O Star (the fairest one in sight),
We grant your loftiness the right
To some obscurity of cloud —
It will not do to say of night,
Since dark is what brings out your light.
Choose Something Like a Star by Robert Frost – 1947
Does light consist of particles or waves? According to quantum mechanics the answer is “Yes.” After the last series on Darkwood Brew, it is clear that I have a long way to go simply to grasp in even the simplest ways all that scientific discovery has to share, but I am right at home exploring the philosophy behind it. So when a new school of thought enters the debate between two schools and tells them that they are both right (and both wrong) my inner philosopher can’t help but smile. For a very long time, the debate was between theories of light as particle versus light as wave. Such debates are fueled by an understanding of exclusivity…if A then not B and if B then not A. So if I have it right, quantum theory comes along and challenges the dualistic argumentation and instead offers a form of duality that embraces both. I love the way that the very term that separated (duality) becomes the solution through redefinition in particle-wave duality.
While I may be howling at the moon in my science, come along with me in the philosophy. Consider the duality of light and dark in the first day of the creation story in Genesis. God calls light into existence and then separates it from dark. In our typical way of thinking, we tend to jump to a dualistic versus mentality. We revel in metaphors of victory and defeat, black and white, all or nothing. Too quickly we jump to the conclusion that light, the thing that God speaks into being is good and therefore dark must be bad. Granted, this is not a front-of-the-brain examination, it is one of those subtle, even unconscious observation that then goes on to color our further thinking. If one is looking for winners and losers, good and bad, with no middle ground, then that is what one will find.
But it is critical to hear this myth in the context of balance and order. Light and dark are not simply opposites but they are complements of each other. They are in a necessary balance that reflects the order that the Creator is bringing out of chaos. When I consider how harsh and difficulty simple existence had to have been for the people who created and shared this creation myth, I am amazed that they could even begin to see an order in the creation that was evident, let alone worthy to praise, attributing it to divine intervention. One medium strength tornado ripping a scar through my hometown was enough to raise serious questions about the order of the universe for me, thank you very much. Still, the ancient Hebrews saw that the created order was marvelously working toward balance and order and could find in that God’s grace. They looked at the world and saw God’s intention for goodness. For them there was no need to choose between peanut butter and chocolate to determine the best flavor, they were glad to proclaim two great tastes that taste great together…or something like that.
If we can resist the urge to play favorites, we can learn from creation about the necessity of all things. We wouldn’t last long if we didn’t have light at all, but where would we be without the dark? The night sky is a marvel when we are free from light “pollution” (a term that proves it is possible to have too much of a good thing). But remember that the stars don’t shine any less during the day, it is just that we don’t see them due to the brightness of the sun. Robert Frost was right to praise the dark for that is what brings out the light of the stars. Darkness is required for many plants to trigger their regrowth. Darkness provides protection to some animals and opportunity to others. And in the end, darkness is truly not a separate entity but simply the absence of light (just as cold is the absence of heat). So perhaps the separating of light from dark that God does on the first day is no more than the ever present shades of gray that are the reality in which we dwell. Darkness is not a force for evil, but rather the natural state when light is lacking. On the first day of Creation, God brings into being a force that dispels darkness even when it is only the faintest glow. That is why we cling to the hope of that truth, poetically expressed in the Gospel of John that Jesus is the light of the world and that the darkness has not (indeed cannot) overcome it. When you feel overwhelmed by the lack of light in your life, simply remember that by speaking a word, God is able to give you the light you need.