The Intimacy of Light

Light creates and defines space.

From the darkness we are revealed intimately. Alone. Together. The oldest storytellers had a single prop. And it was light. And it was good. The fire in the jungle clearing held dangers at bay and allowed the storyteller to spark the imaginations of the audience.

We use light to define space both physically and emotionally. The intimacy of a candle lit dinner for two speaks to a different notion of space and intimacy than a fluorescent lit cafeteria. Yet, it is not the physical space which makes this intimacy. It is the light. That same cafeteria with tables laid out, lit by candles, fluorescent lights turned off, becomes at once a space of intimacy. Close, we turn towards one another, lit in the soft glow of the candle, and we share our secrets.

The light creates not only space in which we might speak and act, it creates limits and walls. It bounds space as much as space is opened up. As the campfire light tapers off and disappears into the dense jungle, our intimate space of storytelling ends and the walls of the jungle rise up. The flicker and jump of the flame shifts those walls, making them always something uncertain, as we, the listeners, do not know where the journey of this storyteller is taking us.

The candle, with its flicker, softer now than the fire, also has walls. Those walls are soft, though equally as dark. The island of connection, made possible by the candle, becomes almost lost amidst the darkness.

Creators and workers of light must know, not just the technology, but the poetry of light. The technology changes, these days faster than ever. New fixtures, bulbs, control systems, and more come out daily. Yet the power of light is unchanged from the day our Sun ignited in a burst of nuclear fusion. The softness of the stories possible within the curtilage of a candle are no more nor less true today than they were thousands of years ago.

Understanding the poetics of light allows one to create spaces of real intimacy and truth. Reading instruction manuals is easy. Learning technology and software is simple. Dedicating one’s life to an intimate relationship with light itself is difficult.

Light is delicate. Be it a candle or a 10K HMI, light must be treated softly and with care or it will not respond to your wishes. One must develop a relationship with the light. One must become intimate with light for it to truly work with you and manifest your vision.

Even something as grand as a sunrise over the plains has an intimacy to it. A relationship between the Sun and the Earth which has been growing, evolving, and deepening for billions of years. The perfection of a sunset is a vector not a point. A striving for the most perfect, which, even if it could be achieved, would only set the bar higher for perfection.

Light does not just create physical space. It creates emotional space. When done right, it creates a spiritual space as well. The light pouring in through a stained glass window at 6am, transforming darkness into the multicolored splendor of spiritual possibility, is unlike most any other phenomenon on earth. A spiritual enlightenment made physical. Light creates the space of spiritual transformation.

Light makes intimacy possible. Without light there is no space for intimate encounters be it with the beloved or the divine.

Before the Earth cooled and turned solid there was light.

Before there was space there was light.

Before intimacy, there was light.

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