I once described photography as “sculpting in light.” It was one of those things that immediately impressed me when I said it, to the point where I wondered if I had actually read it somewhere else. If you ever wondered why your photos never come out like you want, chances are the thing your missing is simply proper lighting. Photographers are always chasing the light. It’s their medium. Painters have paint. Sculptors clay.
The more I think about it, though, I wonder if art, in any form, might just be that: seeking out the light. It’s a thought. I’ll have to craft it more, but it’s an intriguing start. I know it’s true for more than just the visual arts. It works for writing, too. And I know because look at all the metaphors we have for it. Look at all the quotes.
Since I’m learning so much about how art and creativity are a natural and necessary part of living, I know life is about seeking out the light. And just like with art, that’s not always an easy thing to do.
On a family trip many years ago, we took a tour of an old coal mine. It was actually kind of interesting and memorable for one part more than anything: they turned the lights off. There were lights strung up all along the tour route, but we got to a dead end, where the miners stopped digging a hundred years ago, and the tour guide wanted to show us what it was like for miners working underground like this. So, he turned off the lights for 30 seconds, and, for the first time in probably all our lives, we experienced total darkness.
It felt like disappearing, like blinking out of existence. There are no points of reference, nothing to prove you exist, except for the sound of your own breath, and even that feels like a disconnected, phantom noise.
They say anxiety lies, and it’s true. I know it’s true, but there are days I forget.
Anxiety is like darkness, or maybe vice versa. Darkness lies. It tells you there’s nothing there. It tells you that it goes on forever, that there’s nothing outside or it nor will there ever be. Darkness makes you doubt light exists, makes you think no light could ever fill it. We know that’s true, but there are days we forget.
I was reminded of that yesterday. I was reminded how easy it is to forget that the darkness isn’t the only thing, that all light outshines it.
I was sitting on a bench, in a church, waiting for the service to start. It was hot, even in the A/C, so I took off my hat, which is something I’ve found myself doing less often in public spaces lately. I’ve always had hat-hair issues, which has been further compounded by the patchy thinning going on up there. But I took it off, and it took me a second but I blinked.
Everything had suddenly become brighter. Like the sun peeking out on a cloudy day. I was inside, of course. The room hadn’t gotten brighter. It just looked brighter because I wasn’t wearing a hat. Somehow, not having a shade over my eyes helped me notice all the light that filled the space.
It’s a rather silly, simple lesson. Except that I noticed it, and I’m a firm believer in recognizing when something triggers your awareness. These things are rarely as coincidental or accidental as we think. It’s easy to forget even the simple things, so we need to pay attention.
Because there’s a lot of light. I know that’s hard to believe sometimes. I know how darkness lies. I know how anxiety lies. And I know how easy it is to forget that they lie. I’m not looking to give a sappy bit of consolation. Not now, of all times. I know personally how little that helps.
I also know what it’s like to walk around with a shade over your eyes, that little bit of darkness that dims the light. You might think it’s nothing, that it doesn’t really change how you see things. You might even think, like me, that you have to keep the shade, that it’s somehow showing you a clearer, more accurate picture of the world. It’s not. You don’t have to wear it.
There’s this feeling that some light isn’t strong enough against the darkness. That’s a lie. All light is stronger than darkness. That’s why we create, even if we’re not sure if what we create is ever going to have an impact. That’s why we believe, why we hope in the face of the impossible. Why even the simplest, kind act matters and matters infinitely.
Because light does not lie. So we should seek out the light.
Let’s all chase the light.