Edith Wharton’s quote: “There are two ways of spreading light, to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it” is an allegory for inspiration and creativity.
Interpretations of Edith Wharton’s inspirational quote
This famous quote from Edith Wharton has different meanings to different people. Social forums have these various takes on it:
- There are two ways in which people can live their life. They can either follow their heart and do what they want. Or, they can be the person that appreciates what others have done.
- Many of us have the tendency to think that supporting others means that we’re inferior. It’s sad that many of us prefer to start substandard projects instead of helping someone who is better at it.
- Candle melts as time goes on. Its length decreases proportionately with time and finally it gets extinguished. Now look at the mirror. It does nothing except reflecting light but gives an impression of being a never ending source of light.
- The light refers to any positive aspect of life, be it knowledge, kindness, or even love. You can always spread this positivity of life, without being the cause of it.
- We’re all both candles and mirrors at different points in time and in different situations.
Spreading Light and Creativity
Interestingly, this quote is rarely seen as an allegory for inspiration and creativity. Still, one could understand it to describe the process of looking at someone’s idea from a different angle, or through a different filter, to build new concepts.
As Steve Jobs once said, “Creativity is having enough dots to connect.” In a world of great scientists and researchers (the candles) another talent (the mirror) can reflect on the discovery from the experts to propose pragmatic solutions in other areas. There are multiple business examples of such successes:
- Hospitals improved their check-in process after consulting with hotel managers;
- Oil transmission companies found better ways to seal cracked pipelines after understanding the self-healing properties of capillaries;
- A whitening toothpaste was developed by studying how laundry detergents whitens clothes
Indeed, mirrors are as important as candles with their ability to extend and concentrate the light into new areas.
Edith Wharton (January 24, 1862 – August 11, 1937), born Edith Newbold Jones, was an American novelist, short story writer, and designer.