I believe light is a gift that can help us live better lives. A powerful combination of human history, personal experience, and deepening research backs me up: light can help us sleep better, wake up easier, heal faster, feel happier, suffer less pain, reduce the symptoms of aging…and the list goes on.
My teenage sons just premiered their first live-action movie, a Star Wars fan film. I am steeped in the dark side and light side of the Force; there is always both sides. As I work harder and harder to share the gift of light with the world, I am confronted more frequently by the dark side, or how lighting (notice the -ing) can hurt us. I even believe some of it is deliberate.
I like to blame Thomas Edison for getting us off on the wrong foot, though I could equally blame the whale oil lamp industry for the first lighting-caused global mess. Edison, a real genius, gave us a nice alternative to hunting whales to the brink of extinction. So how could that be wrong?
Thomas Edison was convinced he could make millions of dollars selling us electric power. He envisioned General Electric power plants across the world, sending him cash in a constant current. Manufacturers were quick to sign up when the electric motor proved more reliable and easier to maintain than steam engines. But why would anyone want electricity in the home? Edison faced strong public resistance; electricity was cast in the role of deadly magic.
Then Edison had the first light bulb moment, literally. Everyone- not just manufacturers- would want to buy an electric light bulb. Everyone, everyone, would plug into his utility company.
But when lighting is delivered as a utility, it is too easy for us to treat it as a utility and lose sight of the gift. Perhaps that is why there are more ways for light to hurt us than ever before.
Rapid advancement of technology is combining with ever-fickle style trends (including styles that make no logical sense whatsoever) to throw manufacturing into chaos. Lighting factories have to adapt quickly to stay relevant and can be forced to bring new products to market fast. Sometimes, the process is so fast that the products are not very good and do not last or perform as predicted. And that hurts.
Retailers can’t keep up, either, especially when manufacturers are pushing new products out daily. Many stores and websites offer us a truly bewildering buffet of options- and some of those options are just plain rotten. If you need an example, check out my crazy adventure to buy a lightbulb.
Electricians, trained in electrical safety, code compliance, wiring and breakers, are often unfairly put in charge of residential lighting decisions. Many are trapped into cutting lighting down to the bare minimum to keep their bids competitive, and the homeowners suffer.
And, finally, lighting is sometimes sold as “the jewelry of the home,” but jewelry can be unnecessarily expensive and, well, practically useless. Light, on the other hand, does not need to be crazy expensive and is far from useless.
How do you get from lighting that hurts to light that helps? That’s my mission. Perhaps I’ll write a post about the bridge across the abyss….