Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Observations on Light

When Hurricane Irene blew through a few weeks ago, we lost power for about 36 hours. I'm not complaining. It was sort of like camping, which I generally enjoy. However, the experience made me appreciate light in a new way. Now, I'm no Newton or Huygens, but I thought I'd share a couple of observations I made during that time.

Observation 1: "I must work...while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work." [John 9:4] 
I have long maintained that the electric lightbulb is one of the worst inventions ever. Instead of resting at sunset, we keep working, working, working until fatigue forces us to bed. During our power outage, though, I discovered how much I rely on electric light to extend the day and buy me some extra time -- because I want to keep working, working, working.

BTW, in case you're interested in what a marble track
from hell looks like, here is an image of it & all
its 400+ pieces. It was a Christmas gift last year.
Still trying to decide if the person who gave it to us
really likes us or not.
On our first day without power, I spent most of the daytime assembling a marble track from hell. Normally, this wouldn't be an issue, but I wasted so much of the day, that I found myself trying to mop and clean up late at night by candlelight. It was eye-straining, painful, and even counterproductive as hot wax dripped all over the place.

The next morning, I rose at the break of day in order to fold laundry, clean up, organize piles, etc. I couldn't help but feel a great sense of urgency to take full advantage of the light while it lasted because nighttime was advancing all too quickly.

Fortunately, the power came on again about mid-day, but I hope not to lose that pressure to get things done -- in all areas of my life. I frequently forget that my life is just a breath of wind, here and gone, so that 36-hour blackout was an excellent reminder to redeem the time.

Observation 2: "A light to all who are in the house" [Matthew 5:15]
During the blackout, I ushered the kids upstairs to bed, put them to sleep, blew out all the candles, and laid down myself. Then I remembered that I had, as I invariably do, left something downstairs. Not having any matches or a flashlight with me, I stumbled downstairs in total darkness until I found a candle and matches. Then with my candle, I easily retrieved my object and went back to bed.

Once upstairs, I set the candle down and realized, "Arrgh, I forgot something else." This time, I didn't feel like getting any drippy wax on my hand, so I left the candle burning in my room while fetching whatever it was I'd forgotten. On the return trip upstairs, it hit me. I noticed that I didn't have nearly the same difficulty managing the steps as I'd when I stumbled down them on the previous trip in total darkness.

I thought this curious since I couldn't see the candle at all. But the light was unmistakable. It traveled from my bedroom and down the turns of the staircase just enough for me to make out the shadowy steps I had to take. Even though the source of light was so slight and tenuous, it was enough to pierce the complete and utter darkness that had existed before. It amazed me that the all the darkness in a two-story colonial couldn't stand up to a flicker from a single taper. A tiny scrap of light may look insignificant, but it has real penetrating power.


So these are my two "great" insights from the storm (though as you can see from the quotes, Jesus thought of them a long time ago. Ah well, I suppose I could do worse than to come up with the same conclusions as God. ;-)

Ok, one last thought about light -- I want to share this video on creating water bottle lights. Someone sent it to me after the storm had already passed, but I thought it was brilliant. It shows how to create cheap lighting for the underprivileged living in slums. Why do I love this video so much? I don't know. I like the ingenuity of design and the cool recycle. Mostly, though, I love how this invention makes light so freely and easily accessible to everyone --because everyone should have the opportunity to live in light.


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