A light shines in the darkness.

It’s a common/commonplace image in the visual arts: in paintings, where a light in the window speaks succinctly of home and warmth; in photography, where sunrise light speaks of a day started in hope and sunset light speaks of a day ended at peace.

A light shines in the darkness.

It’s a common/commonplace image in film: in Westerns, where campfire light speaks of potential refuge or potential pursuers; in war movies, thrillers, and sci-fi-dystopia flicks, where a searchlight speaks of potential exposure to a dreaded enemy, and matchlight speaks of non-verbal contact with someone in the dark, ally or nemesis.

A light shines in the darkness.

It’s a common/commonplace image in literature: in prose, where it evokes a sudden insight; in poetry, where it evokes familial as well as romantic love. But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?

A light shines in the darkness.

These days, we might call it a meme.

an element of a culture or system of behavior
passed from one individual to another
by imitation or other nongenetic means

Whatever name we give it, though, it’s an image so deeply embedded in our humanity that it has no single artist or author, no identifiable beginning, and (let us hope) no certain end.

This past November/December–for the first time in several years–the Church of Latter Day Saints put on their Christmas light show at their Temple in Mesa, AZ. Unlike the disruptions in the supply of oyster(flavoured)-sauce, this one was caused not by Covid or by problems in the Suez Canal but by extensive renovations to the building and grounds. I’m glad they’re done. I’m glad they’re back. (The renovations and the display creators, respectively.)

This display is a beautiful gift to the community: light at the darkest time of year. It speaks of warmth, hope, and love. It speaks of the promise that even in the darkness, these things endure.

A light shines in the darkness
and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 1:5

I don’t know if that vision of the world is common; I do know there’s nothing commonplace about it.

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10 Responses to Common/Commonplace

  1. barbara carlson says:

    Beautiful…. “… so shines a good deed in
    a naughty world.” (text on a a Victorian greeting (?) card).

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – It’s true. I often think of ripples extending outward from a deed: a light shining is a lovely metaphor also.

  2. Mary Gibson says:

    Beautiful photos. In these dark days, I go with Desmond Tutu:“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Mary – Nice. Bishop Tutu spoke at a convocation I attended and told a story whose punchline was something like, “You are not chickens! You are eagles.” He had a way with straightforward words.

  3. Tom Watson says:

    Those images are quite striking.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Tom – 🙂 Many thanks. My new phone has a better camera, especially in low-light conditions.

  4. The light has come lavishly in this place. The reflecting pool, well, makes one reflective about it all. It is good to be reminded of the deep darkness into which Jesus was born. Despite the horrors that seem to consume the news media or that seem to surround us, how much brighter those lights seem to shine when they break through. For me, some of those lights are popping up where least expected: from a prison inmate who witnessed an incident seven years ago that now could turn around a lawsuit; from a disabled person who has come to see how serious his partner’s addictions are; from a man trying to found a little school for impoverished children in Central America. All of these seem to me to be Turning Points that may be heralded by wonders/uncommon lights in the sky.

  5. John Whitman says:

    Isabel – the lights may be great, but the palm trees are even greater. Winter this year in Ottawa has been mostly damp and clammy so far and there isn’t a palm tree to be seen anywhere.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      John – Lol – indeed. Even in the easy winters there are few palm trees to be seen in Ottawa.

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