The Meaning Of Light: As a lighting specialist, I've become interested in the use of the word "light" in our language. How many times do we refer to light in one day? Let me count the ways.

The scientific definition of light is--a wavelength of electromagnetic radiation between 3,800 and 7,600 angstrom units to which the retina of the eye is sensitive and a part of the electromagnetic spectrum the brain interprets.However, when we talk about the physical properties of light, we talk of, for example, "the light at the end of the tunnel," "by the light of the moon."

The concept of light peppers our language. For the most part, these definitions are of a positive nature and refer to uplifting, pleasant, awe-inspiring, spiritual or burden-relieving expressions. It is easy to see that there is a correlation between the physical effect of light and the meaning of the word. The very life-giving properties and powers of light are reflected in the use of light in language to evoke specific feelings and emotions. Here are some familiar examples:

Mental illumination--"He saw the light and understood the parable."

Positive profile -- "They saw her in a favorable light."

Passion -- "C'mon baby, light my fire."

Positive attitude--"I decided to make light of the burdensome problem."

Spiritual revelation -- "Brother, do you see the Light?

Euphoria -- "Feeling light-headed."

Positive influence -- "You light up my life."

It is not at all surprising that in old cowboy movies the good guys wore white hats and the bad guys wore black hats.

Of course, the same correlation between the physical manifestation and language exists in reverse with the word "dark." Some examples include:

Lack of understanding--'I am completely in the dark."

Evil-- "A dark plan to murder him."

Witholding knowledge or information --"Kept in the dark."

Inability to comprehend --""Through a glass darkly."

It is the ancient daily transition from day to night and from night to day that has, for thousands of years, enriched our language and cultures with hundreds of references to light (and dark.) And the ancient assignments of positive and negative to light and dark remain. The period between the 5th and 8th centuries following the fall of Rome are referred to as the Dark Ages. A more contemporary terminlogy now defines this period as the Early Middle Ages. It was characterized by Muslin conquests, religious conflicts and a void of cultural and literary achievements.

The advent of electric light has appended these references with new words, such as light bulb, black light, neon light, fluorescent light, LED light, landscape light and street light. The hope of Christmas which began with a star in the heavens, has evolved to the lights we string in our Christmas trees. And, conceptually, the iconic symbol of a light bulb represents an idea or inspiration. The lighting industry today is undergoing a major change. The need to reduce costs in lighting and the introduction of compact fluorescent lighting into the industry has made it a forerunner in the movement towards green power. This is, again, a verification of the positivity of meaning of light and how it impacts our lives.

It is highly probable that the undesirable side effects of light--sunburn, heat stroke, heat rash, blinded by light, lightning, etc. will remain minimal compared to the hundreds of positive references that the phenomena of light has engendered. To date, the principle negative reference to light is the lack of it--or darkness.

Defining the meaning of light in contemporary terms brings us to a new usage and spelling of light--lite. Lite has come into public usage by virtue of many products and the frequent advertising of them. Products containing the word "lite" are mainly focusing on our worries of being overweight and unattractive. Today there is lite beer, lite butter spread and lite snacks of every variety, to name a few. Manufacturers of "lite" products want us to think that consuming those products will keep us from adding those extra pounds that we accumulate every year. They assure us that we are doing the right thing by eating food with less fat, sugar, etc. and therefore are living a healthier life.

What will be future applications of light in meaning and language? With global warming, surely light from solar energy will become a viable power source, reducing our need for fossil fuels. LED lights (light emitting diodes), which we are used to seeing in our dashboards, light switches, and computers are slowly and steadily growing to become more powerful in illumination. Research in LED technology is developing towards increasing LED light output. One advantage of LED's is that they produce a "cold light" with no wasted of energy. To date, LED's cannot match the bright white light of incandescent fluorescent bulbs. But bright, white LED light is on the horizon. It may be that, in the near future, a couple, with lovelights in their eyes, will be LED to the altar.

Author's Bio: 

I am an artist holding a MFA from Pratt Institute, NY. Also, a certified Lighting Specialist (ALA.) My website, offers a wide variety of art classes, as well as a gallery of my work, Art Travel and Tours, Artful Inspiration and My Stories For Kids.