The Light

I think the biggest fear of dying, at least in my mind is the basic human fear that almost all of us grow up with….fear of the dark.  Not just the dark as in a darkened room…but the dark as in the total absence of light of any kind.  It’s a scary thing to me.  To be conscious and in total darkness and not be able to do anything about it….

That’s terrifying to me.

I’ve had it happen to me on one occasion.  Back in my first year of college, the first time I ever went caving.  We used carbide lamps back then.  A carbide lamp is a two chambered light where calcium carbide is placed in the lower chamber and water in the top chamber.  The water is set to drip down on the CaC2, and produces acetylene gas, which comes up through the burner mechanism and is lit to produce light and a bit of heat.  They’ve been using these types of lamps in mines and caves for a long time.

We had tiny ones affixed to the front of our helmets, and with the reflectors behind them, they produced a fair amount of light.

I was the last one coming out of a small cave we were in on Pigeon mountain, and I got a little behind the rest of the group…not a long way, but just dragging behind like I sometimes do.  My gas ran out on my light and the light went out.  I was still about 50 or 60 feet inside the cave and no light penetrated down that far.  The darkness was as total as I have ever experienced.  All I had to do was to yell really loud, and the two other guys who were with me came quickly back down.  It was only about five minutes.  I’d hate to have been there any longer than that.

I don’t know if I could survive the ordeal of the two boys who discovered Linville Caverns in North Carolina.  Legend has it that they got 600 feet down into that cave using only an oil lamp, which they broke.  This was around 1900 or so.  It took them two days to find their way back out by following a little creek.

I guess the first thing we see after coming through our Mother’s birth canal is the light.  Usually bright lights in some hospital  OBGYN ward nowadays.  Probably less than that back in the old days, but always moving towards some type of light. After that, unless there is some type of vision impairment, we are around light every day of the rest of our lives.  Light is everything.  It is the sustainer of life.  Without it, life as we know it would cease to exist.

In our modern world light has become pretty pervasive.  It’s hard to get totally away from light nowadays, even if you try.  I opened my eyes last night as I lay in bed trying to sleep and saw little lights coming from all around.  Little digital lights on the DVD and the TV which are in our room, and a tiny red light on our TV receiver.  The Fitbit I wear lights up when I move around, and the phone I have which lays on the side table next to my bed, will light up at a touch.  Last weekend when I went outside late at night to try and see some meteors, I had to move to the South side of our patio, because all of the ambient light coming from the City of Chattanooga and the Airport just north of us were so bright they lit up the night sky to the north.  In a way, it’s aggravating, but in another way, it is comforting.  You know you are still alive, when you open your eyes at night and look around you and see all the tiny lights.

I suppose that my focus….some might say my obsession with sunrises and sunsets has to do with my love of light, and what it does to the world around me.  I’ve always been fascinated by the light at those times of day.  It plays with the world in such delicate ways, and sometimes in such extreme and colorful ways. It all depends on the factors and conditions in our atmosphere.  I love to capture some of these moments with a camera, as anyone who knows me can attest….to capture these striking and sometimes marvelous moments in time in perpetuity, to enjoy later and to share with other human beings, my contemporaries, who are inhabiting this place now at the same time as me. There is not much that I can do in this world to try and bring a little bit of joy or gladness, but those captured moments in time are an effort on my part.

That brings me back to where I started.  What happens when we die?

I am not sure.  Nobody is sure.  With the exception of some religious figures, nobody has ever come back from the dead to tell us what happens after we breath our last breath.

I have read of people who have “near death” experiences who talk about moving towards the light when they “die”, only to be pulled back to this side in order to go on living this human life.  Their descriptions of what lays beyond are comforting to be sure.

I’m not stressed about it all the time, but it’s a concerning thing.  It’s something that has always lurked in the periphery of my subconscious and sometimes comes bursting to the surface at unexpected times.

People of faith will say that they will see the light of the world once they cross over.  Some talk of heavenly cities with streets of gold.

Of all of these things I ponder and wonder.  These years I have spent in the light have been wonderful, marvelous and glorious.  What more could any being ask then to be able to live in the warmth and light of the Universe and to love and hold onto those around them?

If there is nothing beyond here except for a lasting and eternal peace of blissful non existence, it will still have been so worth it to have been here.

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