What Is Light?

This is my continued exploration of the senses. Enjoy.

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What Is Light?

Behind the eyelids I see things: a fluorescent flicker; two tiny dancers; hazy tracers; an aurora borealis. In the moments before sleep, my eyes hunt and gather the last photon trickle of night, bend it into quantum illusions of beauty without meaning. I've known these lights since I was a child, and once they spoke these words: Pure dark is the true illusion, at least for those who have eyes to see or to conjure seeing.

 

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Sense over Significance

Today, I'm continuing an examination of the senses. Come along?

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What is a man's life? 

A man's life is a few thousand breaths of time, a unit of history, at best a memory though usually forgotten within a leap-year's cycle.

What does a man want from life?

To reach past his given breaths, to be certain of his purpose, his life, and his death.

What is certain?

The only things that are certain are the things that can be measured by the senses--tasting, touching, hearing, seeing, smelling. Significance and purpose--these things cannot be measured with any certainty. They are illusions at best.

 

Can man find what he wants?

If a man plots a course for significance (i.e., transcending his few thousand breaths), no. If a man sets his sights on certainty about his legacy (or bank accounts), no.  If he wants to truly experience life, to let the tasting, touching, hearing, seeing, and smelling leave their mark on him, yes. If he wants to take the information of the senses in, interpret them, and draw some conclusions about what might be eternal, perhaps, yes.

What does a sensory life give us?

The senses give life to emotion. You feel the kiss of your lover, and you sense love. You hear the wind through the autumn oaks or the patter of the rain on the tin roof; you smell the decay of pine needles or muddy banks of the mountain lake; you touch the curve of your wife's spine, see the shape of her hips; you taste the earthy coffee or the fatty slab of aged beef--these things give you great joy. In that love and joy, a man is left with this question--could all this be a happy accident? (The same holds true for pain, though that might be an altogether different conversation.)

What are these emotional interpretations of the senses?

These emotional interpretations are guideposts. They point us beyond the present sensory experience and into something more. Joy and love--don't these things leave you believing that there must be some guiding force? Don't you feel that there must be some grand Gift Giver?

Our emotions teach us to search beyond the temporary--meaning, significance, purpose--for what is eternal. They are the tendons connecting those things we know with the hope of the things not seen.

What is there to fear in the full experience of the senses, then?

Nothing, especially if we push past pagan experience and search for the seeds of something more eternal, especially if we allow that Something-More-Eternal to guide our experience of the senses.

What have the senses shown me?

The senses have lead me to the seat of my own emotions. The emotions have led me to the search for the Giver. The Giver has given me the person of Jesus, who lived a sensory life, and whose sensory life led him into the expression of perfect anger, sorrow, anticipation, trust, joy, and love. My attempts to understand his life, the way he interpreted the world and pushed into the perfect expression of his emotions, has led me into healing and wholeness. This healing and wholeness--partial though it may be--has become the stuff of my faith.

The senses scared me, once-upon-a-time. (Weren't they the seedbed of sin?) They scare me no longer.

***The Practice of Prayer: Thanksgiving***

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Quitting Heroin or Not?

There are facts that are quantifiable and facts that are intuited. These are the quantifiable facts:

As of the first quarter of 2016, U.S. adults spent 10 hours, 39 minutes a day consuming media, which represents a year-over-year increase of one hour.

The increase in media consumption is due largely to smartphone and tablet use. Smartphone use rose an average of 37 minutes, while tablet use saw an increase of 12 minutes.

Half of all “U.S. TV households” (whatever that means) now have access to at least one subscription video service.

72 percent of homes have either DVR or a subscription video service, which represents an increase of 67 percent from the previous year. (Source)

Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, cable television—we are consuming more and more media. The Food Network describes the flavors of escargot, or Kobe beef, or the putrid durian fruit. The Travel Channel shares the breathtaking beauty of the Amalfi Coast, the way it sparkles in the setting sun. AMC gives us the rotting undead, the smell of fear stalking. ESPN gives us an endless supply of heart-pumping action, clip after clip after clip. We touch the keys, the remote, the tablet, and cycle through it all. This is the world made virtual, made pocket-sized, made ownable.

And what is the world if not experienced through digital media? Does it exist? (If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to record it and post it to YouTube, did it leave a mark?)

Here is the truth experienced: in my own consumption of media, I have become lazy to my senses. What does it mean to taste, touch, hear, smell, or see without the interpretive lens of media? What does it mean to live an organic experience, to see and recognize the shape of our own shadows? And how hard would it be to return to that kind of existence?

Yesterday, I tapped the keys on my smartphone, sent a text message to my friends John and Winn. We were discussing the growing disillusionment with social media (as opposed to media in general), and I texted this:

I think people have this sense that what’s happening [across media] is bad for the soul. They want to quit. But [tweetherder text="Media is like heroin. It gets in your veins. And then, how do you get it out?"][media] is like heroin. It gets in your veins. And then, how do you get it out?[/tweetherder]

How do you detox? How do you break from the virtual to experience the real? How do you reimagine what it means to be human instead of half-man-half-media cyborg? And if you manage to pull the plug on your machine side, will you experience the seizures of withdrawal? Will the shakes set in? Is detox even possible?

This isn’t a piece about solutions, about blazing paths forward or making promises none of us can keep. This is simply a recognition of the truth of our present intoxication. This is a piece meant to ask a simple question: how do we awaken to the possibility of more organic, sensorial expression of living?

*Speaking of detox, my book, Coming Clean, is only $1.99 on Kindle and Nook this week. Grab a copy and let me know. I'll send you a link to a 30 day Coming Clean email journal leading you through the book and into your own experience of coming clean.

 

***The Practice of Prayer: Thanksgiving***

It’s a noisy world, a world in which it can be difficult to find rhythms of quiet, restful, prayer. In this five-day email experience, I’ll provide you with prompts designed to lead you into prayers of thanksgiving, prayers that push out the noise, worries, and anxieties that can so often haunt. Sign up below receive this daily email plan, and you’ll also receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter.

And, if you enjoy this website or my Tiny Letter consider signing up as a monthly content supporter.