Lake Effect, Spring 2003, Volume 7: from Reading the Photograph of a Stranger

Michael Stephenson


from Reading the Photograph of a Stranger

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
It was with God in the beginning. (John 1:1-2)


     This is where it starts: a wide-open space, uninhabited by meaningful forms. No, not true. There’s a lot there, but nothing you can see, nothing you’d pay attention to if you could. Some things are best taken for granted. It starts here, but it didn’t start here. What is here is secondary to the thing that started it somewhere else entirely. But that doesn’t matter to you. Not now, anyway. Maybe you’ll care later, when you reconsider what it means to take things for granted, but not now. Right now, all that matters is that it starts here. Right here.
     You can see now the way things build up on forsaken ground—a collection of atoms that begins with and is eternally entwined with energy, the creative energy of light on an elusive wavelength. It bends, reflects, and splits into stimuli that trigger images of color, shapes, and spatial relationships; and what you see isn’t what you see at all but an electromagnetic metaphor whose tenor is always just beyond perception. You take on faith that there’s something behind the stimuli, the individual but indiscriminate beams of light that add up to one collective image that you have to trust signifies something. If you don’t have that, you don’t have anything…