We just haven’t got over it yet. When we installed the authentic Fresnel lens this spring, just before the Heritage Classic, we certainly knew at the time that it was cause for celebration. Reflecting on it now, with its first high season behind us, the meaning of it settles into an even more revealing space, here at the top of the Harbour Town Lighthouse.
Like the many facets of the Fresnel lens itself, what its presence here reveals to us is full of views we might have overlooked until now. The story of persistence that resulted in getting a real lighthouse lens, more than 50 years after the Lighthouse itself was completed, is one way to look at it.
The faith or belief in a vision we inherited from Sea Pines founder Charles Fraser, himself a seeming force of nature who overcame or outlasted the many obstacles he encountered is another view. In doing so, he created what is one of the first nature-friendly resorts, a proof of concept that influenced nearly every serious concept for how we spend our leisure time, ever since then.
How We See Differently Now
As practical as the ingenious Fresnel lens might be – multiplying the light originating from the Harbour Town Lighthouse by a factor of 40, in line with a device so important that Napoleon set a bounty and established a commission to see to its invention more than 200 years ago – it is not necessarily navigation that we get from it today.
Rather, our Fresnel lens causes us to think how many people have seen things differently, after discovering for themselves the view from atop the 114 steps of the Harbour Town Lighthouse. Engagements and weddings, the birth of business propositions, career changes, and other markers of the experience are merely the easiest changes to describe.
More profound, and even more widespread, are the occasions when someone walked back down these stairs and saw life a little differently from that moment on.
A Portable Point of View
These changes, these instances when folks went home with a greater sense of beauty, truth, creativity, love, intelligence, and inner growth, these may be the most enduring changes that result from taking in the view from up here. And these are things that stay with us, that go where we go, that show up in how we relate to everyone we encounter in life.
Strength is just one of the results that people report from the experience of seeing things from an elevated place. Long ago, the psalmist sang, “I will lift my eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my strength.” When we see that there is no separation here between sea and land, between earth and sky – when we can stand in a place where we realize that it is all together, then it is no wonder folks feel changed for the better.
It is Working Both Ways
In a sense such as this, we can appreciate the Fresnel lens not only for how it shines forth, for the light it sends out to the world, but also for the light it sheds within.
When he first saw the Fresnel lens, a friend with ties to the movie business told us it looked to him like the eyeball of an alien space creature. It was, he said, as if it had come from the “creature shop” where makeup and special effects wizard Stan Winston materialized every kind of critter from the dripping monster of Alien to the majestic, prehistoric beasts of Jurassic Park.
This unearthly appearance stems from bringing two seeming opposites together. Augustin-Jean Fresnel, who invented the lens in 1822, used both refraction and reflection, to multiply the candlepower of the light that emanated from it. These two qualities of light might seem contradictory, and yet by creating a device that united them both, Fresnel found the answer.
That’s a rather good symbol for what we are seeing now, having lived with the lens for a little while. It brings two opposite gifts. While it is shining out more brightly than ever, here at the Harbour Town Lighthouse, it is reminding us of what the view from here can change within.
We are grateful to welcome the visitors and residents alike who come here for that inspiration, some of them expecting it, some encountering it as a surprise, and all departing richer and stronger from the realizations that result.