your attention, “You…yes you…you…umhum…you! are the light of the world. You turn your head, you look behind you, seeing no one, you turn in Jesus’ direction and point to yourself, “me?” And Jesus nods. You are the light of the world. Just that, and nothing more. Oh, yes, he does go on to describe how light might behave:

A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.

It does not hide, you don’t put light under a bushel basket, you put it up high so that everyone might benefit from the light. To this I would say, “probably so.” I don’t really see how this sort of thing could be hid. Everywhere you look, light. Oh, yest that is the other side of things — you join turn to others and remind them, “You are the light of the world. What I am wondering in all of this: can you show me the light of the world?