The Lighthouse Keeper

Dan Lee

Geelong Grammar

 Oh, woe is me,

T’ have seen what I have seen, see what I see!

Hamlet, Shakespeare

The lighthouse keeper awoke from his languishing slumbers and felt the stream of sunlight coming through the window and tingling his cheekbone. The sun was halfway up the sky.

Noon, he guessed. But it was too soon to be noon.

He must have fallen asleep in the middle of the night during his night shift. He did not know why he fell asleep. It was not like him. The lighthouse keeper prided himself on his punctuality. His time was black and white like a clock ticking jerkily along the minute signs –  tic, toc –  so clearly defined into the oscillating rhythms. His senses had adapted to the rise and fall of the sea, a natural pattern that his life was wholly dominated by.  The lighthouse keeper perceived the bipolar colour change of night and day.

That was his job, though. The time keeper of the sea … the metaphysical guidance to lonely ships …

Let him light the pathway in the darkness!

His memory was so diluted. As he searched for his memory of the forgotten night, dimly eerie in some ways, the lighthouse keeper became lost in a train of thought. There was a certain ignominious truth about falling asleep. A lighthouse keeper should never fall asleep in his night shift.

He was the light. He was the artificial sun in the dismal night, the light that the ships desperately clung to in order to survive the wrath of the sea.

What a disgrace.

Then, he remembered; he remembered the stormy night …

The world was in black velvet; amorphous clouds that threateningly embraced the ink-black ocean.

Yes, he remembered a ship that was sailing through the storm …

Staring at the little light of the boat, thrown powerlessly away by the belligerent waves, the lighthouse keeper had felt so impotent. He could only send a beam of light. It was a light that would have been so intangible in the belligerent upheaval of liquidity.

To him all was black and white or the nuance in between. The ocean was black. The sky was white. The seagulls were grey. The trees were greyish-black.

The notion of light was so ambivalent to him. Sometimes they were white dots scattered across the inky mass of water like pores that opened up from the abyss. Other times, the light swirled in the sky and the thing called the “sun” sometimes caught his eyes.

For him, the orb was like a concentrated dose of white purity.

Well, the light of the lighthouse? He would never know. He was the lighthouse keeper, not the boat out in the ocean. He was the light. A light can’t see a light, he thought.

Keep thinking. Stay focused. Black and white. Black and white.

What happened last night?

Did the ship see his light? The lighthouse keeper doubted that it had. The rain was pouring down and the fog was too thick. He had no idea what happened to the pitiful structure but had to presume it was gone now.

The lighthouse keeper felt like the lonely boat. He was the boat that could not see, even though there was a light. There was a thick veil that covered his eyes and changed the neurons’ signals as he perceived his world in polarity. Bipolar stratification dominated his vision but really it was monotonic.

Black to white.

White to black.

It all seemed like one panoramic decadence of light into darkness.

And vice versa.

Why was the world so black? Why did the world have to be so dark for him?

He hated the one who created the world, the one who created his world. If the creator had a conscience, ‘he’ or ‘she’ – the lighthouse keeper also considered the possibility of an ‘it’ – would not let him suffer like this. If the almighty fixed the cataracts of neighbour next door, why couldn’t the lighthouse keeper himself be healed? He went to the church every Sunday, and he prayed from time to time. He prayed how good would it be to escape the constant oscillation of black and white through night and day – his censored vision that drove him mad. No, it was really the cataclysmic reversal of bipolarity that drove him to near lunacy.

So he came to one conclusion …

God was dead.

*  *  *

But as he awoke from languishing slumbers, the lighthouse keeper realised that the world looked different. The veil of black and white was whipped away and now the colour replaced the world. It was so beautiful, idyllic. So incredibly sublime that the lighthouse keeper could not believe that what he was looking at was real.

He doubted his previous existence.

He doubted his life, whether he had existed at all.

He wanted to fly. Like the white seagulls that were so free. He was free now! He could now see the wonders of life, but he could not explain how the world had changed. The ocean was not black any more but so fresh, as if a grandiose painter had permeated a living paint into the palette of the water. The sky was not white; it was so perfect and so clandestine in its tinge of light nuance. The trees were aloof in their natural state, in a colour that he could not explain.

The light was so mysterious.

And he had no words to describe what the world looked like.

What did the colour blue look like? What did it feel like? Would it taste like the ocean, the sky? No one had really told him about the spectrometry of the constituents of colour in his world, although even if they had, he would not have understood.

What was green?

What was red?

Then, there were colours in between that he could not grasp. What was this explosion of reality so exuberant and exorbitant?

It all made his head hurt.

So he stepped out on to the ledge of the lighthouse, breathing in the sea air tinted with salty freshness.

He felt alive.

He felt that God existed, resurrected from the black and white, grey doom that enslaved the lighthouse keeper’s existence.

In joy, he reached out for the creator’s creation, the colour of ocean and the sky that was so tangible, so close to touch. He wanted to reach out for the mystery, the enigmatic creation of God.

If God existed, could he fly? Could he fly like those gentle sea birds?

The lighthouse keeper jumped off the ledge. In air, he floated. The black and white division of time had disappeared. Everything was now intertwined, just simply rolling in its sublime beauty.

He was flying.

Dan Lee is currently studying in Geelong Grammar School and thoroughly enjoys writing prose and essays in his ‘free’ time. He is the past winner of Geelong Grammar’s essay competition in last consecutive years, with ‘The Dandelion on the Rooftop’ and ‘Spring’. Dan’s passions include learning languages, reading about Immanuel Kant and running around the Corio Bay.