A brief meditation on light

A brief meditation on light February 15, 2022

 

Earliest stars 400 million years post Big Bang
A NASA simulation of the first stars, about 400 million years after the Big Bang
(Wikimedia Commons public domain image)

 

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Come, Follow Me — Old Testament Study and Teaching Helps: Lesson 9, February 21–27: Genesis 24–27 — “The Covenant Is Renewed”

Jonn Claybaugh has supplied another useful set of brief notes for families, students, and teachers in the Come, Follow Me program.

 

Audio Roundtable: Come, Follow Me Old Testament Lesson 9 “The Covenant Is Renewed”: Genesis 24–27

The Interpreter Radio Roundtable for Come, Follow Me Old Testament Lesson 9, “The Covenant Is Renewed” on Genesis 24–27 features Bruce Webster and Mike Parker.  It has now been extracted from 16 January 2022 broadcast of the Interpreter Radio Show, liberated from commercial and other interruptions, archived, and made available to you at your convenience and at no charge. The complete 16 January 2022 program can be accessed at https://interpreterfoundation.org/interpreter-radio-show-January-16-2022/.  Every Sunday evening in the Valley of the Great Salt Lake, the Interpreter Radio Show can be heard between 7 PM and 9 PM (MDT), on K-TALK, AM 1640.   You can listen live on the Internet at ktalkmedia.com.  From anywhere.

 

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Here’s an interesting perspective from Michael Peterson (no relation) on the question of whether the Restored Church should be referred to as “the Mormon Church” or by its official, divinely given name, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

 

“To Call Us by Our Name (a Reasonable Request in the Age of Authenticity): It’s taken as an absolute necessity to call individuals and groups by their preferred identifications, even if those preferences shift. Why wouldn’t the same thing apply to an entire church?”

 

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American Evangelical Protestantism hasn’t exactly covered itself in glory during the past two years or so of pandemic, politics, and pandemic politics:

 

“Francis Collins on COVID-19 politics: ‘The culture war is literally killing people’: Many white evangelicals, said the former head of the National Institutes of Health, have been ‘victimized by the misinformation and lies and conspiracies that are floating around, particularly on social media and some of it in cable news.’”

 

“Former NIH Director Francis Collins Draws Fire for Vaccine Advocacy Among Leading Evangelicals”

 

“The Seeds of Political Violence Are Being Sown in Church: The new insurrection is being organized, in a sanctuary near you.”

 

I’ve hoped that American Latter-day Saints would outperform our Evangelical cousins in this matter (as in others).  But have we?  Sadly, I’m not sure.

 

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Everything begins with light.

It’s the cosmic energy out of which everything else proceeds.  Matter follows, in second place.

Amazingly, and in ways that run quite parallel to the principles of modern physics, the great world religions commonly describe light as the original power from which all else arises.  It is the source of everything.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.  And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.”  (Genesis 1:1-4, NIV)

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  (John 1:1-5, NIV)

“That Ultimate Truth is declared as the illuminator of all that illuminates, beyond the darkness of ignorance, residing within everyone.”  (Bhagavad Gita 13:18)

“God is the light of the heavens and the earth.  The likeness of his light is as a niche wherein is a lamp; the lamp is in a crystal, and the crystal, shining as if a pearl-like star, lit from the oil of a blessed olive tree that is neither of the east nor of the west.  The oil would almost give light of itself though no fire touches it.  Light upon light!  God guides to His Light whom He wills.”  (Qur’an 24:35, my translation)

“He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth; which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made.  As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made; as also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made; and the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand.  And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings; which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—the light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.”  (Doctrine and Covenants 88:6-13)

“I am the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”  (Doctrine and Covenants 93:2)

Light is everywhere.  Even when we don’t see it.

And, of course, in fact the human eye can see only a small portion of the light spectrum between short x-rays on one side and long radio waves on the other.

And, even within the visible spectrum, we don’t see light directly.  We only see it by means of its reflection from objects.  Curiously, light itself cannot be seen.  Light is invisible.

We see it, accordingly, only indirectly.  Every visible object sends light to our eyes, because light illuminates all such objects.  But light does not and cannot illuminate itself.

Thus, billions of stars shine in the cosmos, but, because nothing in it reflects their light, space itself remains dark.  Yet it is filled with light.

And this is good for us.  If light itself were visible, we would be lost in a kind of fog of light.  But the invisibility of light allows us to see the universe around us.  “It is,” writes Lorenz Marti, “pure selflessness [reine Selbstlosigkeit].  It makes everything visible, just not itself.”

For this and other reasons, light appears in many cultures as a holy and primordial Power that flows through the entire cosmos.  It is a symbol for the divine — present everywhere but fully grasped nowhere.

In current physics, light appears to be both wave and particle, depending upon how it’s examined.  What is it really?  Both.  And neither.  It’s like a wave.  It’s like a particle.  But we really don’t know what it is.

And yet, without light, there would be no life, and no world as we know it.  Everything visible is a reflection of the invisible light.

Moreover, light contains all of the colors.  It makes our world vivid and colorful.  The leaf of a tree appears green because it reflects the green portion of the Sun’s rays.  The sky appears to be blue because of the way the Sun’s rays interact with atmospheric particles. “And,” observes Marti, “the rose is red because it’s touched by light but doesn’t withhold this light for itself.  Instead, it gives that light further, to the human eye.”

“Licht singt tausendfache Lieder,” wrote Hermann Hesse (1877-1962).  “Light sings songs by the thousands.”

[The foregoing was inspired by and, to a considerable degree, paraphrases Lorenz Marti, Eine Hand voll Sternenstaub: Was das Universum über das Glück des Daseins erzählt (Freiburg: Herder, 2014), 53-55.]

 

 

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