We used to have a better language for light, but lately we stick to words like LED, lumens, and color temperature. Necessary, perhaps, but not particularly inspiring.
In history, we used words like Helios, Prometheus, Zeus, and Ra that belied our dependence on light. We organized our temples, our festivals, our stonehenges around light. We wrote down the first spoken words of Yahweh: “Let there be light.”
And it was good.
Helios was the ancient Greek god of the sun. Prometheus is best known for bringing fire to humans. Zeus threw lightning bolts, and the ancient Egyptians worshiped the sun god Ra.
Until 130 years ago, we organized our buildings around available light, cutting light wells through the center, hanging mirrors to direct sun indoors, installing huge windows to take advantage of free light.
In the late 1800’s, Thomas Edison said “Let there be incandescent light.”
And it was… convenient.
We lost something. We lost the beauty of light, the power of light, the magic of light. We lost our language of light.
Imagine that the God of the Universe gave you a gift. You open the box, reach in, and pull out a pair of shoes. Sigh. You already have shoes. You mumble an obligatory thanks and put the shoes in the back of your closet. How many of us put light into the back of our proverbial closet, treating it like a necessity, no more than a utility?
But light is a gift from the God of the Universe. Those shoes you put away in the closet without ever wearing? Turns out they magically morph from the finest dress shoes into the fastest running shoes, reading your mind and becoming the perfect shoe for every occasion. They can help you do things better, faster.
So you missed the shoes. Oh well. Bet you didn’t know that the shoes were not the only gift in the box. If you had dug a little deeper, you would have found a baseball cap. Not an ordinary baseball cap, of course, but one that clears your mind, focuses your intelligence, and reveals what is around you more clearly than ever when you put it on your head. It helps you know more.
And the sweater, deeper in the gift box, repels rain, keeps you warm in the winter, and magically keeps you cool in the summer, and comforts you when you are sad. It helps you feel better.
There’s more, of course, like a backpack that instantly fills with whatever you might need, helping you change easily from moment to moment. The last gift is a picture book of your entire life, with pages that fill as you live new moments. It is your story.
The gifts in the box help you do better, know more, feel better, change easier, and tell your story. Those are the five gifts of light, and too many of us leave most of them unwrapped.
Light isn’t the most important gift we received. But it might have been the first. Don’t leave it in the box.