I found myself floating in a black abyss. I thought it was space at first because I saw lights in the distance that I assumed were stars, but as I got closer, the first light was simply a candle.
All around me were moths. The air became thick with them. I could understand their thoughts and desires somehow, and soon realized it was because I was also a moth. They were all clamoring to find the sun. None had ever seen it before, they just heard second hand what its properties are.
The sun is big, the sun is warm, the sun is bright and never goes out. Some of the moths rejoiced upon reaching the candle. “This is the sun! We’ve found it!” But most were unconvinced, pointing out that it’s not very big. Those committed to the candle insisted that big is relative, and that it’s at least bright and warm. “Look how happy we are!” they boasted. “Look how warm and bright! Come and join us, your journey through the darkness can be over if you want it to be!”
Instead the rest of the swarm moved on, continuing in their search, leaving those few to their candle. Next, we came upon a flickering light bulb. “Those fools shouldn’t have settled for candle” many moths agreed, “for now we’ve found the actual sun, and they never will.”
But the rest were unconvinced. We pointed out that the bulb was large but still not staggeringly so, and that it flickered, where the sun is said to emit a steady and never-ending light. “The ones who settled for the candle were too eager for the search to be over. They latched onto the first thing resembling the sun that they ran into. Should we not be more discerning?”
A few nevertheless circled around the light bulb, convinced it was the sun. They would not be talked out of it and had to be left behind. The rest of us continued our search. The next source of light we found was a bonfire. All of the moths rejoiced. At last, the sun!
Only myself and a few other moths were unconvinced. The rest chided us. “This one has to be the sun. It’s big! It’s warm! It’s bright, and the light is steady! If you reject it and go on searching you will only wander in darkness forever, having turned up your nose at your one and only chance.”
We pressed on, leaving behind nearly the entire swarm, which danced and flit deliriously about the bonfire. I knew it would run out of wood eventually. They would be left in darkness. But we kept searching and searching, and no other lights appeared. There was just more darkness.
Some wanted to turn back, and return to the bonfire. But most of us felt sure there was a yet greater light we’d not seen yet, so we pressed on. Until, at last, we made our way over the horizon. Blinding rays of morning sunlight streaked over the rim of the Earth, bathing us in the all-enveloping warmth I knew could only be that of the sun.
It was unfathomably huge. It was brighter than anything else possibly could be. The light was steady and warm. We’d finally found the sun! Those who were impatient, because of the darkness and cold, would realize their error in due time once the sunshine reached them.
It would not do, after all, for their temporary mistake to have permanent consequences. The sun would rise over them and they would be helpless but to recognize that they were wrong, when they went looking for the sun, to accept the first source of light they came across.
There would be no need to persuade them when the time came, and so there was no reason to go back and fight with them, trying to convince them that they simply didn’t search for long enough. The sun’s light falls on everything and everyone, even those who do not know what the sun is.
My only job, then, was to soak up those rays. To rejoice that my journey was over at last, and that because I’d identified the sun I could now move with it, following its light and never again wandering in the cold darkness.
I suppose the general meaning is that when you go looking for something, don’t be impatient. Be discerning, and you’ll get exactly what you want. Wonderful things are often hard to get, or everybody would have them. The reason most don’t is that they tire of the search and settle for something superficially similar, convincing themselves it’s the same. That it’s what they wanted, and they’re happy with it.
I feel like it also describes the search for truth, except that truth is more of an ideal than a destination. It can be approached, closer and closer, but never actually reached, like the paradox of Achilles and the tortoise. Maybe the great truth is that there’s always a bigger light? That if ever you think you’ve found the ultimate truth, you are like the moths who circle the candle, believing it is the sun.
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