Thursday, May 3, 2012

Fade to Black

One of my favorite idiomatic factoids regarding the “inherent hopefulness of being” (forgive me, I know.) is a sort of philosophy disguised as a word-play/semantic game. Here it is—you’ll surely recognize it:

“Black is not a color, but the absence of color.” Or, even better:  “Darkness is the absence of light.” I love that.
At some deep level, this makes excellent and hope-inducing sense. The concept that “darkness is the absence of light” implies that the default position, the natural state of reality, is light. Not dark. So, it ain’t so much about the light cutting through, painfully penetrating the darkness, but rather, the natural stateis light, the absence of which, is not natural at all.
 And yes, my physicist friends and their astrophysicist/microphysicist brethren will contradict this point with telescopic evidence of deep space and sub-atomic photography, where blackness and emptiness are the oceans to the observable islands of pinprick galaxies and unimaginably tiny matter.
Of course this is beautifully factual, as the evidence provides.  And the presence of such “infinite” blackness doesn’t wrankle my light-based sense of reality in the least. We share an underwhelming understanding of the concept of “infinite.” And most physicists—scientists and artists of any discipline worth their salt agree that: “what we know is infinitesimal compared to what we don’t.”  You might add: “what we experience is infinitesimal compared to what we don’t.” As such, the potential for the abundance of light is…well, infinite.
So…I agree that what we can see out there in greater outer space, and down there in the sub-atomic landscape, is dark…giving the impression that darkness is the norm. But I know from my own life, my practical living experience—all 47 years of it—that what is observable, knowable, even, is but a tiny representation of the larger truth beneath what senses can observe, much less what we’re able to articulate. Try explaining to a stranger how much you love your wife. Or child. Or Mother. Or golden retriever.  Words quickly fail. As do senses. As does intellect. …When we utter the word “infinite” we are mentioning the presently unknowable. And not knowing something doesn’t make it untrue any more than knowing something necessitates its truth. At one point in our history, we “knew” the Earth was flat. And generations of mariners behaved accordingly. What we think we know is as discombobulating as what don’t think we know.  Lots of room for light.
…When my youngest son was a toddler he somehow escaped his car seat, which was securely strapped into the backseat of our sea-foam green Taurus station wagon. I was driving, my wife in the passenger’s seat. No one else in the car. In the middle of a left turn at the intersection of Carlton Avenue and 14th Street, the driver’s side back door flew open, my son clinging like a barnacle to the door handle, his legs dangling a few inches off the pavement, the sound of rolling tires, horrifying.
Instantaneously, my wife’s mouth opened in a scream and she exploded into the backseat like a torpedo, her body stretched over the seatback, feet on the dashboard, arms reaching, grabbing, then purchasing. Thankfully, she wasn’t wearing her seatbelt. I pulled the car over next to Skutevik’s and sat there, hunched over the steering wheel, listening to my wife gasping, my son slowly whimpering, casual traffic passing, heads turning.
“How did that happen!?” my wife screamed, cried, begged to know.
“No idea,” I replied.
“Well, how’d he get out?”
“How’d you catch him?”
The distinction between light penetrating the darkness and darkness stabbing into the light.

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