Posts Tagged ‘James Turrell’

A few weeks back I was attending our local Friends meeting and thinking about light.

Specifically, I was looking at the many lamps hanging in the meeting room and wondering if they should ever be turned on during a meeting for worship. Why not, I thought, always hold our meetings in the available light — however dim — and simply enjoy whatever luminance nature chose to offer that day?

That led me to the value Quakers place on holding each other ‘in the light.’ It’s a wonderful concept, referring to the inner light that guides our spirits and helps us lead lives of integrity.

And that led me to literal human illumination which, surely, is something else entirely.

Take the intrusion that human lighting now makes upon the night sky. What we aptly dub ‘light pollution’ not only represents a huge waste of energy — most buildings and streets illuminated all through the night are not inhabited or traveled upon.   But it also means that there are few populated places upon the Earth where we can see anything like the true magnificence of the universe.

An effort this coming weekend — EarthHour — aims both to draw attention to the energy wasted in our excessive nocturnal illuminations, and to let us simply see the stars again.

Modesty and thrift are both Quaker virtues. Reigning in the man-made light we shed on ourselves so that we can see the natural world better — and helping save that world from the harm such profligacy causes — fits well into the Quaker way of doing things.

In that Meeting I recalled that James Turrell, one of the world’s great connoisseurs of light (both natural and man-made), is a Quaker. Turrell’s Live Oak Meeting House in Houston, Texas is justly admired both by Friends and art buffs of the highest brow. It’s a piece of modern art of extraordinary resonance, simplicity and depth.

Here’s hoping that EarthHour will be observed in Houston and that the Live Oak ‘skyspace’ will be open to the heavens that night.

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