Light (and the absence of)

25 Oct 07

This morning, as I walked down the path flanked by fields of horses and crops, on the way to the train station, it struck me how much more peaceful it seemed in the gentle pre-dawn light. It wasn’t particularly cold – being bitter and dark would probably not have been so pleasant… It was, rather, just the right sort of temperature so that I barely thought about what temperature it was – a polite, unassuming, autumnal breeze, just enough to remind one that one was outside and just cold enough so that I would probably be a little too cold if I didn’t have my light, smart(ish) pullover on.

Speaking of light…

I then had to endure 4-5 minutes of walking alongside the main road, with noisy, headlamps-glaring traffic crashing along beside me… I know there’s good reasons why cars and things have their headlamps on when it’s dark and stuff, but Jeez! Sometimes! What a contrast!

Well… like I was saying (or getting round to saying)…

Light… it’s an overrated concept. Don’t you think? As was previously alluded to, I concede that there are times when it is necessary (I would, for example, feel a little uncomfortable at the prospect of being operated on by the diffuse illumination of jars of glow-worms)… but I would also suggest that there is a little too much of it in the world. As an idler, I can very much “get with” the concept, as purported by Tom Hodgkinson (in How to be Idle, or it might have been How to be Free), of leaving the lights low, so that one does not notice the dirt so much and therefore one cuts down on the housework. Also, something I don’t think I’ve mentioned is that in my girlfriend’s recent photography exhibition, being in a National Trust property, the lighting was generally quite low – particularly so in the “Domestic Installation”; consisting, as it did, of a number of smaller, more quaintly/quirkily framed images, situated in a study which was kept at a particularly subdued state of illumination, on account of the delicate nature of the furniture and other centuries-old items contained therein. There were, inevitably, some complaints about the lack of light, but the fact of such encouraged people to get closer to the images, pick them up even (pick up pieces of art? The scandal!)… and with the subtly changing natural daylight which trickled in through the windows (only a single, partially blinded one, in the case of the domestic installation), one’s personal experience of viewing the images also changed as the hours drifted by…

One may, if one is not artistically inclined, consider the above example to be something of a pretentious one; but consider, if you will, the wider implications of such…

In so many modern situations… spaces… buildings… (including white-wall art galleries, particularly those of recent construction)… we are treated to such glaring, uncompromising illumination, that there is so often one way to see things and one way only. Natural light, and the flickering, dancing diffuseness of an open flame (which would NEVER be permitted by the gods and their acolytes of Health & Safety, under ANY conditions (except, perhaps, in a restaurant)), have lost their ability to charm, humble, even inspire us, and remind us that there was life before electricity. In the urban outdoors, neon- and sodium-strewn that it is, we get the merest glimpse of the natural luminescent rhythms which the bodies of our ancestors lived in strict attunement to… But I implore you, whenever you are permitted a window in your busy, brightly lit schedules, to get away from the buildings, the strip-lights, the endless stream of headlamps, and to experience – free from the intrusion of the various progeny of Edison – an ancient pink-skyed dawn… a misty, autumnal morning… the uncluttered powerful dazzle of a summer’s afternoon… the humbling, monochromatic firmament of a midnight sky…


Sit in a dark room with a candle… and just imagine…


2 comments on “Light (and the absence of)

  1. Erich says:

    After reading this I got up from my computer chair and looked through the window at the fading light and the peaceful scene outside – so beautiful. Makes me want to change the song lyrics from Aspects of Love to “Light, light changes everything …”.

  2. pepsoid says:

    Thank you, Erich! 🙂

    Always nice to know when I have inspired someone to positive action – even if it’s just getting up and looking out the window! 😉

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