I have a secret superpower: I can make myself invisible.
I’m not joking, this is serious. It’s not like saying, “Want to be invisible? Just tell all your friends you need to borrow money.” Being unseen isn’t being invisible. This isn’t about being unseen, it’s about being unseeable.
Here’s how it works: All seeing is seeing light. All we ever see, all we can ever see, is light. When you look at, say, a tree, you don’t see the tree itself, you see light that has bounced off the surface of the tree. You don’t see the tree, you see the light reflected by the tree. That light enters your eyes and touches your retinas, where it’s converted into electrochemical impulses (so “science” says). Those impulses travel up the optic nerve to your brain, which then – “somehow” – converts them into what you believe is a tree, but what is really an inner image of a tree. The tree is not “out there,” it is “in here” that you experience it. All seeing, all sense-perception, all experience – happens “in here.” All experience is inner experience.
If all seeing is seeing light, then to make something visible become invisible – not just unseen, but unseeable – means removing it from all light. It isn’t difficult to do that – in fact, people do it all the time. All you have to do is go into an enclosed space where light cannot enter. You will thus be rendered not only unseen – because you’ve gone into a dark box no one can see inside – but unseeable, because even if someone were to get inside your box, there’s no light, so they couldn’t see anything, if there were anything to see.
A closet, for example.
Okay, making myself invisible isn’t really a superpower, anyone can do it. And in fact a lot of people do it – they regularly, and some of them constantly, and one way or another, conceal themselves, or some part of themselves – becoming unseen though perhaps not unseeable.
What’s to conceal? Why would you or I want to make sure that something about ourselves never, as people say, “sees the light of day”? Because we fear that there will be unpleasant consequences if other people see what we’re doing or what we really are in our true “disconcealed” state. People are, we know, widely inclined to pass judgment on others and to inflict punishment on anyone they judge negatively. Those judgments are as often based on ignorance or prejudice as on knowledge and intelligence. To avoid being subjected to them, we are often driven to hide things that we know are harmless or even beneficial, because we know there are other people who insist on seeing them as harmful and wrong and requiring eradication.
Thus is created a twilight world, a shadow world, an underground, where everything lives that society disapproves, everything rejected, neglected or viewed as infected – the “immoral,” the misfit, the unruly and untamed – things good thrown in with things bad, the sweet and lovely next to the foul and ugly, the natural saint keeping company with the thief and cutthroat in the foggy cellars of Shadowland.
Here’s another secret: The universe is full of light, the darkest-seeming expanses of space are filled with light – light we can’t see and will never see unless someone or something enters the darkness and reveals the light hidden there.
What do we see when we look at the sky on a clear night? Points of light scattered across a field of darkness: stars, planets, the Moon. The stars emit their own light, and we see them because some tiny fraction of their light enters our eyes and becomes an image in our mind. But the Moon and planets are different. Remember, all seeing is seeing light, but the Moon emits no light of its own. Its glow reveals to us that the dark-seeming space surrounding our planet is filled – flooded – with sunlight at all times. In daytime, some of that light streams straight at us or strikes the objects around us, bounces off, and enters our eyes, and so forth. But at night the mass of the Earth blocks the Sun’s direct light and we find ourselves in the Earth’s shadow. So although the Sun never ceases radiating light in all directions, we see only the tiny fraction of that light that enters our eyes. At night, the light streams past us unseen though it fills the space around us – invisible and absolutely dark to us.
But when the Moon rises and passes across the sky, the flood of invisible light washes over it, and some of that light reflects toward us, so that now we can see the light, the light that was pure darkness to us until the Moon revealed it.
Like the secret of invisibility, this secret of dark light is no secret, but just something rarely given any thought. To give thought to what is unknown or ignored is to enter the shadows in search of unseen light, to rise above the dark horizon and become a mirror for the invisible. Fearing and hating the darkness only deepens it. Enter the night with open eyes, look for the light that’s always there, and let it shine on you and in you for all the world to see.