Dangerous Misunderstood Light

We took our faithful, neglected, Ping Pong table and painted the white lines in phosphorescent paint. Then we did the same for the net, the balls, and the paddles. Now we were ready for Halloween. Every Halloween, the staid Doctors and their proper wives came to our house for our Halloween party. We tried to loosen them up, but not with too much alcohol. My parents had a party early on where the booze was too free and …. well it never happened again. This time, my sister Betty was dressed in a witches costume. She sat in front of an iron pot with flames painted on it. Water and dry ice were then put in, and finally a plastic bucket with an alcoholic punch were inserted. People who wanted a drink needed Betty to dip the label into the “steam” for a dose of the mysterious witches brew.

I liked to start them out right. One year, I stood on our driveway, in a “Monster” statue. People looked, said “How nice,” and turned up the drive. At that point I stood up and roared. Women tended to run out of their shoes. Another year, I stood at the top of the stairs in a coffin shape behind black cheesecloth and a paper skeleton. I was holding a plastic bag filled with ice. When people climbed the stairs, they saw the coffin decoration, said “How nice,” and turned to enter the living room. The moment they couldn’t see me, my hand that had been holding the bottom of the bag, my wet, cold , clammy hand reached for the nearest neck, with the expected results. Now that we had them properly “deproperfied” and with a little libation, we started the midnight ping pong tournament. It was delightful watching people struggle to hit the ball with just the phosphorescent luminescence. This was a healthy use of the light.

Later in life, luminescent properties came back into my life. Fluorescence is a type of luminescence but different from phosphorescence. I was an X-Ray Fluorescence Chemist. One job I had was working at a radiation lab. In the city where I lived, there had been a World War II luminescent dial factory. Women painted a mixture of phosphorescent paint and radium onto the aircraft dials, so they would be visible at night with no light to destroy the pilot’s essential night vision. To make the lines sharp, they licked the brushes. They started dying in droves because no one understand the danger. Some women even had to be buried in lead lined coffins, a very unhealthy use of the light. The factory was long gone, but the location became a superfund clean-up site. My company was chosen to locate the radioactive waste so they could clean the site efficiently, and not clean up clean dirt accidentally. By then the radiation had traveled some. One poor man was eating radioactive beans until that part of his yard was cleaned.  It took quite a while to find and truck off all the luminescent soil.

Many people will misunderstand luminescence, just like they misunderstood about radiation. There is hot body radiation like old fashioned light bulbs and the sun. Moon light is reflected light, but reflected hot body radiation, and not luminescent. It is only stuff like children’s glow sticks that is the real deal. In religion, there is a similar deadly misunderstanding. We talk about Jesus being the light of the world. So many, even Christians, misunderstand. They think that good works will save them, and strive to obey the commandments. They are like the women licking the brushes, headed for death. The Bible is clear. No one has ever been saved by good works. “Because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight.” Rom 3:20 Jesus, though is the light of the world. He came to pay for our “debts,” the ones that will kill us if we misunderstandingly live by works. He offers us that free ticket to Godliness, that only requires that we trust what He did on the cross, a truly joyful use of the light.

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