Superman never made any money for saving the world from Solomon Grundy

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Enlightening vignette

Yesterday, I took an early-morning turn around Green Lake. At this time of year in the Pacific Northwest, that means I was was out walking for four miles in the dark. In the thick fog we have been having daily, it was decidedly dim. I could barely discern the sky beginning to turn from coal black to gunmetal gray.

There was something welcoming about moving through the gloom. It had been some time since I had been at the lake this early this late in the season and it felt good to be continuing my summer activities into the shortening days. I heard the familiar crunch of the gravel path beneath my invisible feet as I made my way along guided by the reflection of far-off traffic on the water and occasional washes of headlights through the trees; there were no stars or moon. Now and again I would move into a pool of yellow light cast by the lamp of a yet-unopened restroom, gradually entering the dull illumination and retuning again to the still darkness ever beyond its feeble reach. In this manner I proceed through my circuit of the lake in the quiet of the park.

From time to time however, this shadowy landscape was broken by a bright light, harsh and white, as a runner, or more frequently a cyclist, would approach from the opposite direction with the blazing halogen of an LED headlamp. These intense and incredibly white lights glowed like miniature suns: small, silent atomic explosions sailing through the darkness. Not only did they punch a jagged hole in the grayscale fabric of the morning, but their brightness would take away whatever night-vision I had developed. After they passed the world around me was even darker and I could no longer see the subtle gradations that I had been able to distinguish before.

Each time this happened, I could not begrudge these people their bubble of light - their safety, their comfort, whatever it represented. Some of them were likely commuters, needing a safe and efficient journey at the start their working day. I did wonder, however, about our tendency as a society toward solving problems with technology - and often with individual technology - rather than other cultural choices. I thought about unintended consequences, and points of view, and the rights and responsibilities of shared civic spaces. I thought about grace and how infrequently it is a criterion in our decision-making processes.

And then I closed my eyes for a moment or two to let my pupils dilate so that I could once again take in the details of the dawning day as I tread through the dark.

1 comment:

Rob K said...

Point well taken on the "individual technology" issue.

The Seventies were supposed to be the Me Decade, but looking around at all the people with the Ipods and other gadgets I'm starting to wonder.