I’m a sucker for candles—it must be my inner child. As many as possible all the time. Candles on the Altar, candles on the credence table, candles in the hand. Advent Sunday, Christingle, Christmas, Candlemas, Tenebrae, Easter … whenever. At a confirmation in one of my former churches a strange smell assailed the nostrils, and it wasn’t the incense. An acolyte was taking Matthew 5:16 literally. His cotta caught fire from a neighbouring candle. It livened things up.
This morning we had lots of candles and sprinklings and baptism of twins. A great day for a baptism: the old man carried the child, but the child governed the old man. Simeon’s inner child: he may have gone off to die, but I wonder if he also meant that he now understood the importance of childlikeness, without which the Kingdom is not ours, we are told? He had seen the only thing that matters.
There was a radioactivity leak at Sellafield/Windscale/Calder Hall in the 1950s. I lived 40 miles east, so when the wind whistled from the west, the radioactivity was blown into my cells. Like the child in the Ready Brek advert, I glow in the dark. It’s handy at night and keeps electricity bills down.
There are other people who glow, but for a different reason: they are so filled with goodness that their faces glow and their eyes twinkle. Like Moses and Jesus coming down from the mountains.
Apart from these shining examples, bioluminescence is seen in fireflies and glow-worms, but mostly in aquatic creatures. Moses again: ‘See, with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall be turned to blood. The fish in the river shall die, the river itself shall stink, and the Egyptians shall be unable to drink water from the Nile.’ The first plague (Exodus 7:14-25) was a bloom caused by dinoflagellates, single-cell algae. It adds up.
There’s squid and jellyfish and sharks and seed shrimps. All sorts of things produce light, sometimes to attract, sometimes to trick, sometimes to warn—reasons concerned with eating, or not being eaten, or reproducing (which three things just about sum up life).
But by far the most impressive manifestation of bioluminescence is the way that single organisms like sea squirts come together to form a huge great bioluminescent pyrosome (fire body). Look at this: a 30 foot tube made by a colony of millions of minute sea squirts acting together. This is intelligence. Isn’t it truly wonderful?
Just think what we could do if we worked together like this.
Read Frank Schätzing’s The Swarm. Nothing is impossible. Be afraid, be very afraid.