Skip to content

It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness

September 9, 2010

The Chinese, as you would expect from the inventors of toilet paper and Tofu, have a wealth of wisdom to impart.

When a friend of mine became aware of this proverb testing project he generously offered to me an old Chinese saying he had come across:

‘beat your wife every day, even if you don’t know why – she will’.

Much as I appreciate the gesture on his part, this shocking maxim poses several problems to a diligent tester, not least ethical (domestic violence is a serious, horrible issue) and practical (I am unmarried).  So, imagine my joy when some days later I experienced a power cut and was granted the opportunity to test another saying I had read.

It was after eleven o’clock at night when darkness descended upon me.  In the suddenly imposed silent gloam I stumbled about the flat, all electricity had gone. I was intending to get my bike’s front light and check the fusebox, but seeing an opportunity where others might see a crisis (more Chinese wisdom) I decided to test this proverb.

‘Bloody darkness!’ I said.  Though I was slightly amused by this, I did feel that I should get a candle (having decided to adhere to the proverb as literally as possible).  Nonetheless, acclimatising to both the shadow and the cursing, I ventured onward.

‘Twat!’ I exclaimed.  It was quite enjoyable, and actually made the situation slightly fun.  Feeling mischievous I wandered into the bedroom, where all was mute and black, ‘piss off you big Benny’ I shouted at the dark, walking forward and chuckling to myself.

And then I trod, barefoot as I was, on the upended, three pronged malice of my phone charger.

“Holy m*************g c***t!”, I screamed in surprised agony, clutching my foot and hopping about in the blackness. ‘f****** HELL!’

The pain was sharp and severe, and knocked all the fun out of me, I reeled about and banged into the wardrobe and then, feeling my way along the wall, fell onto the bed holding my foot and swearing like a sailor, a sailor who had accidentally stepped barefoot on Neptune’s trident.

When I had eventually calmed down, and the pain had subsided enough for me to think about things other than my foot, I carefully limped to the kitchen where I lit a candle and duly checked the trip switch of the fuse box. It was intact, indicating that there was an actual power cut, so I phoned the power company’s dedicated line with my mobile and went to bed, blowing the candle out only at the last possible moment .

As I lay in bed, thinking about writing up the results and with my foot still throbbing in complaint, I recalled the writing advice of Ernest Hemingway: ‘Write hard and clear about what hurts’. Drifting off to sleep I wondered whether he had ever considered writing a book titled ‘The old man and the three pronged plug’.

Proverbial truth

While it should be noted that the cursing was in some way therapeutic it should also be noted that had I lit a candle before wandering about, I would not have trodden on the phone charger.  Therefore I conclude that this proverb is a wise and true one.

However, in this instance the figurative meaning that it is better to act positively than to just complain, is slightly redundant as the act of lighting a candle when one has trodden on a plug is not practical. Swearing loudly is the best, somewhat involuntary, course.

About the proverb

I came across it referred to as a Chinese proverb.  Apparently it is also alluded to in Amnesty International’s logo of a candle surrounded by barbed wire.


From → Swearing

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: