Keeping the Faith

Illuminations (from Dark Mofo, Genesis and my Two-Year-Old Lad)

“Turn on dark, mummy, turn on dark!”

Little Master van Ryn, 2, has been learning about light and dark. Lamps are switched on again, off again. On again, off again. He points out the sun in the day and the moon at night, and blowing candles out is a particular thrill (or maybe he’s just a pyro…).

We (pretend to) blow the light out after we’ve tucked him into bed, and when I pull up his blinds in the morning, he asks, “Where the dark go?”

Light and dark are so much more tangible to a two-year-old.

But when I got hold of a program for the Museum of Old and New Art’s winter festival in Hobart (Dark Mofo, on until Sunday), it struck me that we never grow tired of the contrast between light and dark – our explorations just get more sophisticated.

In his prelude to the festival, creative director Leigh Carmichael said Dark Mofo would, “celebrate links between ancient and contemporary mythology, humans and nature, religious and secular traditions, darkness and light, birth and death, fire, destruction and renewal.”

Spectra light installation, part of Dark Mofo, photo by Zara Dawtrey (thanks lovely!)

Spectra light installation, part of Dark Mofo, photo by Zara Dawtrey (thanks lovely!)

Hobartians will have noticed by now the 15km tower of light beaming from the Domain, called Spectra by Japanese audio-visual artist Ryoji Ikeda. Forty-nine custom-built Xenon searchlights “point a fleshless finger” down to earth from “some sort of imagined, omniscient seat in the sky”. Breathtaking. But what grabbed me was a little four-word verse sitting above the blurb in the program: “Let there be light.” (Genesis 1:3)

Light is a magnificent force. Sure, darkness is a thick and forboding counterpart, but add to it a pinprick of light and its effectiveness retreats. Yet, the same cannot be said in the opposite.

There’s something interesting about that verse in Genesis – set in the creation sequence. The poetic cadence of this first chapter of the bible begins with darkness. Then God said, “Let there be light.” He called the light day, and the dark night. But it wasn’t until the fourth day (verses 14-19) that God created the source of the light – the sun, moon and stars.

“God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness.” (Genesis 1:17-18)

So there was light before there was sun, moon and stars. Light without source – or was there? Perhaps this is our first glimpse at the light that emanates from God.

Physical light is essential for us to function just as spiritual light is essential for us to know God.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) Anyone who knows Jesus carries this light into our dark world.

The study of darkness and light gives reassurance of both a physical and spiritual kind: even the smallest amount of light overcomes darkness.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

Follow the light, be the light.

Tweets to @ClairevanRyn

As printed in The Examiner Newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday June 17, 2013.