One evening, a blind youth was returning home from his grandma’s village. “Take a diya (lamp) with you on your way home,” advised his grandma. The youth laughed, “For me, what’s the difference between night and day?” His grandma explained, “But with a diya in hand people will not bump into you.” Agreeing, the youth began walking through the darkness with a diya whereupon someone dashed into him. He cried: “Can’t you see my diya?” The passerby replied, “Sorry, your diya is extinguished!”
January 1, 2015, we’ll be awakening into United Nations’ “International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies”. Let’s throw some light on light so as to dispel darkness and be lights in our world, today.
Light is sublime sacred symbol. Be it during Diwali, the festival of lights, or in a fire temple of Parsees, light symbolises divine power and presence. In Genesis, the Bible’s first book, light springs forth as God’s first creation, and in Revelation, it’s last, God’s light will dispel darkness: “We’ll need no light of lamp or sun; for God will be our light.”
In poetic personification, the psalms exhort the sun, moon and stars to praise God; for God “commanded and they were created”. During the Exodus, God leads his people through the wilderness “by night in a pillar of fire to give them light”. Thus, the Bible sees light as symbol of creation, truth, goodness, awareness, judgment, blessing, sanctification and salvation. Jesus declares himself to be “the light of the world” and exhorts his disciples: “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to God.” He also cautions about the perennial conflict between light and darkness.
So beware, choose light!
Beyond religious nuances, light is of great value in the fields of science and technology. 2015 coincides with the anniversaries of a series of milestones in the history of the science of light: the works on optics by Ibn Al-Haytham in 1015, the notion of light as waves proposed by Fresnel in 1815 and Einstein’s theory of the photoelectric effect in 1905. We salute these enlightened scientists who lightened human pathways.
You’ll probably make New Year resolutions, won’t you? The Latin word re-solutus is past participle of re-solvere, meaning, “to loosen up or break down”. Making resolutions, we need to “break down” our attitudes, behaviours into smaller parts to analyse them. Let’s not decide to do extraordinary things but ordinary things in an extraordinary way: be more polite, work more, be sensitive to God-others-nature, etc.
With enlightened minds and hearts aglow, let’s wish each other a “Light Year” 2015!
Francis Gonsalves is a professor of theology