Dangerous as a Sleepwalker by Elsie Ramsey

“I fight my battle with monopolated light and power”

Ralph Ellison

I think about loneliness often and most so when I am lonely. In the aftermath of a glorious trip to Puerto Rico, spent in a state of harmonious connection with light, water and people, I am mourning sudden absences. Home in Philadelphia, winter is making its last stand. Today runners of a half marathon wandered blustery streets in their metallic wraps as I hunched against the cold, head cast down. All the light and color of San Juan has melted away and the knowledge that soon cherry blossoms will erupt across this city isn’t enough to carry me. Just how important is color to our successful human navigation through life? Ralph Ellison’s prologue to “Invisible Man” includes a discussion of this very question.

Describing his underground living quarters in New York City, Ellison’s protagonist (the Invisible Man) says: “My hole is warm and full of light….I love light. Light confirms my reality; gives birth to my form. Nothing, storm nor flood, must get in the way of our need for light, and ever more and brighter light. The truth is the light and light is the truth…”.

This power is contrasted with the danger of living in the dark. Ellison calls this semi- blindness sleep walking, referring not to literal blindness but narrowness of vision. Think of the sleepwalking quality of an episode of depression and you’ll get it. In those days, weeks or months, we are blind to joy, love and all expressions of beauty. In my post-vacation haze, I rejoiced in his profundity—my sentiments expressed in perfect economy. I wonder what Mr. Ellison would suggest I do in my acute longing for said light? Nothing remotely trite like “find it within, Elsie!”. Other than that, I can’t say. I am right this moment wearing a dress covered in blossoms while looking at the abundant floral arrangements I’ve placed in our living room. No one could accuse me of giving up at the first sour note. I suppose the question is, is light is something we can generate on our own or is it something we receive from an external force? The answer is both which isn’t very satisfying.

My strategy is to look to other, less literal, sources of light. Music. Warm water. Jack (my nephew). And when the sun pokes out, I run towards my square of paved roof like someone seeking God. If the truth is light and light is the truth, “Run to the Rays” is the right answer.

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