The interesting thing about light

The tl;dr—Understanding art is hard. Understanding the Bible is hard. Understanding life, making choices in the real world is hard. That’s the point of both art and the Bible. Stop trying to find the easy answers. That’s not the point of the Bible and it is not the point of art. Knowing scripture and what it says should lead us to be able to look at each other and say to each other “Yeah, life is hard, that was a hard decision to make. Let me help you. Let me be there for you. Not because I know the answer, but because I struggle with my own decisions and I need people, too.”

The interesting thing about light.

You cannot see light. You can see things reflecting light. You can see the light source. But the light itself, you cannot see.

Then both the light and the object reflecting light affect each other. How an object looks, the color of the object, will be affected by what wave lengths the light source emits. That’s why black light will make things look different than, say, a normal light bulb or the sun. The light reflected off the object affects how we see other things in the reflected light. Sunlight reflected off a green lawn will have a green cast. The green grass is acting like a filter reflecting only the colors that make it look green and absorbing the rest. That’s how we can see it as green.

Then, if there is more than one light source, each light source can affect how we perceive the other light sources. A lamp in a house can look very white until it is competing with sunlight. Sunlight is very cool, it has a lot of blue. As such it will make our household light bulbs look very yellow, even the cooler light from LED light bulbs.

But we don’t see sunlight as blue. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, it is very bright. Second, it has been our primary light color reference. We see all other light in relation to how we see sunlight. Our brains have adapted to sunlight as the primary vehicle of how our world looks.

Then (you thought that was all?) anything that light has to pass through filters the light. Our atmosphere filter’s sunlight. We would burn up if it didn’t. Lighting designers will put color filters in front of lights to make them more blue, or more red, or purple, any number of colors. This is to affect how the audience will see the stage or other object (such as buildings).

Effectively, there is no such thing as unfiltered light. All light as we experience it in this world is filtered through something, even if it is only the air. That’s why the moon can look orange, or the light of a sunset or sunrise will look different than midday. Particulates in the atmosphere affect the light coming from those sources. And since the moon is not actually a light source, it is reflecting sunlight, the moon itself acts as a filter for the sunlight it reflects.

Even if light passes through glass, it is being filtered. Both light’s intensity and color will be affected by the properties of the glass it passes through. Every time light passes through something the light on the other side will be less than the light that started. You may not be able to perceive the difference but it is measurable with the right equipment.

Lighting designers—performance, architectural, and interior designers—have to take light sources into consideration when thinking about the color of the objects being lit. By the choices we make in lighting, we can affect how we see everything.

There are a lot of metaphors for life all through that.

In my previous post I quote Sister Wendy, who had this to say in an interview with Bill Moyers when discussing the Serrano work Piss Christ.

“Comforting art is art that’s very easy to react to, and I might be tempted to say that Serrano’s Piss Christ is comforting art, in that everyone knows exactly what they think about it…
”…He had an immediate… he thinks he’s right, and he hasn’t had to think about it, obviously. Now that’s comforting, “so nice to know I’m right”. And there’s quite a lot of art that gives that instant satisfaction of feeling that I know I can judge this without having to look, without having to take the trouble. “I just know because it is so obvious”, that’s comforting. Where as you see the real art makes demands"

In this video the narrator tries to explain why Modern art is so bad:

In a video I posted previously the hosts try to explain why Modern art needs a different perspective to understand:

As I point out in a previous article, “My cat could do that (and probably has)”, even classic art is not as cut and dried as Modern art critics want to portray.

Really understanding art is not easy. No great art is ever simply about a pretty picture. As Sister Wendy points out, real art, great art, demands something from us.

The Bible is the same as art. The Bible makes demands. The Bible is not tying to make life easy or comfortable. The Bible is not simply about what is and isn’t sin. The Bible is not simple. We do our best to work the Bible out systematically. We go through great lengths to justify seeming contradictions. We study apologetics so we can answer every critic, be they atheists, agnostics, other religions, even other Christians, whether Catholic, Orthodox, Calvinist, Wesleyan, charismatic… you get the point.

But there is nothing easy about understanding the Bible. There are accounts of seeming genocide. Seeming contradictions of accounts. I’m not going to get into the specifics. All such issues have been discussed ad nauseum by both critics and the apologists who sought to answer the critics. It is all only a Google search away. If it interests you, you can find it.

As we’ve pursued this approach, steeped in Modernist philosophies and underpinnings, and beliefs that God does not change, that all we need to know is in scripture, that it is all knowable, that we must be able to rationally explain God and the Bible, I feel like we have missed the point of the Bible. We have missed the point of what it means to know that we have sinned, the point of sin.

Quite frankly I am thankful that the Bible has these issues. All these issues, the doubts and questions from the greats of faith in scripture, even Jesus himself when he wanted the cup taken away, If God’s word did not reflect impossible situations, impossible decisions, that it somehow made every decision we have to make have obvious, easy answers, it would not reflect the reality of living. That’s when it would become irrelevant to me. That would be a world that does not exist.

To think we are capable of rationally explaining the Bible is actually quite irrational, especially if we truly believe the Bible is God’s word. It is irrational to think that finite beings are capable of fully understanding something that we believe explains an infinite and eternal God.

Maybe we can explain rationally all the seeming irreconcilable differences in scripture, maybe the answer in the difficult passages can be known. Maybe we can remove all the filters between our side of the glass and the true source of light, but is that what we are supposed to do?

I think there are answers in scripture that explain what scripture is about. The point of Romans was not to explain how the rest of the world is steeped in sin. The point of Paul’s letter to the Roman’s was to point out how the Church is steeped in the same sins we accuse the rest of the world.

The point of knowing sin and about sin is so we can treat each other with respect and compassion. So we can freely practice hospitality. So we can weep or be joyous with each other, Christian or not. So we can do to the least of these as we would do to Jesus. So we can love God and our neighbor. So we can help and receive help from our “enemies”, as the Good Samaritan explains.

We have all sinned. Even as Christians. That should make us humble, not seek power and control over the “unsaved”. Knowing sin, knowing scripture and what is says should lead us to be able to look at each other and say to each other “Yeah, life is hard, that was a hard decision to make. Let me help you. Let me be there for you. Not because I know the answer, but because I struggle with my own decisions.”

We need to get away from using the Bible to point out the sin in everyone else. The Bible and the sin it points out, regardless of which sins you think are the important sins to know or avoid, is to show us that we all have sinned. The Bible is not exclusionary. We are all in the same boat. We’d best figure that out so we can navigate the tumultuous waters we are all in the middle of.

In one sense, the bible should actually make all this easier than we have made it for ourselves. We have created all these filters between us and what we are called to be. We have sought the comfort of knowing a god that doesn’t exist, an idol of God. I pray we all see this.

Thanks for reading



Now read this

About me

I am not a theologian, scholar, or academic. Nor am I a Grammy or Tony award winner. I am not an historian. Over my life as an artist I have mostly been the one to help other artists realize their art, particularly as a lighting designer... Continue →