invisible light

My daughter asked me what was up with our new smoke detector.

I can tell you what was up with the old one: it had a nervous break down and kept screaming about fictitious fires whenever it got jittery, even if the closest open flame were ten miles away. We sent it to the Happy Recycling Center via the Post Awful, and my Patient Husband installed a new, more restrained model.

“I don’t know,” I said. “What is up with the smoke detector?”

“The light isn’t always on.” Kiddo#2 explained: when she wakes up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, she passes through an illuminated green circle on the carpet directly beneath the smoke detector. On her way back to bed, though, there isn’t that same circle of light, and she expected there should be one. Was it turning off after she passed through?

I said, “Do you turn on the light in the bathroom?”

When she said she does, I explained that when she wakes up, her eyes are adjusted for the dark, so they’re able to pick up the subtle difference in the light put out by the smoke detector. But after she’s had the light on in the bathroom, her eyes have adjusted to the brightness, and when she heads back into the hallway they haven’t gotten used to the dark again to pick up that low level of light before she’s passed it.

If you think about it, that’s a very sharp observation from her, to pick up that the light was sometimes there, sometimes not, and that it wasn’t a random event. She made the reasonable assumption that the light was off rather than she couldn’t see it.

I’d like to ask my readers to think about that, if you celebrate Christmas. To recognize that we live in a world full of bright lights that bedazzle our eyes and adjust us to their obvious luster in such a way that we no longer notice the subtleties of our spiritual selves. Christmas is about subtle changes to the world, about silences and poverty and the ordinary infused with the extraordinary.

I absolutely believe God is with us. We just need to watch for him and give our “eyes” time to adjust.


  1. cricketB

    I know you wanted something more serious, but my first thought was the MythBusters episode. Yes, pirates had a good reason to wear a patch over one eye. It kept that eye dark adapted. (And it goes without saying that the B-Team had lots of fun making Adam and Jamie go through an obstacle course to prove it.) Deeper thoughts may happen after I catch up on the weekly laundry schedule

    1. philangelus

      Oh,I like that. See, there really is nothing new under the, uh, moon.

  2. Amy Deardon

    Merry Christmas!