The Problem with Fluorescent Lighting

by John Drake

Fluorescent lighting may be the embodiment of all that is bad in modern life.
Unknowing, we wrap ourselves in the corrupting glow of fluorescents on a daily basis. In the supermarket, at the mall, in restaurants, and in the workplace. The great God Fluorescence has only two magical powers in his arsenal, but they are mighty indeed. They are spells to which you are subject, but they act without your knowledge, below the threshold of what you choose to perceive. They sicken and corrupt your life every moment that you are beneath them. Both spells can be easily detected, if you know what to look for, and not enough people do.
The first spell would have terrified ancient man; it would have rendered him speechless and trembling. Place him underneath the baleful fluorescent scourge and he will fall hysterical to his knees, wailing with the certain knowledge that his soul has been ripped from his body. Fluorescent lights - of the style found in most offices and public places - cast no shadow. No shadow at all.
From the first moment that man's consciousness poked its tender bud through the loam of prehistory, shadows have been the dominant mentor and companion to humanity. Employed by the sundial, shadows first created the concept of linear time from the vagary, indistinct realms of night and day. Shadows predate pictograms and hieroglyphics, perhaps even language itself, the first tool with which man created realities from his imagination, in the flickering form of finger play projected large and looming onto rough cave walls. And so, now, you spend most of your waking hours bereft of your one most true and faithful companion, your shadow. Black magic indeed, this art they call "diffused lighting." They have stolen your shadow. And, most likely, you never even noticed.
The other spell that afflicts the masses, the other treachery that fluorescence has wrought upon the unknowing masses, is both simpler and more complex. Fluorescent lights are not white, no matter how the gleaming, smooth, cool, modern tubes that stand sentry above our heads might seem.
Rather, they cast a green glow, an unhealthy green glow of the sort you might expect to emanate from a chunk of kryptonite, the color of the halo you might expect to envelop an avatar of the mucous-plague god. It can't be seen; our brains edit it out. But the observant person walking in from the bright sunshine might notice it, for a moment or two. And the camera, sans flash, will detect it, every time.
All the livelong day it shines, green on our skin, green on the faces of the men and women who populate our worlds, making them into aliens, making them seem nauseous and ill.
Bad enough on the face of it, to be sure, but wait: it gets worse. The same people who brought you fluorescent lights, the same people who stick those deceptively alabaster spokes into the wheels of work-a-day luminescence, also bring you television. Television, the window through which the average American spends five plus hours per day gazing, a window which casts everything in a just below liminal tint of blue, the color of sunny skies and clear waters. Not only do we spend our days, our "real lives" such as they are, tainted by this ghoulish green-hued aura, not only are our friends and coworkers and acquaintances permanently tarred by the vermilion brush. Not only this tarring of the real, but an elevation, a beautification of the unreal.
Small wonder, then, that the girls are prettier on television, and the men manlier, the bosses kinder, and the lovable curmudgeons more lovably curmudgeonly. They're the color of friendliness, of picnic skies, of the sea and the clean lake. And all of the real people, well, they're an unhealthy shade of green, the murky pond, the vomit that comes unexpected in the night...
--John Drake
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