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Eldon Phukuile
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The scientific properties of light

18 May 2012, 13:01

My sketchy recollection of high school physical science – specifically the scientific characteristics of light – was on my mind yesterday. I juxtaposed them against the contemporary state of values and morals in South African society and thought that there are some lessons that we can take away.

In layman’s terms, let’s define some of these characteristics briefly:

·       Reflection: refers to the property where the light is reflected back to its source in the same form and intensity - like a mirror.

·       Deflection: similar to reflection, but the light does not go back towards its source. Instead, the light beam is reflected in a different direction.

·       Refraction: this is the property of light that causes it to bend due to a change in its speed. This happens when the light travels through certain chemical substances.

·       Absorption: this is the property of objects to absorb certain colours that make up white light and reflect back what is nor absorbed. For example, an object is only blue to the human eye because it has the ability to absorb the 6 of the 7 colours that make up white light, thereby reflecting the blue back to us

·       Error of parallax: this is the property of objects to appear in one place, but actually not be there. May be caused by deflection, refraction or absorption of light.

What sparked this off for me was when I heard about someone saying that the world can change in ONE minute if everyone just decided to care for the person next to them. We often hear that in order for the world to change, it needs to begin with us. I also believe that change, actually, positive change starts with the values and the beliefs and the reactions that we have to events in our lives. So, right now, I am asking myself…. “Self – how do you behave?”

Do I reflect light – and show back the truth in whatever way, shape or form that it comes to me? Perhaps I do, but is this wise and prudent, and considerate of other people’s feelings? Is it the right thing to do? Is it the wrong thing perhaps?

Perhaps, in my life, I deflect light. Perhaps I deflect things. Perhaps I handle things that come to me in such a way that I show it to others, without the source becoming aware of what I am doing.

The way I refract things in life refers to my ability to change the direction of events. This can be done to produce an even better outcome, or to eliminate unnecessary hurt to someone else. It is essentially slowing things down so that the impact is different.

Absorption means that I take in, what comes, but only reflect back what is needed. Once again, this can be absorbing the bad and returning the good. It can also be the opposite.

I’ll leave the error of parallax to a later stage.

You see – I am really trying to talk about values. And I know that peoples’ values are different – and so perhaps it should be. What I believe is evident that there is a relaxation of morals, ethics, standards, values, beliefs, care and concern in general. I hear people say things like “I have not been found guilty in a court of law!” Immediately I think that something doesn’t need to be illegal in order for it to be wrong. Basically, the law distinguishes between legal and non-legal, not between right and wrong. So just because something is legal, doesn’t mean that it is right.

Why does the law exist? Is it there to guide us? Is it there to protect us? Is it there to enable us? Loaded question, but I believe that the law is simply placing limitation on those people who are good anyway. I don’t need a law to tell me how to behave well. If I am morally upright, I’ll do that anyway. Perhaps the law tells us when we are wrong – and those of us who are morally reprehensible (in any way, shape or form) will violate the laws anyway.

The error of parallax speaks to me of a seared conscience – and of an incorrect metaphoric vision. It is that ability that we have when we see something as truth and may not even be aware of the fact that it is not. We’re seeing things that are not there, or that have shifted and we’re missing the point. We’re committing the moral error or parallax when we reflect, deflect, refract and absorb the wrong things, or in the wrong way – and when we become in tune with doing it the right way, the world may improve.

Now if we can only agree on a common, shared, positive set of beliefs, values and morals!

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