“Your Word is a light unto my path, and a lamp unto my feet.”
What is this word, and why is it my light? How is it my light? How do letters on a page bring light to anything? But those are not the word. Words are not even physical entities in themselves, but at best, physical representations of other physical representations of other physical representations proliferating and fanning out across the ages.
The existence of this ‘word’ precedes its representation. Did it come into being when first spoken to a person, or first figured in letters?
A person. A singular personality is the Word. A ‘you,’ which is not ‘me’ and not ‘it.’ It would actually be easier if You were just figures on a page, scattered across a plethora of manuscripts. My mind could there seek to absorb you as a project of the intellect. It would never be completed, but at least it would feel like a goal that could be achieved, not a mystery into which to lose myself.
But what is the path? If you are the Light, you are not the path. Instead, the path belongs to me, it is “my path.” I did not ask for a path. Perhaps I am more satisfied standing still, erecting my camp right where I am? Why must I walk? Why must I journey, when it is perfectly satisfying to stay? Why does it belong to me when I did not ask for it or seek it out? Who gave it to me? How can I be rid of it?
You lead me down upon the path. My path.
There are other paths, paths which are not my own. Your Word is not their light, they are illumined by other words. Lesser words.
Every word has a speaker, by definition. Every word is a voice, by definition. And now it is clear how expressly psychological is my reflection. Your Word is the voice that leads me upon the path of becoming myself. But it feels circular, a cage of sorts, a cage of purported freedom. This self is my true self only because it is shaped into being by this Word, the Eternal Word. It is my true Self because You say so. Is this a trap? An unforeseen pitfall that leaves me with a stark lack of self-definition? Does not my path end in oblivion, of lostness between me and my fellow sojourner, as we all lose ourselves in Your Voice?
Is it not easier to listen to the other voices, that promise to make something of us? There is a cost to this, of course. We will lose some sort of autonomy, these voices want to mold us into their own image. But they can only do so much, they are no Eternal Word. They need my agency, my unique qualities that have developed over the course of My path so far. I will lose myself, but not entirely. We will share responsibility, we will share identity. I will be half a self. Is that not better than being no self at all?
We are all looking for voices in the sensible world which match the voices inside our souls. This is our day-to-day quest for sanity, to match the sensible world to our internal reality. In the sensible world we are seeking the little words that invite us to make unique paths, unique selves, in partnership. In our souls they feel like demons, tempting and horrifying all at once. In the sensible world they appear as people. Not as in a sort of demonic possession, nothing that an exorcism can fix. These are people that are good and bad, lovely and ugly, friends and relatives and enemies. Otherwise normal, probably good, people. They can also be symbols, impressions, imaginative fixations. They can be institutions and systems and nations. They want to make a shared path. They want to lose themselves in you, and you in them. They are desperate to leave the path of “me” and take a new path together. They have given up on self-definition and independence, they want symbiosis, hoping that the sacrifice of half themselves will provide just a little bit of freedom, their best shot at a little bit of self-definition. Some are more easily drawn in than others, some are more innocent than others. Some have lived their whole lives as someone’s ‘other’ voice and know little other possibility.
It appears like selflessness, really, but they know it is their best shot at self-affirmation.
‘Love.’ This is what You continually tell me is the reason for the journey upon My path, My path defined by Your voice. What is love but a means of control? The draining away of another’s life? This is what is known of love among path-sharers. I know the truth, as much as my mind tries to seduce me otherwise. No matter how seductive it is at each new moment, enough experiences have finally collected to know what is true. Those who try to share a path, to be a voice and a light for one another, are never satisfied. The struggle is eternal, to gain the upper-hand in self-definition. And the self is not inexhaustible. It will fade. Sometimes the soul before the body, sometimes the soul after the body–lost to memory and history. Sometimes one may appear to have the upper-hand. Indeed, it is possible to often identify one that has more power. An abuser, we call it. But ultimately they are both, finally, annihilated.
And so, what recourse is left to me? All that remains is the path. My path. The great risk. The path that has been laid out for me. What shall I find as I go? What will I be at the end? I have no way of knowing, no way of controlling what I am. It may be my path, but it is laid out for me. Independent of me.
I meet the Word upon the path. Not letters, not even voice, but a singular entity. A personality. Someone who can truly say “me,” just as I can say “me.” And not just a unique personality, but a personality in flesh and bone. This is both comforting and disconcerting all at once. The closeness, the intimacy, the ability to empathize is comforting. But it simply seems like a bad joke. The one into which I am to be lost is here with me and appears just as little and weak and ephemeral as myself.
I see this personality drained, abandoned, crushed by the One from Whom he emerges. Not even the light itself could avoid its loss of self, its being subsumed into the pit of its definition. Its final hours look little different than one who has gone on another’s path to the point of becoming lost in the dance of annihilation. The light that illumines my path cannot retain its independence either.
A cave. A tomb really. Light and darkness, proclamations and disbelief and violence. It feels like a bad riff off of Plato. But the Word, the Word is not annihilated. It is itself the Origin, which cannot be un-originated. And this, this is the surprise: The flesh and the bones, the distinct body, are re-ignited. Annihilation has met its match, its opposite and more powerful force. Life. The life of the Light.
Of course, why not? The Word is inexhaustible. Nothing should be more natural, but yet it is so surprising.
The Voice across the ages, the one that gives life and dictates definition to all things, has acted. A distinct, concrete, action. The Word chooses to become a defined entity, an annihilated entity. But instead of letting this entity simply be subsumed into the bland soup of un-definition, the inexhaustible and eternal vastness, the eternal and inexhaustible Life is given, as a gift, to the defined entity. To meet the Eternal Word is to be given a sublime grace: That which would imply my lostness, my lack of definition, works for my vivification, for my definition; a path that is for my prospering, not my harming.
You. I want to be lost in You, because You have chosen to become lost in me. I want to find my definition in you. I want my path to be defined by You, because You supply creative Life, You provide new life, Your inexhaustibility is a gift to me for my flourishing, for my eternal definition as “me” with You.
You have taught us a new way of being. Perhaps it is an old way. A way of communion. It is made possible by the gift of your eternality poured into our flourishing, not merely an ocean into which to be lost inside. My path can become “our paths” along with others sparked by Your inexhaustible love, as we find ourselves as filled as we give, as poured into as poured out, as defined as stripped in union.
You have ensured a You and a Me, a You and a We, forever.
You are the Light unto my path, and the lamp unto my feet.