August 22, 2016

Light Pollution

A few days back I saw a fascinating video entitled “Lost in Light” at (via The idea was to demonstrate how all the light that we produce on earth affects how well we can see the lights that glimmer nightly in the heavens. ‘Light pollution’ is what all this human dampening of the night sky is called. And it was astonishing to see on film … and saddening for those of us who live in city, where all our earthly lights so effectively drown out the heavenly ones.

The videographer began by filming the night sky above San Jose, California, with a light pollution level of 8. A few faint stars can be seen, but I literally had to lean close to my screen to see if I was seeing stars, or just dust or imperfections on my computer monitor! At level 7, numerous stars pop into view. And it gets better and better until the camera finally takes us all the way down to a mere level 2 light pollution rating near Mt. Shasta, CA and then level 1 in Death Valley National Park … where it looks like someone emptied out a significant portion of a salt shaker onto a navy blue table cloth! The stars are just everywhere.

Furthermore, as the film maker points out in his description, some people have never actually seen the Milky Way. Count me in that number! But in this film, when you get out to a light pollution level of 5, you can begin to see it … with the naked eye! And when the level drops down to 2 and 1 … wow! Go and look at the video! It may make you want to move to Montana, or some such place!

And it occurs to me that there is a parable somewhere in all this … about how much more difficult it can be to see and appreciate Jesus, “the Light of the world,” when we so constantly live our lives in the haze of so many competing ‘lights.’ Busyness is probably one of the biggest sources of spiritual light pollution. So are the big and little screens that we all find ourselves staring at far too much. The light of Christ can also fade into the background if we find ourselves needing always to do something, talk to someone, listen to something, watch something. Blaise Pascal may have been overstating it when he said that “all of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone” … but he makes a good point! The constant hum of activity and stimulus under which we often place ourselves can have the same effect on our vision of God as the lights of downtown have on our ability to see the glory of the Milky Way (which is out there, but which we cannot see for all our competing lights)!

And so I just urge you to find plenty of seasons in your life in which you turn out and push far to the side all of the spiritual light pollution in your life – the TV, the phone, the tablet, the computer, the Sudoku puzzle, the headphones, the din of your own voice, etc. – and just look up at the night sky, so to speak … turning out all the competing lights so that you can open the word, and open your eyes to the world that God has created (like the stars, the tree bark, the sparrows, and so on), and clear your mind to meditate on these things, and to see and hear and love the glory of God!

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