Author’s Note: This is the fifth of a series of articles based on the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi beginning, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.”
Many small children are afraid of the dark. “Scare me! Scare me!” usually results in a story in which darkness plays a role. Amazingly, a night light can help avoid extreme fear during the night. A dimmer switch on the night light can be over time lowered until the fear is overcome.
Somehow the idea that something sinister is lurking as soon as the lights go out is a common fear. With the number of terrifying movies and television programs that many children are being allowed to watch these days, it is amazing that many of them can even go to sleep! As a teacher, I am flabbergasted when the children, ages five to 11, begin to tell me that they have seen Freddy Krueger, scenes from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, etc. The nightmares that follow lead one to believe that parental neglect in choosing appropriate entertainment can affect a child throughout life.
Usually children outgrow fear of darkness as they mature, but it is possible for adults to be victim to a condition known as “nyctophobia,” a severe fear of darkness. This extreme and irrational anxiety response to darkness can include symptoms like nausea, sweatiness, disorientation, loss of control, and even panic attacks.
On the other hand, light therapy in combination with use of herbs was mentioned as a treatment for skin without pigment in Indian medicine as early as 1500 B.C.
In 1903, Nils Finsen of Denmark won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for developing the first artificial light source to treat lupus vulgaris, a type of tuberculosis skin lesions that occur usually on the face or ears.
Today light therapy is used to treat a number of medical conditions ranging from skin acne, neonatal jaundice, seasonal affective disorder (SAD—note: see “Where There is Despair, Let Me Sow Hope,” the fourth article in this series), a number of psychiatric disturbances (major depressive disorder, postpartum depression, bipolar disorder), Parkinson’s disease, and others.
The laser (the word stands for “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation”) emits light rays in a very narrow, single colored beam with certain wavelength. Credit for the first demonstrated laser is given to Theodore Maiman who showed the world the first working laser in the year 1960 at the Hughes Research Laboratories. Albert Einstein actually talked about the creation of the laser in one of his papers in 1917 and also discussed its predecessor, the maser.
The first public laser was introduced as a bar code scanner in supermarkets in 1974. The first successful consumer product, introduced in 1978, was the laser disc player, and the compact disc or CD player (introduced in 1982) was the first device equipped with a laser to become commonly used in the homes of consumers.
Lasers are now involved with consumer electronics, information technology, science, medicine, industry, law enforcement, entertainment and the military to the point that they are literally commonplace.
The use of light cancels the darkness so feared as part of the unknown.
All religions attribute mystical experiences with holiness.
The Bible speaks of light 237 times. The first act that God performed after creation of the heaven and the earth was to separate the light from the darkness. In the New Testament, Christians are admonished to live in the light. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
In Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Islam, references are made to “Divine Light.” Each describes either its leader or God as being the Light.
In contemporary society we look in our copies of reality (movies, etc.) for evil in darkness and goodness in the brightest of lights.
Perhaps in our daily lives, we need to seek not only physical light but the light of wisdom and understanding, of love for one another—and put away all evil thoughts of others as being unworthy of our notice. It is when we view the world as a place of opportunity and kindness towards others as possible that we make better choices and express our higher selves.
One of the ways that some individuals have learned to focus even mental and physical health in their lives is to imagine a white light that begins at the top of one’s head and travels through the body casting out all darkness and the possibility of ill health. Latest research has indicated that meditating can indeed reduce stress and lead one to better health in all areas.
Try for one week to imagine just for a few minutes each day that light is filling your being and casting out all anger, hatred and thoughts of unbecoming behavior. It just might make a difference in your life—and it certainly couldn’t hurt.
Avoid the darkness; follow the light.