So here I was staring at this lantern; it’s been several years since I last saw one, having left the village as an adolescent. Not that I’m too old now. However, when you go from fervently desiring to grow some threads under your chin to not wanting to shave every 2 days, a decade has passed.
The yellow lantern
I don’t know if it was the yellow colour that attracted me the most or how miniature it looked. “Is that the normal size of a lantern? I asked. “Or have I grown so big that things that looked big before now look small?” I pondered.
Used and now an ornamental piece, it served to decorate the fireplace as a relic; maybe to teach our children that there was a time we made use of this piece of metal to see around at night. We studied with it; visited neighbours with it; slept with it and even warmed our limbs with her heat.
As I got close to this ageless companion to touch her and observe if there were dusts around her, I noticed something very minute but eloquent. Minute because a writing on this miniature object doesn’t slap into view at first sight, except when close-patiently observed, turning her bottom nightwards (West). But eloquent because it said something that echoed so loud I had to shut the wooden-glass hatch behind me. I guess I owe you an explanation for shutting the door. Don’t worry, you’ll understand why in the next few sentences.
Inscribed on the kerosene container was ”Do not fill above this line”. I wondered how the filler would know when the kerosene gets to that level seeing that the bottom of the lantern isn’t transparent. Oh sorry, I forgot, there’s a duct through which we feed kerosene into the container; you don’t have to remove the transparent glass and take off the wick holder to do that.
Several weeks before now, I had a conversation with a young lad. Wanting to catch three birds with one pebble, I ran a history channel on him on the life and times of John D. Rockefeller. That way, I stimulate his appetite on one of the men that built America, he learns about the lantern and also what a wick is.
Yes, the wick. Because that brings me to why I shut the door. I had wanted to dissect the organism (lantern) into its constituent parts and observe the inscription that spoke. But more importantly, I wanted to analyse what I consider the most important part of the entire structure, the wick – that strip of porous material that draws the kerosene up to the flame in my old yellow miniature lantern.
I wasn’t surprised that the writer of the notice didn’t include “Always check the wick” or “As you clean the glass, also check the wick.” Because we’re always conscious to take care of the kerosene, clean the glass, make sure the handle is okay etc. But only remember the wick when it’s completely consumed, as though it were not an important part.
And I made some harsh inferences:
1. Only your results count.
The rest is hogwash. I know it’s a bit harsh but that’s the truth. Only a very few people truly care about how hard/smart you work; how much effort you put into realizing your dream; the failures you face, and other countless daily sacrifices. The only thing most people care about is simply the result of whatever sacrifice you say you’ve made or you’re making. And as long as there are no results, they will not respect you.
You can be the smartest man on earth with the best of ideas, but no one wants to know except there are results to prove your boast. Like a tree, most people come to have your fruits and shade; only few really come for YOU. So, whether the wick is good or not is immaterial, until it can’t draw kerosene and light up the room. Yeah, Success has many fathers but failure is an orphan.
2. Never forget the dark and unknown place of discipline, hard-work and learning from failures.
While it’s true that the world only celebrates success, always bear in mind that burning like the wick isn’t and will never be old-fashioned.
I don’t know any person that accomplished anything of great consequence that didn’t spend time in the dark till it was achieved. Even our Lord Jesus rose up early, while it was still dark, and went to a solitary place to pray. The discipline, fears, failures, tears, courage, sweat and self-deprivation of all sorts take place now that the cameras are off. So, Burn like the wick, work in silence until everyone is drawn to your light.
3. The end doesn’t justify your means
I’m not sure if Machiavelli actually said that the end justifies the means, ma fatto sta che that’s become the unfortunate reality of our times. But while following an illegal route for a temporal fleeting respect and satisfaction, just know that peace and fulfillment take a different route home.
So, don’t be caught in the web of wanting to make it through the fast lane for the sake of results. The wise man once said “Wealth gained by dishonesty will be diminished, but he who gathers by labor will increase.” Remember, food gained by fraud is sweet to a man, but later his mouth is full of gravel.
4. We’ll all burn out someday
Finally, when the lantern goes off after the wick is consumed, a new one is put and the old leftover piece [is] thrown away. We’ll all burn out someday. When you’re done with your show, most people will forget you after a short period of mourning, and move on to the next entertainer; after all, the eye is never satisfied with seeing nor is the ear full of hearing. The show must go on.
And don’t forget to always be at peace with Jesus. He is the only one that stays when everyone else leaves. He was there in the dark and will also be there when you’re burnt out and off.
P.S: There was no wick in the lantern, no wonder it’s become an ornamental piece. I kept it back, but not before I took a couple of pics.
Sad that our world today only cares about the end result and will be by your side only after the end result.
That's the harsh truth.