Three things I learned when I turned out the lights

A couple of years ago Anna and I participated in an event called Earth Hour. The event provides an opportunity to stop using electricity in its various forms as a way of recognizing the need to give attention to sustainability or, as I would put it, the importance of caring for God’s creation. You can find more information about it here.

Wake Forest University dimmed all the lights on campus. We chose a simpler approach. We also recognized as a simple thing we could do on a regular basis  in order to both simplify life and make it more enjoyable.

Here’s what we did:

  1. We turned off all lights.
  2. Unplugged all non-essential electrical devices.
  3. We lit some candles and put them on our coffee table.
  4. We talked.

It was such a wonderful experience, we’re thinking about doing it each week as part of our observance of Sabbath, an area of spiritual practice where we have plenty of room for growth!

During and after Earth Hour, a couple of observations came to mind:

  1. I was amazed by how bright our neighborhood is. Several of our neighbors have lights in their back yards that could alternately be used in a prison facility. For some reason, folks in our little suburban enclave like to light up vacant back yards. I was amazed at the amount of this light that spilled into our house. How much energy could be saved by simply turning off those lights?
  2. It’s noisy. Perhaps lessened light leads to greater sensitivity to sound. I found myself noticing how many cars pass by our house and how noisy they are…a persistent low drone in the background. It seems that we are always running hither and thither, except on Sundays.
  3. Light and sound is stimulating. Sometimes I find easy access to the internet and bright lighting to be an enemy to real relaxation. During our Earth hour sabbatical, I found myself experiencing a deeper level of relaxation and also wondering what it would be like to spend a week in a cabin that didn’t have electricity…call me Walden. Sounds crazy, but my father grew up in a house in urban England in the 1940s (when my house was built) that had no electricity, limited gas for lights, and no inside bathroom. It isn’t that long ago that people did without those things we perceive of as necessity in West and, of course, there are countless people today who are in the same boat.

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