Altars of Light

January 17, 2019

Kirill Nazarov ’20 offered a chapel talk on a poem by Pierre Joris titled “Altars of Light.”

Altars of Light
by Pierre Joris


If the light is the soul
then soul is what’s
all around me.

It is you,
it is around you too,
it is you.

The darkness is inside me,
the opaqueness of organs folded
upon organs—

to make light in the house of
the body—
    thus to bring the
outside in,
    the impossible job.

  And the only place to become
the skin
  the border, the in between, where
dark meets light, where I meets

  In the house of world the
many darknesses are surrounded
by light.

  To see the one, we need
the other / it cuts both ways

  light on light is blind
  dark on dark is blind

  light through dark is not

  dark through light is movement
  dark through light becomes,
is becoming,
    to move through
light is becoming,

  is all
    we can know.


We are part of something so much greater than just ourselves. Each of us is like a small piece of a HUGE picture. As it says in the poem, the house of the body moves through the house of the world, and connects with others in it. The only place to become is in this space that we share.

How do our connections make us “become”? Through our connections, our family, our community we are improving all the time. We keep moving forward, our life is like constant movement.

When we want to improve ourselves, we look for a person who is already an expert and who can help us to find our own way, so we can see our future more clearly. Because we can’t live in a vacuum, we need people who we can talk with, people who can support us and people who can challenge us.

We need each other to see ourselves.

We all came from different places but we start to truly understand ourselves when we see the contrast, when we can say that our point of view is not the only one which is correct. So contrast helps us in understanding ourselves.

Even though we are all different, we are interconnected–in some ways we don’t even realize.

For example, here at Shattuck, the Chapel is a point of connection–though people come from a lot of different religious or non-religious traditions, we meet each week in this space.

If you remember Mr. Stoneman’s design idea from the opening of the Hub–that the Chapel is a separate, sacred space, and when we all enter it together, that creates common emotions. And we can feel that all people who are present in this place are connected.

Outside chapel, we remain connected. We see each other every day, and even though sometimes we can fight, we still are part of one community that we share. We as a school, as a community, build our own social and moral norms: how we act, how we interact, what our behavior is like.

Our community here and all the communities we are a part of have influenced our choices and will influence who we become.