My seven-month-old son crawls through the dining room, encounters a strip of sunlight playing through the trees onto the floor and tries to pick it up.
Suddenly light is alive again.
Every morning I do not register daylight, only that I have to arise, have to get started on a to-do list, and where in heaven’s name is the coffee?
But as his tiny fingers grasp in vain for the flashing yellow “object,” I remember. There is a flaming star that seems to revolve around our terrestrial universe. That is, until the scientific-minded amongst us correct our illusions and we realize that we are just a tiny speck being hurled in a mathematical path across what may be an infinity of other specks.
And for every question science answers, many others arise. Okay, so we have our trajectory plotted, thanks to a careful examination of the various sources and reflections of light coming towards us. But what the heck is light? Wave or particle? The mysteries appear to have no end.
It all begins with, why can’t we pick this thing up off the floor?
Sometimes it’s good to start over at the beginning. Babies are brilliant at inspiring such activity. Beginners mind, as Zen practitioners will inform us, is good for letting go of everything we think we know, of getting back to our senses, which are really the only tools we have to investigate with. These subjective windows called sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell, are the only method of acquiring “objective” data.
And a lot of the time it gets us where we want to be. However mysterious light is, we’ve figured out how to harness its power with photovoltaic cells. We’ve accepted its regular movement to the point that most of us no longer practice any rituals to ensure that the sun will return after night, after winter. Our scientific progress has innocuated us against any magical properties that might be present in the light.
We never think of how completely dependent we are on its steadfast output, our intimate gravitational bond, how everything we eat is ultimately founded upon photosynthesis. Every once in a while we see an amazing sunset that gives us pause, but even within that experience we are often mired in our baggage: previous sunsets, remembering a lost love, thinking of how much pollution contributes to the colors, melancholy at the closing of a day. How seldom do we just drink in the colors, allow the brightness to take over our eyes and our awareness.
How seldom do we reach for the light, like a baby, trying all over again to touch magic.