Light in the Darkness

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Power outages have become a fact of life in California but Jim McClellan and his family have found a consoling light in the inconvenient darkness.

The recent fires in California were devastating and it’s hard to think of them as anything other than tragic. But for those who suffered only power outages is it possible to see a small silver lining in such a dark cloud?

The thought occurred to me as I was sitting around our lantern-lit dinner table, discussing it with my family. How much of the world, we wondered, lives with blackouts—or simply no electricity—nearly every day? We decided that it was probably around a billion people. That’s close to three times the population of our entire country, or roughly one in seven people on the planet.

That notion certainly didn’t make a cold shower any warmer, but it did create a sense of calm acceptance and even belonging which can be elusive these days. When the world is so heavily influenced by social media, it’s easy to feel both connected and isolated at the same time. But that sense of digital connection can often feel tenuous, as if it’s not rooted in anything real.

If only temporarily, the recent power outage deepened our kids’ understanding of the daily struggles experienced in many parts of the world. It also brought to light their own exemption from those struggles and helped expose an important aspect of connection that wasn’t clear before. In that sense, I found reason to be grateful.

Nobody looks forward to the next blackout. But just as a blind person has much sharper non-visual senses than everyone else, perhaps the inconvenient darkness itself can help illuminate pathways that otherwise can’t be seen. The grid provides light and power, but its absence can also provide direct reflections of both. Those reflections can reveal hidden sensibilities, and can lead to a place of deeper calm and even understanding.

With a Perspective, I’m Jim McClellan.

Jim McClellan is co-founder of a logistics software company focused on the wine industry. He lives in Marin.