67 – The Virtue of a Light Bulb or, On Being Rich

The naked light bulb in the lamp on the table beside my bed fascinates me. A bare light bulb, whether hung by a cord from a ceiling, or screwed into a lamp, is a symbol of poverty. Not just a financial poverty, but, as well, a poverty of the spirit, an indifference to the state of one’s self. The reason there is no lampshade covering this particular light bulb is because I removed it, basically, because it was completely useless. Really just a thick, purple, glass bowl with an opening in the top, it didn’t simply soften and disperse the light radiating from the bulb, but contained it altogether. That, it needn’t be said, is not useful.

I look at this light bulb, and I look around the room that I am in with its dirty white walls, kind of brown and tan in places, the surface rough and unfinished, areas of incision where squares of drywall were removed and inexpertly replaced; exposed electric sockets naked in wall recesses; the ceiling which slopes down to a waist-height wall in which a door is set, sea-green, about three feet in height, and held shut by a single piece of duct tape; another wall: red, following the contour of the ceiling, also with a door, dirty and with a large brown smear of spackle that looks like a wad of human shit where someone lazily repaired a hole; the mismatched dressers and tables; the clay-colored tile floor; the dirty window and its frame that’s coming apart at the joints, paint chipping off. I look around at all this with fascination. It doesn’t bother me. It doesn’t make me feel poor, or contribute to feelings of inadequacy (none of which I have, anyway). Perhaps that’s because I know I’m only here temporarily. Or perhaps its because I have a sense of self-worth, or self-knowledge, or understanding of the world and my place in it that is great enough that a lack of certain material things doesn’t affect me so much. I know better.

And so I look at this light bulb, this naked balloon of argon filled glass, and I appreciate it for the light that it emits, that I might write down these thoughts, and I wonder at its polished, white, pearlescent surface, and its simple, beautiful shape, and I don’t know that I am poor because I feel as though I am rich, and so this light bulb holds no sway over me, but sheds light so that I may rejoice because I am alive to experience it.

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