Digest>Archives> Mar/Apr 2011

A Lighthouse Philosophy of Life

By Dorothy Rieke


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For some of us, lighthouses represent handsome heroes in dashing novels. They are the essence of adventure and daring because they  are often involved in  assisting ocean-going vessels in avoiding  hazard, peril, and danger. They save lives and bring people and ships  to safety. What a vast responsibility; what a wonderful mission!  

Most of us, even if living in landlocked states, are intrigued with lighthouses  and the work they do. Lighthouses traditionally help seamen determine their position at sea, inform them of their position in relation to shore, and warn of any danger ahead such as reefs and rocks.

Lighthouses are built along coasts at ports and harbors, on capes and peninsulas, and on large isolated rocks. A few are built within the sea with foundations sunk  into undersea rock or coral. Actually, most lighthouses are positioned near treacherous waters where they can be of use during stormy, inclement weather.

These navigational aids for seamen have been active for thousands of years. During the last sixty years, their importance has been somewhat diminished because of the increased use of electronic navigational aids.  However, today there are many lighthouses still in use worldwide.

Each lighthouse emits a pattern of light called its characteristic. There are fixed, flashing, occulting, group flashing, and group occulting signals. The fixed beams are constant; flashing beams alternate lights and darkness. An occulting light’s signals light longer than darkness. Group flashing lights flash off two or more flashes at regular intervals. Because of published light lists, seamen easily identify certain lighthouses by the light signals. 

Lighthouse architecture differs greatly, but all are attractive in appearance and unique in design. These structures  may be constructed of brick, wood or steel.  Some may include living quarters in addition to signal equipment. One factor in common  is that all have marker patterns, a design of checks and stripes, painted in vivid colors  on their walls, so they are easily identified.  

The distance a lighthouse beam can be seen depends on the strength and height of the light and the weather. Because fog or rain or snow often interferes with the light, foghorns or other sound- making devices are employed. Even radio beams can be used to send out signals to ships. 

In a way, we represent lighthouses in our relationships with others. Lighthouses are built on firm foundations. Our foundations, represented by family members, friends, and associates, are made firm with caring and thoughtfulness.  We, too, face stormy days and problems frequently needing help from others who are experienced and know the “waters.” Wherever we are situated, we can be there for others accepting such roles as counselors, advisors, and friends. 

Navigational aids of lighthouses guide, assist, interpret, and inform. Our navigational aids originate from training, experience and relationships. They involve such traits as honesty, compassion, trustworthiness, determination, integrity, and righteousness.  These are responsible for guiding our lives in the right direction. 

Even though lighthouses are subject to the elements of weather, they stand strong during storms reflecting  beams of radiating light. We, too, by adopting positive attitudes and a measure of optimism can weather the storms of life setting examples for others.

At times, different “lights or approaches” confuse, giving concern. However, each individual who contributes a “directional light” should be respected for that contribution. Actually, enlisting others with different ideas, qualifications, and contributions brings in diversity and a variety of options.

Just as lighthouses are unique in signals, we, too, are unique in our reactions and responses.  Certain people are known for their ways of attacking problems and solving them. Their “signature ways” are easily identified as are some lighthouses.

Lighthouses radiate the hope of survival.   As individuals, we must send out signals of faith, love,  and hope. Encouraging, supporting, and assisting others creates compassion and kindness in our own lives.     

At times, lighthouse beams are difficult to see especially in fog. At that time, foghorns are employed to signal dangers. In our own lives, difficulties may arise in communication. Our roles are consistent with those foghorns blaring out distress signals.  Lighthouse signals always respond to need, so we too, must respond. 

Lighthouses radiating  bright beacons to ships, represent the  adventurous “romance” of past and present days.  The role of lighthouse involvement leading to safety is evident in many heartrending stories of wicked storms endangering lives. We, too, serve as beacons to others displaying total commitment and compassionate natures.  In caring, thoughtful actions, we display our good qualities leading to benevolent actions when we serve as “lighthouses” to influence others’ destinies. 

This story appeared in the Mar/Apr 2011 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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