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Today, the twenty-first day of January in the Year of our Lord Two Thousand and Thirteen, is a day that will live long in the memory.

Oh not cos of some shenanigans with a President across the pond, or at least not only for that.  Not even for the fact that its Martin Luther King day, although that’s pretty cool too.  No, today will live long, in my memory at least, because today is the day that i saved my lampshade.

I didn’t set out to save a lampshade.  Like so many of the best stories, the purpose of my journey only became apparent in the midst of it.  My initial intention as I schlepped out in the gathering slush was to buy plumbing bits and to look at blinds.  It wasn’t until I’d finished with the blinds and embarked for the plumbing aisle that I discovered the subject of this tale.  It was obscured by three superficially similar but ultimately entirely different lampshades, that had initially attracted my attention.  I needed a lampshade for my bedroom and these looked like they might fit the bill.  I liked the design – one of those wicker ball type things – and the colour was perfect, but… they seemed poorly put together; there was something just not quite right about them.  And this was when what is now my lampshade caught my eye.  Maybe it was from a previous batch, or perhaps even a different supplier… whatever the reason, this lampshade had a much denser and more even weave.  It had a look to it that felt right and I knew I had found my lampshade! 

All was well, except of course that the path of true home decor never does run smooth.  The lampshade had lost all its packaging and a few of the threads that made it up had become worn and come loose.  No big deal in itself, but crucially, the clip that would hold the lampshade onto the light fitting was missing.  My lampshade, whilst beautiful, was essentially useless.

I think most people at this point would have bought one of the similar lampshades, come home and fitted it without difficulty or a second thought and got on with their lives.  Maybe some people would have left all the lampshades and looked out for similar products elsewhere.  I am not most people.  I did not do this.  I could not do this.  It was far too late.  I had now formed an emotional bond with the lampshade.  There was no going back.  This was now a rescue mission. 

I’ve already told you I was looking for plumbing products and if i now tell you I know nothing about plumbing you might begin to see that I don’t tend to do things the easy way.  I looked at this lampshade that I felt, because of its tight and intricate weave, would look unusually beautiful with the light shining out of it, but that I could also see was missing all the practical bits, and I saw a metaphore for how I – rightly or wrongly – view myself.  I was now, God help me, empathising with the lampshade.  Not just that; identifying with it. 

Like the lampshade, I am far from practical.  I bought a wreck of a house partly out of sheer, naive folly and partly out of a bloody minded, do or die attempt to develop some kind of facility for the actually physical, rather than merely theoretical.  But its still a work in progress; indeed my life in general is. 

In the same way that any beauty or purpose the lampshade may have had was undermined by what it lacked, I often feel the frustration that results from the sensation that there are crucial parts missing, severely impeding the functionality of the whole.

So I had a reason for choosing this awkward and difficult lampshade.  More than that, though, i wasn’t after just a lampshade anymore; I had caught a sniff of the thread of a story.  Most people when they lie in bed and stare up at the ceiling see a lampshade.  I am going to see a story.  And not just any story – a redemption story.  A story about how a beautiful, broken thing was rescued and tenderly carried back through the snow and the cold and, in true darkest-hour-is-just-before-dawn style, the hail and biting wind that shot up out of nowhere as we made the final turn.  A story about how that broken thing will be mended so that it can perform the task for which it was created.  A story about how the frustration of beauty without purpose was transformed to beauty with not just purpose but also identity and meaning.  I got all this from a lampshade that most people would dismiss as broken, and the store might even have thrown away.  I’m kinda weird like that, but i’m also kinda glad, at least on this occasion, cos it’s gonna be great fixing this lampshade all up and seeing the result of that labour.  It’s certainly not the easy way but it is good, and it is satisfying and it is meaningful.

And more than that; because I am a romantic, and because I still at least have, if not definitely faith then certainly hope, and because this is how redemption stories work, I can’t help but want to draw a parallel with the possibility that something far beyond me looks at me like I look at my lampshade.  I don’t know, I’m not sure that I even believe, but I sure hope so.  I hope I’m not still sitting on the shelf (ha!) in the store and there’s no-one and nothing out there and no story to this existence and no hope for the brokenness and no chance that the beauty and meaning that aches to pour out of each of us could ever come to fruition.

No.  I know i’m a long way from home yet, and I’m certainly not all fixed up and the light is definitely not shining, but I hope I’ve made a start on the journey.  I hope I’m on the way. 

And in the meantime, i have a lampshade to restore.



  1. Love this. Partly because I am now entertaining myself by thinking up titles of your little parable (‘The Prodigal Lampshade’,’The Lampshade Redemption’,’Lampshade none the richer’, etc.), which will no doubt amuse no-one but myself.
    Sorry. I’ll behave now. Yay for hope! And any wispy hints of faith.

    • Well it amused me as well, so that’s two of us. I like the idea of the lampshade redemption especially. Does Morgan Freeman get to play me or the lampshade?

  2. Hi Linus – treading tentatively here as there is no electronic equivalent of honey vodka to ease the difficulties which seem an inescapable part of digital conversation – so a very cautious question/comment from me. Well maybe cautious is not quite the word but I don’t know what is – gentle? Light? At any rate, what follows is not an attempt to trample over your soul and it is certainly NOT indicative of any sort of negative evaluative judgement (another bad word from the religious baggage point of view!) on your lampshade story.. It’s simply a musing out-loud from one who also holds onto the hope of the Incarnation – and tries to understand what that means in a landscape where the old waymarks and lights of certainty have either long since vanished, or turned into ignes fatui to be avoided at all costs!

    So my instinctive question is…..why do you couch your story so strongly in terms of utility? Or to come at it another way – why does beauty have to be allied to functional usefullnes in order for it to have meaning and value? I guess what I’m fumbling towards is the feeling that perhaps the lampshade is not the source but has instead become the instrument of a story you already know…… and thus to wondering whether if one could actually let go of that narrative for a moment, your lampshade could open up the door to a very different articulation of the connections between beauty, brokeness and resurrection. Does that make any kind of sense? Regards, Pat

    • Pat your sensitivity does you great credit but in this case is unnecessary – I think its a great question… But I will wait until tomorrow when I have more time and a computer – rather than just my phone – to give you a proper answer. In the meantime I will just say this: I wish there was such a thing as digital honey vodka!

        • Pat
        • Posted January 25, 2013 at 10:40
        • Permalink

        😀 Me too! I also need to track down a bottle of the real stuff sometime.
        Look forward to hearing more as and when time and tools are with you again.

    • OK. Weekend was a bit of a write off. Apologies for delay. Here is the much anticipated official reply if everyone hasn’t lost interest and wandered off by now…

      You’re right, i do have a bit of a thing about utility, as can be seen in this thread, and if you have the time i think its quite an interesting discussion that developed between me, Robb and Tim as well as a couple of others – i’d certainly be interested in your thoughts on it Pat (and anyone else reading this, for that matter).

      And you’re right that a large part of my excitement as i started to formulate the above essay was in finding a really fitting metaphore for a story that really already existed in that it is the story i tell myself about me.

      But i would affirm the following points:

      1) Despite its aesthetic prettiness, i wouldn’t have bought the lampshade as an ornament – if i didn’t think i could fix it so that it would be able to perform its intended function i wouldn’t have bought it.

      2) i do get genuinely very frustrated when i feel like i am making a hash of life, and feeling dysfunctional is really not a good feeling. Conversely, managing to do life well – and especially being helpful to other people – gives me a lot of satisfaction/feeling of self worth. Whether that’s healthy or not i don’t know, but it is true.

      3) There is a celebration inherent in something good that had been taken away being returned to a person or object. Whether that is the ability to walk, or the ability to hang from a lamp, or a feeling of value or self worth*. These things make people’s hearts sing in an utterly disproportionate way. I think the fact that human beings resonate so strongly with the joy of some attribute or ability being returned says a lot about the human condition. I’m not quite sure how a redemption story is a redemption story unless something good that was lacking is returned to the subject of the story?

      So i guess my question back is: Do you have in mind a redemption story that is about something being returned to us (humanity) that is not about utility, or do you have in mind a story that is about “beauty, brokeness and resurrection”, but that is not a redemption story?

      *And yes such feelings can come from many sources, not all linked to utility, but utility is one source of this.

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. By Recycling | stirringthepensieve on 07 Apr 2013 at 6:34 pm

    […] *See also this story by Linus on the same theme, which I like to call ‘The Lampshade Redemption’: […]

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