Saturday, May 19, 2012

Radiance: Evidence of Things Unseen

“What being in the War and being in the Army had shown him was that people tend naturally toward light, toward its source, as sunflowers do in a field. People lean, either in their dreams or in their actions, toward that place where they suspect their inner lights are coming from. Whether they call it God or conscience or the manual of Army protocol, people sublime toward where their inner fire burns, and given enough fuel for thought and a level playing field to dream on, anyone can leave a fingerprint on the blank of history. That's what Fos believed.” 

“Maybe there are moments between any two adults in love when the age of one of them dissolves before the other's eyes, when the first refuge of the soul at its creation is laid bare and skinless as a sunbeam through a window. Innocence and vulnerability, two unmeasurable quantities, rose from her and Fos felt their qualities flow through him like an electric charge. He longed to spread himself around her as protection, but the magnitude of his emotion made any gesture he could make seem small.  Perhaps that is the essence of the protection's intimacy, that it dwells in camouflage and justifies itself in stillness.” 

I ran across Marianne Wiggins' Evidence of Things Unseen during my first semester of graduate school when an eccentric professor assigned the novel to cap off her historiography course.  That class was a fiasco.  Grown women cried.  Men descended into hysterics.  I sat in the back of the room minding my own business and scribbling in my notebook.  Outside of the three ring circus, Wiggins novel was the only element of that class that left a lasting impression. Maybe it was because the book's title referenced a Bible verse I like or because during that period I began to wonder what faith meant or maybe I'm a sucker for tragedies.  I dunno.  But I never forgot the book.  Despite this fact, for six long years Evidence of Things Unseen sat on my shelf collecting dust until about a month ago when I sat down with Wiggin's work. A more careful reading (in other words, analysis that involved more than a handful of reviews) revealed an intriguing story.  The author uses the lives of Ray Foster, 'Fos' a World War I veteran with great faith in science, and Opal, his pragmatic wife, to produce both historical fiction and a love story.  In the book, the "evidence of things unseen" refers to Fos' fascination with "radiance": X-rays, Atomic Radiation, and Opal.  

The two quotes above explain why I enjoyed the work then and still do now.  Like Fos, in my opinion, most of us are looking for radiance.  When we find it in another person we "lean", either in our "dreams" or in our "actions" toward the source and long to protect it: "the essence of protection's intimacy" is "that it dwells in camouflage and justifies itself in stillness." To me, what makes radiance beautiful is that it comes in so many forms.  Illumination is defined by what we value, who we are, and how we love, by our hobbies, pet peeves, and sense of humor.  When we find someone with compatible hearts we produce an electric charge.  Maybe that is what love is: Electricity.  A spark that simultaneously frightens and entrances us.  Something or someone we cannot turn away from, no matter the fear.  At least, that's what I think, but, then again, what do I know?  Maybe falling in love resembles using liquid nitrogen to freeze off a wart.  Of course, my mental image is more pleasant.
Because I can't help myself here is Manfred Man's "Blinded by the LIght"

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