Thursday, June 07, 2007

Heat Lightning

When I was in 7th grade or so... 7th to 10th probably... I remember sitting outside on summer nights near my home with some friends. We'd stay outside after dinner until way late at night, 10 or 11pm in the summer. Of course the sun doesn't seem to set until after 9pm that time of year. In this part of the country at least, the summers are hot, and humid, and known for frequent random thunderstorms.

Air and water vapor heated near the earth's surface move up quickly and form large clouds when the water condenses. When enough water condenses it starts to fall (sometimes in frozen form) and all that water moving up and down, droplets rubbing against each other, causes something called charge separation. Kind of like when you rub a latex balloon against your hair... sort of... anyway. The cloud having a very negative charge near its bottom causes objects on the ground to sort of polarize, which ends up creating a really huge electric field that keeps getting bigger... until it is so big that the air practically breaks down. It starts to behave kind of like a metal (remember learning how metals had those "electron clouds?") with "free" electrons that are poised to... conduct electricity between the ground and cloud basically. And BANG, you short the cloud, the air conducts current briefly while heating up to some superhot temperature (in fact, it might not even be air anymore... let's call it "plasma.") Now air expands when it heats up, and in the case of lightning creates a shockwave--thunder. And yes, thunder can be dangerous if it's close enough.

So, if you feel clever and tell someone you're praying she gets struck by lightning... keep the process in mind... maybe you really don't want her struck by lightning. And to anyone who finds someone else praying you get struck by lightning... run for the hills before you wonder if you've truly lost your heart and mind and anything else personal you might like to hold on to. It's too late for me now, but I don't mind. That's because it's too late.
But anyway--what is heat lightning? It's the same as regular lightning, only it's far away. My observer-friend (we would observe and comment on various astronomical phenomena like 13-year old girls tend to do... don't give me that look) informed me that this lightning we were watching one night was "heat lightning." I spent a few years wondering why it wasn't just regular lightning... before I realized it was just regular lightning but someone who didn't know better thought it something else. The only thing is that it's so far away you can't hear the thunder. There is thunder, you just can't hear it. It's not an atmospherical trick that when it's hot you can have lightning without thunder. I should've trusted my intuition on that one.

So as the summer heats up and the thunderstorms come, I think about "heat lightning" and tricks of the summer. On the road I can get a good view of the horizon and just the other night I saw some dark clouds in the distance, lighting up in shades of orange. And for the rest of the night, until I went to sleep I thought about it. What is it about summer--the mindset, the heat, the random frequent thunderstorms--that adds a bit of passion to our lives? My favorite season of the year is definitely fall, but there's something about summer that can make you feel very alive and very intense. And just when you're about to burn-out... it rains.

For me, "heat lightning" is a calming and comforting sight on the night horizon. Safely far enough away to not bother me with a shockwave, but something worth looking at for sure, and proof that the world extends beyond what all my senses can perceive. And who knows, maybe it's headed my way? I could go for some heat lightning right now.

So where is the passion when you need it the most? It's right there on the horizon, just out of reach. But it's coming... inshaa-Allah, it's coming.


Aviator said...

Thunder is raad. There is a surat called al-raad.

surat al-raad, ayat 12-13 talks about it.

therehman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
therehman said...

I can’t imagine anyone praying you or someone get struck by lightening! Often our minds get filled with ideas and assumptions about other people and we tend to perceive world through these imaginary eyes. So, if you step out of that frame of mind, you will discover that things/people aren’t the way you imagined and that it’s never too late.

Speaking of prayers makes me wonder, if God ever entertains these vicious kinds of prayers. I don’t think so. But really, he must have some criteria or some mighty logic maybe…because He has to strike balance somewhere.

Ibn Abd-el-Shafy said...

Yes, whoever made such a supplication should be electrifi- er mortified!

peals and peals of thun- laughter.

Amy said...

Oh, it wasn't really a vicious prayer... it was kind of an inside joke. Consider it codename for a prayer to Allah to change someone's heart. Because Allah is the changer of hearts.

We also ask Allah for guidance--to be guided to good, and to be successful and blessed in the path He chooses for us, and to make us content with His verdict.

therehman said...

Now, that’s a good prayer.

It reminds me of my mom, because I get similar to this from her along with bundle of other instructions. Thanks anyways!