L is for Light

| March 23, 2014
1. We measure great distances by light, or more accurately, by the time it takes light to travel between the points being measured. When two objects in the universe are so far apart that their distances cannot be comprehended by our normal modes of measurement, i.e. miles, kilometers, etc., we measure these distances by light. It doesn’t make the distance any easier to comprehend.
2. If someone says, “These stars are one light year apart from each other,” the distance between the stars has been reduced to a number: 1. This number is easier to handle than the distance in miles: 5.88 trillion.
3. The ability to wrap our heads around the number in light years reduces the vastness of the space between the two stars. 1 of anything isn’t that great of a number, so how could a distance of 1 light year be that great of a distance?
4. On the scale of the universe, maybe 1 light year is insignificant. The Cone Nebula, pictured here, is 1 light year across.
5. “Light” as an adjective in art, and as well as in life, carries similar connotations as the light used to measure distances. In the light of distances, one is trying to use a constant that makes great distances seem smaller, or at least comprehensible. This is also what a “light” piece of art might attempt to evoke.
6. To make light of something is to reject its seriousness. This can often be seen as a derogatory statement in the world of art. To take a heavy subject and make light of it somehow reduces its deep meanings. Some subjects, people might suggest, must be taken seriously.
7. But seriousness is also a flaw. To make light of a topic is to take something incomprehensible, such as death, and remove its gravity. Making light of something might be a way to comprehend those things that we can otherwise not understand. It is a way to wrap our heads around the unfathomable and indescribable.
8. Wes Anderson’s films can be seen as making light of ‘serious’ topics. The Grand Budapest Hotel makes light of fascism and war, Moonrise Kingdom makes light of orphanage and foster care, The Royal Tenenbaums makes light of family disfunction. Are his movies any less important because they refuse to dwell on the seriousness of these topics?