The words came to me in Balboa Park while I listened to my friend Mitchell playing didgeridoo. People walking down El Prado would pause before the strange, resonant instrument. A brave few would dance.
As people came and went, I wondered what effect their movement might have on the planet. Both Mitchell and I are curious about strange, cosmic things.
If you dare, walk with me up the Snake Path at UCSD. We will proceed from innocence to knowledge.
We’ll begin at a spot near the Jacobs School of Engineering, then head west up a hill toward the amazing Geisel Library. Our path is the winding 560-foot length of a scaly snake.
Snake Path, part of the UC San Diego Stuart Collection, was created by Alexis Smith in 1992. The scales of the snake are hexagonal pieces of colored slate.
We’ll pass a monumental granite book, none other than Milton’s Paradise Lost. On the cover is engraved: “And wilt thou not be loathe to leave this Paradise, but shalt possess a Paradise within thee, happier far.”
We’ll linger at a bench in a small Garden of Eden. Written on the bench are Thomas Gray’s words: “Yet ah why should they know their fate/When sorrow never comes too late/And happiness too swiftly flies/Thought would destroy their Paradise/No more, where ignorance is bliss, tis folly to be wise.”
Toward innocence or knowledge. Which direction is best?
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To an ancient person, light is a life-sustaining gift from a distant bright god. To a modern person, light is electromagnetic radiation that can be detected by the eye’s retina. To an artist, light might be some of both . . . and much more.
When I write, I’m never certain what precise thing light represents. In many stories it seems to symbolize a life-sustaining hope, or a radiation of the spirit detected by the heart. It might signal a burning love, living with eyes wide open, or intangible rays from beyond that define life’s shape. A glimpse of ultimate truth. A bright gift that is magical, momentary, precious.
I don’t know. What is light to you?
Following are seven short works of fiction where light is an integral part of the story: