Show me the light
December 2, 2011 5:57 AM   Subscribe

I've been invited to a Solstice party. The invitation says, "Please come with a symbol of light, wrapped to give away, and something to read about light, original or found." Nothing is popping into my head except a candle... and I already know someone bringing a candle. Ideas? Ideas for readings? I could do a Google search for either thing, but I'd be overwhelmed with results, I think. (And maybe there is a way to wrap the gift that goes along with the theme?)
posted by trillian to Grab Bag (53 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
What about a prism? Or something glow in the dark? No ideas for the reading though.
posted by Monkeyswithguns at 6:05 AM on December 2, 2011

LED bulb? String of Christmas lights? Sunflower bouquet?
posted by carmicha at 6:05 AM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Does it have to be serious and spiritual? Because one of these ultra-powerful spotlights would be pretty hilarious. This is probably why I don't get invited to solstice parties.
posted by something something at 6:05 AM on December 2, 2011 [8 favorites]

Glowsticks! Especially the kind you can make into necklaces and stuff.
posted by rtha at 6:06 AM on December 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

Bring one of those white balloons with an led inside it.
posted by devnull at 6:08 AM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

In Sweden, Santa Lucia is the symbol of light.
posted by three blind mice at 6:09 AM on December 2, 2011

It seems to be talking about a physical source of light, but maybe something less literal. Something that brings "light" to your life
posted by CPAGirl at 6:10 AM on December 2, 2011

Brilliant is actually a very interesting book. IT could be a gift. Or an excerpt could be a reading.

You could make a Sun Jar.
posted by .kobayashi. at 6:11 AM on December 2, 2011

Depending on your budget, you might consider bringing a hurricane lantern or other oil-based lamp. I love them: they're super useful but also kind of decorative.
posted by gauche at 6:12 AM on December 2, 2011

You could do a reading of the lyrics of the Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun." Little darling, it's been a long, cold, lonely winter...
posted by dywypi at 6:12 AM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Ooh! An LED headlamp! Practical and symbolic, in a kinda funny way.
posted by Sublimity at 6:16 AM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Well, what about those spinny-light things you see kids with around the 4th of July or at theme parks? Something like this?

Or, continuing the whimsical approach, a light saber?
posted by MustardTent at 6:18 AM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

The poem Just Delicate Needles, by Rolf Jacobsen, is nice and short and fits the theme.
posted by argonauta at 6:23 AM on December 2, 2011

Do you live near an Ikea? My daughter has this light and it is adorable as well as functional.

I also like the prism idea, and I've also seen "rainbow makers" which you attach to a window and it moves with the sun to keep a prism shining a rainbow on your wall.
posted by mikepop at 6:29 AM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

For reading, Bastiat's candlemaker petition is formally on-topic and guaranteed to drown any kind of spirituality in a heated debate about economics.
posted by themel at 6:29 AM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

A packet of long fireplace matches? Those are great for so many things and they are inexpensive.
If you are of goofy frame of mind, a 6 pack of Miller Lite.
posted by pointystick at 6:30 AM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Phillip Larkin's "Water":

If I were called in
To construct a religion
I should make use of water.

Going to church
Would entail a fording
To dry, different clothes;

My liturgy would employ
Images of sousing,
A furious devout drench,

And I should raise in the east
A glass of water
Where any-angled light
Would congregate endlessly.
posted by yoink at 6:31 AM on December 2, 2011 [4 favorites]

Various light related ideas:

EL wire

Personalized RSS feeds of your personal light cone
(From the moment of my birth, light [that [you] could have influenced] has been expanding around the Earth and light [which could influence [you], from an increasing distance of origin] reaching it -- this ever-growing sphere of potential causality is [your] light cone.)
and a Kubrik quote:

The most terrifying fact of the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this indifference and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death — however mutable man may be able to make them — our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfillment.

However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.

posted by zamboni at 6:31 AM on December 2, 2011 [5 favorites]

A prism!
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:33 AM on December 2, 2011

A Sky Lantern

"My candle burns at both ends It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends -
It gives a lovely light."
- Edna St. Vincent Millay. Is the only quote I know about light.

The Charge of the Light Brigade perhaps?

Or you could sing "This Little Light of Mine." Its a fun song if everyone joins in too.
posted by wwax at 6:35 AM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Well, it says "a symbol of light." That opens you up to anything shaped like/patterned with the sun, stars, and moon. Lots of garden statues and trinkets use that imagery, for example.
posted by Pwoink at 6:38 AM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

According to this page about samhain rituals you are supposed to put a white seven day candle in the window so as to guide the dead to the spirit world. You then light the candle and say:
O little flame that burns so bright
be a beacon on this night.
Light the path for all the Dead,
that they may see now what's ahead.
And lead them to the Summerland
and shine until Pan takes their hands.
And with Your light,
please bring them peace,
that they may rest and sleep with ease."
posted by rongorongo at 6:39 AM on December 2, 2011

Moravian star
posted by Sweetie Darling at 6:40 AM on December 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

The Sun

Have you ever seen
in your life
more wonderful

than the way the sun,
every evening,
relaxed and easy,
floats toward the horizon

and into the clouds or the hills,
or the rumpled sea,
and is gone--
and how it slides again

out of the blackness,
every morning,
on the other side of the world,
like a red flower

streaming upward on its heavenly oils,
say, on a morning in early summer,
at its perfect imperial distance--
and have you ever felt for anything
such wild love--
do you think there is anywhere, in any language,
a word billowing enough
for the pleasure

that fills you,
as the sun
reaches out,
as it warms you

as you stand there,
or have you too
turned from this world--

or have you too
gone crazy
for power,
for things?

~ Mary Oliver ~
posted by bunderful at 6:43 AM on December 2, 2011 [5 favorites]

If you are musically inclined, a rendition of this song would be fun (although perhaps a serious reading of the lyrics would be fun too).
posted by mikepop at 6:48 AM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Blue canary in the outlet by the light switch, who watches over you? Make a little birdhouse in your soul. Gift and reading all in one!
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:55 AM on December 2, 2011 [8 favorites]

When I was a kid I would use my collection of catholic luminous Marys to read under the covers after my parents had told me turn the light out and go to sleep. You could get some lovely Jesus ones.
posted by honey-barbara at 6:58 AM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

LED Throwies. Bring supplies and for your "reading" you could lead everyone in a craft session.
posted by hydrophonic at 6:58 AM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I thought of the Egyptian god Ra, who was "I think" equal to the sun. You could bring a small, wrapped statue, and then read a story about him from a book of myths.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:02 AM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Camping lantern? I'd love it.
posted by beccaj at 7:03 AM on December 2, 2011

Funny, my thoughts went the other way and I thought "Helium". Because they're lighter than air.... get it?
posted by gwenlister at 7:09 AM on December 2, 2011

A sun jar!.
posted by specialagentwebb at 7:17 AM on December 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

Seconding a headlamp or a camp lantern as wonderful gifts. But in the same vein, a set of emergency road flares would be a wonderful practical gift of light for someone in a potentially very dark and dangerous time.

I would choose a reading (from Bullfinch, Hamilton, Ovid or whatever you can lay your hands on) about Prometheus, the bringer of fire, and the illumination of the mind.
posted by jph at 7:31 AM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure how this would go over, but a book on electromagnetism is what I would bring. Anything with Maxwell's equations would work.
posted by bessel functions seem unnecessarily complicated at 7:47 AM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Anything astronomical would qualify. (Well, okay, not neutrino astronomy.) A planisphere (adjustable sky map) for your latitude, a book on stargazing, etc. A reading about astronomy could be neat, too.
posted by BrashTech at 7:47 AM on December 2, 2011

I'd probably bring a chocolate donut hole (a black hole). Or a take off on light being both a particle and a wave (Google has some good results here and here).

On a more serious note, I like Tomorrowful's prism idea. If you can't find a prism, then just wear a Pink Floyd shirt (Dark side of the moon).
posted by Man with Lantern at 8:04 AM on December 2, 2011

Sparklers! Wrap up a few packets as a gift, or bring some to the ceremony for on-the-spot use (if at least part of the ceremony is outside, which is SHOULD be!).
posted by dlugoczaj at 8:31 AM on December 2, 2011

A kaleidoscope could be good.
posted by vytae at 8:33 AM on December 2, 2011

Wow, you could really mess with the whole theme by taking this.
posted by Runes at 8:50 AM on December 2, 2011

My "light" gift would be a book that I personally found enlightening. I know it's a little cheesy now, but when I was a teenager "Ishmael" by Daniel Quinn BLEW MY MIND. As an adult it's been Sagan's "A Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark" (maybe not a good gift to religious-types), and others I can't recall at the moment. Is there a book that you felt blew the cobwebs from your mind and shone a light in there? I would love that sort of thoughtful, personal gift.
posted by arcticwoman at 8:58 AM on December 2, 2011

How about a gift representing a bioluminescent critter, like a firefly or jellyfish. One species of jellyfish was instrumental in the 2008 Nobel Prize awared in chemistry because of its glowing green fluorescent protein and its application in disease research.
posted by hoppytoad at 9:56 AM on December 2, 2011

From the sublime to the quotidian.... How about a CF lamp?
posted by Lynsey at 10:24 AM on December 2, 2011

Not sure 'Charge of the Light Brigade' is quite the thing here. :)

"Half a league, half a league,
  Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
  Rode the six hundred.
'Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns' he said:
Into the valley of Death
  Rode the six hundred."

--Alfred Lord Tennyson
posted by Bourbonesque at 10:41 AM on December 2, 2011

This little prose-poem by Susan Cooper (better known as the author of YA fantasy favorite The Dark is Rising) is evokative.

You could also bring a giant bag of wintergreen LifeSavers - you can get them loose in a bag - and have everyone crunch them in the dark.
posted by bubukaba at 11:02 AM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Kenaz rune? Its meaning is Torch, knowledge, etc.
posted by Heretical at 11:43 AM on December 2, 2011

What about those awesome glow in the dark stars you can stick to your ceiling!
posted by katypickle at 12:11 PM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Symbol of light opens the door to all kinds of possibilities: a copy of one of MLK Jr's speeches, a framed picture of M. Gandhi, pretty much any religious figure depending on your POV, etc could all be interpreted as symbols of "light," considered broadly.
posted by that's candlepin at 12:15 PM on December 2, 2011

Walt Whitman's "A Prairie Sunset" is lovely.
posted by beanie at 1:43 PM on December 2, 2011

Wow! Thank you so much for all the ideas. Too many to mark as best answer! I went shopping today and bought the gift. Inspired by the prism suggestion, I got a many-sided glass paperweight that reflects the light in all directions. Will check out all these ideas for readings!
posted by trillian at 3:56 PM on December 2, 2011

You could read this Billy Collins poem about Goya's candle hat, +/or give a homemade candle hat or a reproduction of the painting. Or a can of Goya beans.

Candle Hat

In most self-portraits it is the face that dominates:
Cezanne is a pair of eyes swimming in brushstrokes,
Van Gogh stares out of a halo of swirling darkness,
Rembrant looks relieved as if he were taking a breather
from painting The Blinding of Sampson.

But in this one Goya stands well back from the mirror
and is seen posed in the clutter of his studio
addressing a canvas tilted back on a tall easel.

He appears to be smiling out at us as if he knew
we would be amused by the extraordinary hat on his head
which is fitted around the brim with candle holders,
a device that allowed him to work into the night.

You can only wonder what it would be like
to be wearing such a chandelier on your head
as if you were a walking dining room or concert hall.

But once you see this hat there is no need to read
any biography of Goya or to memorize his dates.

To understand Goya you only have to imagine him
lighting the candles one by one, then placing
the hat on his head, ready for a night of work.

Imagine him surprising his wife with his new invention,
the laughing like a birthday cake when she saw the glow.

Imagine him flickering through the rooms of his house
with all the shadows flying across the walls.

Imagine a lost traveler knocking on his door
one dark night in the hill country of Spain.
“Come in, ” he would say, “I was just painting myself,”
as he stood in the doorway holding up the wand of a brush,
illuminated in the blaze of his famous candle hat.

–Billy Collins
posted by Corvid at 4:16 PM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would suggest bringing a lantern. They're beautiful and magical and can be found online for not to much money.

As for the reading, this is short, but it brings a tear to my eye for some reason. It's from the last Doctor Who Christmas Special:

"On every world, wherever people are, in the deepest part of the winter, at the exact mid-point, everybody stops, and turns, and hugs, as if to say, 'well done. Well done, everyone. We're half-way out of the dark."
posted by Navelgazer at 5:17 PM on December 2, 2011

If you want to go super-short on your reading, there's also:
"For the rest of my life, I will reflect on what light is." Albert Einstein
posted by argonauta at 5:20 PM on December 2, 2011

a flashlight or laser pointer key chain.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:24 AM on December 3, 2011

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