The day before yesterday I heard a clap of thunder. I heard the last rumbles as the sound decayed to silence after I was jolted awake. To hear thunder or to see lightning in early January in Nebraska is very rare. There is the slim chance of experiencing the majesty of a thunder-blizzard, but those generally happen in late Autumn or late Winter.
Because I was curious about the source of the thunder, I climbed out of bed to peek out from the window. I saw stars and only one small cloud in the sky. I checked views from different windows, but the stars were unobstructed in every direction. I slid back into bed still filled with curiosity. I reviewed what I know about lightning and static electricity as a way to drift back to sleep.
Lightning is the discharge of static electricity from a storm cloud to Earth or from Earth to a storm cloud. Lightning is basically a very large, deadly spark.
We’ve all experienced static electricity. Science describes it is an electrical charge that accumulates on an object, like a woolen sweater. The static charge discharges when our hand gets very close to a metal object. Static electricity is the source of fun experiments in grade school science classes. We learn to rub balloons on our sweaters so they can cling to us.
The air in my house is very dry today, so static charges build up on my clothing just from normal movement. After seating myself in the chair, I have to discharge the buildup by touching the desk lamp. I don’t want to zap the laptop computer and risk damage to the electronic components in the device.
Although sweater or carpet static discharges can be thousands of volts and several amps, we are not harmed because the static charge is very small and the spark only lasts for an instant. Unfortunately, a tiny spark from a fingertip can damage a sensitive electronic device.
Static does not only refer to a stored electrical charge; static describes anything that shows little or no change. Something is static if it doesn’t move. An antonym for static is dynamic. Something is dynamic if it is active and energetic. So something that is static becomes dynamic when it is moved.
Being static or dynamic can refer to actual objects or to attitudes in our heads. History teaches us that civilizations are not static but they are dynamic. Ideas and technology constantly change. Ideally, the dynamism of civilization brings about more progressive ideals and more egalitarianism over time.
This tendency towards progress is held back by static forces like traditions and inertia. This is why we have sudden changes in society. The desire for improvement begins with a few people. Other people pick up on this need for change. Then something triggers the release of this pent-up energy over the objections of those who espouse tradition or not “rocking the boat”. Hopefully the desired social improvement manifests as a spark of inspiration for the rest of society and not in violent riots. It is the safe or dangerous discharges of static social energy that history records.
Sometimes, when I see lightning and hear thunder, I think about how static and dynamic concepts apply to my circle of friends and to me. Although, in certain ways, we appear to be static individuals. We’re really quite dynamic in a lot of ways. Our heads are buzzing with ideas and opinions. We enjoy challenging the status quo in small and large ways. After scrutinizing and mentally testing a notion, we finally reveal or manifest it in some way.
In other words, we charge the mind to overflowing, then our presentation is the spark we share with others. If the idea is great enough, it illuminates in a flash and thunders with palpable energy.
I still don’t know what could have caused the lightning that produced the thunder during the partly cloudy sky condition the other morning. This puzzle will probably cogitate in my mind for several days. I can only hope for the flash of illumination later.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes humorist Dave Barry. “Electricity is actually made up of extremely tiny particles called electrons that you cannot see with the naked eye unless you have been drinking.”