Reflecting Light Into Dark Corners Of Thought

Robert Fulghum, philosopher, writer, teacher, and ordained minister, has given America two remarkable books: ''All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,'' and ''It Was on Fire When I Lay Down on It.'' The latter contains a moving story about a young Greek boy living on Crete when that island was invaded by German paratroopers in the early days of World War II.

The Greek lad was Alexander Papaderos. One day when the war was over, he found a broken mirror from a destroyed German motorcycle. He took a piece of the shattered mirror, rubbing the sharp edges smooth on the rocks.

The lad found pleasure in using the tiny mirror to reflect light into dark caverns and places where sunlight never falls. He kept the tiny mirror in his pocket as a memento of all the tragedy that befell his homeland in the war.

Papaderos went to a university, where he became a doctor of philosophy and a professor. He came to believe that the hatred resulting from the war needed to be healed, since there was so much the countries could give to each other. Papaderos organized seminars where educators, philosophers, and religious leaders were invited to address audiences of those who believed in the aims of the institute he had founded on Crete.

Robert Fulghum attended such a seminar and was greatly impressed by the substance of the talks he heard. At the closing session, the founder, Papaderos, made appropriate comments and then asked the time-worn query, ''Are there any questions?'' After a moment of silence, Fulghum asked Papaderos, ''What is the meaning of life?'' - not to mock the noted professor, but to challenge him.

Realizing that the question was sincere, Papaderos said, ''I will answer your question.''

He then took out of his wallet the mirror fragment and related how he had played with it as a boy, until he realized that the mirror was not a toy, but was truly a metaphor for what he could do with his life. He could reflect light - truth - into all the dark recesses of human thought. He could leaven thinking just as the mirror could throw sunlight where light had never fallen.

Then Papaderos turned the mirror to throw light on the face and folded hands of Robert Fulghum.

We all have a great deal to learn from this simple example of the effectiveness of reflection. None of us are the light - not even the source of the light - but we can be the means by which light is reflected into the depths of hatred, despair, and terrorism.

Joseph B. Clough

Shaker Heights, Ohio

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