Bob Schwartz

Fake Candle, Real Light

I keep a flameless LED candle on a table. I frequently light the candle, by a switch on the bottom (it also has a timer). It is not the kind that is meant to look like a wax candle, or one that hides the obviously fake plastic cutout of a flame. It is what it is: a battery-powered white plastic cylinder that lights up and “flickers.”

Someone came by and suggested I might better have a real candle with a real flame burning. She called the candle “ersatz.” My first answer is that keeping real candles burning unattended is unsafe and possibly messy. But that’s not my real answer.

The light from this candle is real. When I walk into the dark room, it lights the way. When I light it, it brightens. When I turn it off, it darkens. True, if I were expecting the candle to warm me, it won’t do that, although a single candle isn’t much good for that anyway. I don’t know what more I could ask of this candle (remember, it has a timer, and so can even turn itself on and off).

That light is quite real enough for me.

Table-Clearing Religion

A splendidly set and provisioned table can be lovely and satisfying, especially when you’re hungry and there is a great cook at work.

But there is also a simple table, before anything has been laid on it, before the bowls and platters have been brought from the kitchen. Or the same table after it has been cleared.

Which why we might appreciate those religious movements that set a simple table, or try to clear one that has been cluttered, even if the clutter seems beneficial.

Table clearing is a phenomenon among many traditions. Jesus proposed something like it, as did the Baal Shem Tov. Some Christian sects are grounded in it, such as the Shakers. That sort of table clearing is also an essence of Zen. The value of various complex Buddhist movements may not be denied, but in the beginning the Buddha himself tried all that was being offered, and ended up just sitting.

Sit at whichever table suits you, and eat whatever you like from it. But maybe consider the elegant simplicity of the table before it is set, or after it is cleared.