His life brought light to everyone. – John 1:4*
Who is the everyone in this grand statement? Philosophers, evangelists,
the faithful and apologists
have driven their camels of thought
through the eye of that needle for many hundreds
of years, down generations, as the church’s fortunes
ebb and flow, with tides of temporal influence.
when one considers the millions
whose lives find light at other altars
other avatars to guide them in best living
who leave their own legacies of kindness, justice, truth
one knows, it is the acts responsorial that reveal
the quality of light.
And so it is that I’m inspired by today’s quote to consider, not Jesus of Nazareth, nor Nanabozho, nor Star Woman, nor Ganesha nor Sedna, nor any other such avatar. No, I find myself thinking about Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and the women and men who would have aided and abetted them, the equivalent in their stories of Joseph the faithful, the Anunciating Angels, their shepherd and their Wise Men. Even those people, at this remove, have seen nuance and personal truth leaking out of their stories in favour of the iconic, the broad strokes of archetypal necessity.
Some society long in the future – may Life be so kind and forgiving – may tell and sing their stories as something magical, something signifying a power beyond mere humanity.
Meanwhile, we still have among us many of the innovators in developing LED technology, which is first recorded in 1907 (to my admittedly-slight knowledge), but only recently became commercially viable, cheap enough for mass adoption. Wikipedia does a brief overview that goes some way to illuminating (sorry) why it is that there is, already, controversy over credit for this innovation. No one person can be agreed upon as the One who brought this light into the world.
And yet, there is a parallel. The spread of Christianity disrupted cultural, spiritual and material cultures around the world. As a religion, it has been both heroic and villainous, and both an engine of innovation and an impediment as hideous as any ignorant superstition.
Could the founders have imagined that Christianity would be, within living memory, claimed as justification for both Liberation Theology and touted as the authority behind sites such as Creation Museum , family life and Eagle Forum, and movements even farther apart than these? Could they have imagined Terra Nullius, and its attendant slavery, butchery, cultural genocide and theft of land and resources? Christianity, for better and for worse, has dramatically impacted quality of life for people around the world.
In a seemingly simpler way – literally access to cheap physical illumination – LED technology promises huge changes in quality of life for many people. Consider just this one project: Carmanah LED, which is far from the only one seizing this new technology to open up potentially earth shaking changes, both in private and public realms.
So, at this moment, ought we worship and adore the innovators of LED? I’m not suggesting that at all. I am saying, the Great Glory, the Great Mystery, includes LEDs, and we can choose: do we want to spend our energy on deciding whose claim to this innovation is most important? Or do we have more than enough to do, if we decide to consciously, with deep reflection as to the Seventh Generation potential changes, work together to find the ways to let this light shine, beneficently, honourably, and with profound respect for this, one more evidence of the World of Wonders in which we live.
*This year, I am honouring my mom’s passing by writing throughout the Advent season, following as prompts the daily quotations cited in the free online calendar put out by the Catholic Medical Mission Board Mom was a lifelong Roman Catholic, and I was raised with the Church as a contentious part of our family life, given that my Ojibwe dad’s family was so affected by the church. Nonetheless, her faith was important to Mom, so this is a tribute to her. It’s also a reflection on how religions influence in many ways.
If you like these posts, please also consider donating, in the memory of Albina Sewell, to Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton; her chosen charity for memorials is not religiously affiliated, but serves all children.