As I approach the halfway point in my story, in my quest, I find the old anxieties coming up and dominating my mind. The nameless anxieties that take over my body and my mind and leave me wracked with tiredness and confusion. I spent last night in a wakeful sleep that seemed to be endless, turning and trying to find a position of relaxation and rest. I did sleep but was not aware of it. Instead I was aware of being restless with dreams that brought in forgotten people and unknown places. My mind went round in circles trying to understand or even just let go, but with no success. The only way to move on was to get up and start writing.
I am nearly seventy with a life of comfort and certainty, a life of love and peace that will last as long as I am able to continue—for now that seems to be a long time. So why the uncertainty? Why the confusion? Why the anxiety? I can understand it back then at the time of my life when all my anxieties were coming together to tear me apart and launch me off into a new life. I have nothing to worry about now, no clashes, no terrifying drops approaching me, nothing. Perhaps the clue is there? Perhaps it links back to the seeking that has been an ever-present part of my earthly existence? Perhaps the problem connects into what my life is about
To try and tease out some understanding and clarity over my anxieties I should go back to the point I am at in my story? The anxieties then I understand and make sense to me. What might lead me to some revelation is how I moved out of this period, what I did in my life to move forward and take control?
Up to this point I have spoken of the negatives that were plaguing me. I have looked at the growth of my family and the fear of responsibility that created in me. My life moved on from that with alcohol and anger, leading to conflict and depression. This was truly a low point in my life that was ready to pounce on me and tear me apart. Yet at this point I found something extraordinary that helped me to regain my sanity—abstract algebra. This took me deep into myself, my existence and an exploration of what are the essential truths of our lives here on earth. This was an unbelievable response to the real, everyday conflicts in my life. And in there lies the key.
The dive into pure maths was not the end of it. I found something even more powerful that brought sense to my life and took me into the reason for life. Again it came out of a mundane attempt to deal with my everyday anxieties and problems. It came out of my work.
Like many men I dived into my work as a way of avoiding my home and personal life. It brought the dual benefits of getting me away from home and bringing in the income to discharge my responsibilities as a husband and father. Typical of my way of doing things, I chose a hard path that challenged me constantly. Many men discharge their responsibilities in a way they hate that has the compensation of bringing in lots of money. Their life becomes easy as well as comfortable even if not happy. I could not go down this route. Yes, the money was important, but so was my sense of honour with regards to myself. By going into the theatre I had chosen a path that would enable me to forge something worthwhile in my life. That sense of meaning was crucial to me. I kept hold of that when I realised I had to change what I did to account for my totally changed life.
When my family came along, I decided I had to leave the theatre behind and, at a late stage in my journey, I had to decide what I was going to do with the remaining years, how I was going to earn the money I needed for myself, let alone my family. I looked at where I had taken my career and realised that I could hold on to the creativity I had developed and use it in a more conventional way. This was a brave step but, with hindsight, an obvious one. I continued with lighting but moved into architectural lighting. This was a world that was more normal than the theatre world, and provided more opportunities for growth.
This is why I started studying mathematics and, coincidently, made my discovery of its power. I started in a simple way working for a lighting manufacturer doing administration work. Although I had no experience in architectural lighting, I knew about light and equipment. I was able to transfer that knowledge and convince my new employer that I was not starting from scratch. I needed to catch up, though, as I had ambition. I saw a path into being a lighting engineer and possibly an independent lighting designer, working much like an architect works. I needed to get the technology under my belt and be the best I could be. So I moved into a period of study that I had missed years before. I went to college to study lighting and I started my degree in maths to provide the solid calculating background I thought I needed.
While this put financial pressure on my for years it provided another means for me escaping from home and domestic life. I loved it, though, even more than my work. I loved the enquiry, the challenge and the results. I was good at this and found that the more I learned the more I wanted to dive deeper into the possibilities. I moved on and, after a few years, I joined a new, developing, lighting design consultancy up in Edinburgh. I was home. I had found the vehicle for expressing who I was and I found a way into the spiritual depths behind everything I did.
In parallel with the domestic destruction I found professional power. The details of where this went are for future episodes but for now it will suffice to paint the big picture. I became an internationally recognised designer. I travelled the world with my work designing and developing the profession. I developed international contacts and friends who were also high flyers. I was constantly away from home developing my firm and the professional association I spent time on. This time was crucial for me in understanding my place in the world at the same time as it exacerbated what was happening at home. It made me and destroyed me at the same time. It was the birth of a new me as it killed off the old me.
One of the highlights was a series of presentations I gave to fellow designers at a number of meetings and conferences. In these I connected the outer world of light that I worked in with the world of inner light—spirituality—that I was exploring. In the opening to a presentation on ‘Inspiration and Light’ I said,
I am going to talk about how our ‘Inner Light’ will lead us to greater influence as Lighting Designers, how, if we connect to the light inside us, we can grow and develop and become the designers who make a difference in the profession.
It is important that as designers we believe in what we are doing and display that as a passionate involvement in our work. It is our passion that shows to colleagues, partners and clients. It is our passion that moves us forward.
What makes you, as a designer, different from the rest is the extent to which this belief is communicated to clients and other designers. The extent to which your belief in yourself gets incorporated into your work is critical to your success.
Felix Adler, the German American Professor of Political and Social Ethics, said, “The hero is the one who kindles a great light in the world, who sets up blazing torches in the dark streets of life for men to see by. The saint is the man who walks through the dark paths of the world, himself a light."
In conclusion I said,
I have taken you through a brief look at the totality of light and lighting.
We have looked at Living Light by looking at how vision works in the brain and by considering Quantum Theory. Waves or Particles is no longer an argument but an illumination of the outer edges of science.
We have looked at Discovered Light through light in nature and the qualities of darkness. This so informs our lives that without it we die.
We have looked at Imagined Light through the eyes of Brunelleschi and perspective and Monet with his imagination of Rouen Cathedral.
We have looked at Created Light though a consideration of fire and light graffiti.
Finally we touched on Spiritual Light through learning about Lux and Lumen and my own spiritual journey.
My aim was to inspire you. To inspire you to better work as designers. To inspire you to look at light in a different way. To inspire you to love light even more than you do already
Look to your Inner Light and see what is there.
I moved on from my anxieties by appealing to a higher power, by looking beyond myself. It worked. It enabled me to deal with the difficulties and anxieties in my life by seeing myself in a larger context. That is what is happening, in a sense, today as I write this part of my story. My life is full of certainties, ones that make my daily life comfortable. I still have anxieties, though, unexplained, vague anxieties. Perhaps my way through them is to recognise that I am being called to something deeper, again, something bigger. It is time for me to look beyond what I am now and continue my search into the unknown.
That is why I am writing this book, to discover what I am still seeking…
(The text and slides from the presentation ‘Inspiration and Light’ are available for download here for this who might be interested in looking further into what I was talking about.)
Photo Credit: Graham Reid Phoenix