Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Meditation on Light

It has always been a source of amusement to me that insects are so attracted to light. I still laugh at the scene from Pixar’s A Bug’s Life, where we see two flies next to a bug zapper.  As the one fly approaches the light in a trance-like state, the first fly screams, “No Harry, no! Don’t look at the light!” to which fly number two responds in a monotone voice, moments before perishing, “I can’t help it. It’s so beautiful!”

We laugh, but over the years I have noticed that humans, too share this attraction to light. Obviously not unto death in the same way as an insect, but have you ever been riding passenger in a car at night down a mountain road?  Perhaps this is a personal issue, but on the rare occasion that a car passes by going the other direction, I find it very hard to keep my eyes from staring straight into the light.  It ruins my night vision and even hurts a little, but it takes quite a bit of self control to keep from staring straight into the oncoming headlights.  But why is that? Why this attraction to the light?  I believe that man was created with a need for light.  Not only does sunlight provide our bodies with the necessary Vitamin D, but it can also provide us with comfort and peace when used as a night-light for children, etc.

But where does this need come from?  Man was created with a desire to be with God, a desire that was no longer able to be satisfied after the fall.  No longer could man commune with God in the same way.  James 1:17 calls God “the Father of the heavenly lights” (NIV).   In Revelation 21:23, we are told that the city of God “does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.”  So it seems that our desire to be close to light stems from our desire to be close to God.

Now yesterday as I sat on the edge of a cliff staring out at North Chickamauga Pocket Wilderness, I began to think about how much people miss by not looking up.  There is so much beauty contained outside of the usual 45° that we tend to look at.  Because of this, far too many people in my generation have never seen a shooting star, never fully appreciated a sunset, and never watched magnificent thunder clouds roll in over the land.  As I sat there staring out over the river stretching out below me, I contemplated the reason for such a tragedy.  Then it occurred to me that it all had to do with light.

Let me explain myself.  Ancient civilizations used the sky to tell them everything.  The sky told them when the seasons changed, what direction they were traveling, and even what time it was.  All of the famous explorers that we learned about in school, Columbus, Magellan, Marco Polo, etc. found their way around the world by the stars.  But skip ahead a couple hundred years to the invention of the light bulb.  Now whole cities could be lit with the installation of light bulbs.  No longer did man need to use the light of the moon to walk by night when he had a street light that worked much more conveniently.  Skip ahead another century and a half, and you have reached present day.  Now the light from metropolitan cities blots out the night sky, every person has a smart phone that they can text, surf the web, and play games on.  The brightest, most immediate source of light is no longer the night sky, it is our technology.  So it occurred to me that due to man’s innate attraction to light, he naturally gravitates toward the brightest, or most immediate source.  Why look up at the night sky when the lights of the city block it out, and the light of our iPhones is a much more immediate source.

What a shame it is that my generation does not escape the man-made light for the natural light more often.  “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1, NIV), yet we would rather stare at the latest YouTube video of a meteor that fell in Russia than actually go outside and find our own shooting star.  The man-made light is so attractive to us that I see more and more couples sitting next to each other texting on their phones, and less and less people from my generation know what it is like to stare up at the stars with the one you love.­  So let me encourage you not to let the summer pass by without finding the Milky Way.  Detach yourself from your electronics, and look up once in a while! You might just be amazed at what you see...

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