Light Thoughts

lightLight and shadow are the essence of photography. Where light and shadow are together, there is something to see and an image can be made. These polar opposites make up the visual part of this life; they are both required in order to see anything. Opposites are necessary in order to understand.

I believe that most things in life have their opposite. Order and chaos. Gorgeous September days and ice storms in March. Chocolate cake and pickled eggs. Sometimes the opposite of something is not as simple as we were taught when we were young… compassion and hatred are opposites in a way, but as feelings they oppose apathy and are therefore part of a triangle of opposites. It can get complex, but opposition is a necessary possibility in this life. It’s not that all bad things are necessary, just that they must be allowed. In order to have real agency, there must be the option to choose, and thus a full range of choices available. It’s partly regrettable and partly beautiful.

Close your eyes for a moment, then open them. Why is vision the only one of the five senses we can turn off while we are awake? What is the purpose of that small difference? We blink to renew the moisture in our eyes and we sleep with our eyes closed so they don’t dry out. Couldn’t they have been made another way? Possibly, but I like the system Heavenly Father gave us because it affords choices- options- regarding what we take into our brains. We don’t have such a total level of choice when it comes to the other senses and it would certainly come in handy sometimes.

Light is truth. Light is power, knowledge, Spirit and glory. Doctrine and Covenants section 88 is replete with all manner of light. Trying to understand the many scriptural descriptions of light is like trying to understand love. Love is some kind of amazing gift which was not created along with this earth and is not subject to the laws thereof. Light also comes to us (literally) from Heaven and is as difficult to hold in our hands as love, though we understand its governing laws slightly better.

Light has a practical side that love mirrors in a spiritual manner. The sun comes up each morning and physically lights our way. The moon and stars give us light, guidance, and a measure of time and seasons by night. Countless forms of life on earth are dependent on physical light for their existence from day to day. It sounds a lot like the love of God.

The Light (i.e. Christ) shineth in the darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not and neither does the darkness have any power to extinguish that Light. For a long time I kept a small handout from a Primary lesson in my scripture case which read, “There is not enough darkness in all the world to put out the light of even one small candle” (attributed to Robert Alden). A few Nephites might believe otherwise, but light has total power over darkness. It’s so universally true that we take it for granted. To me it is a manifestation of the power of Christ. It’s also true that a light source’s warmth and ability to illuminate us diminish the farther we are from it. Any nighttime outdoor photograph taken with a small camera’s pop-up flash serves to illustrate this point in a physical way, but it works as a spiritual analogy as well: the farther I am from God spiritually, the darker and colder my life is, and I yearn to draw near the light again.

I have struggled to understand the sparse words in Matthew 6:22, “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.” My eyes allow me to choose what I see, thus I have a measure of control over what I take into my mind and I am given another way to use my agency in this life. “Behold, here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light” (D&C 93:31). I can choose to shut the light out of my life or to let it fill me, physically and spiritually.

For my eye to be “single” (often followed by “to His glory”), I have to give up my own perceptions and see as God sees, want what He wants, and do as He does. If I could ever achieve that goal, I might actually be full of light, truth, knowledge, power, glory, and the Spirit. Life is made up of light and shadow. I choose light.

7 comments for “Light Thoughts

  1. January 11, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    Interesting topic, Maren, and an illuminating post.

  2. CarolY
    January 11, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    Thanks, Maren, this fits in well with Gospel Principles lesson # 3 which I get to teach next month. I like that light and shadow are not all just black and white. And the photographs are so lovely.

  3. Marc Bohn
    January 11, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    Thanks for these meditations.

  4. January 12, 2010 at 12:41 am

    Extraordinary . . .

  5. January 12, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    Thanks for the thoughts and image, Maren. It brightened up my day.

  6. James Olsen
    January 12, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    Indeed, a complex and very worthwhile subject to ponder. I particularly find the need for contrast in order to have an intelligible image fascinating. It’s the same with other aspects of intelligibility and meaning. Also, it’s fascinating to consider the way that our vision is unified with our other senses: we don’t just see shades of greys on our church carpet walls, we SEE texture. Funeral potatoes are SEEN as appetizing (or vomit inducing).

    p.s. Many thanks to your family’s efforts in making our stay in Vermont two summers ago one of the more worthwhile trips we’ve taken.

  7. brigham
    January 13, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    The contrast between chocolate cake and pickled eggs is brilliant. Thanks for that.

Comments are closed.