Lightness Emblem: Sweet Iced Tea

When I picture Lightness, I picture a warm, carefree summer day of my childhood. This is why I have chosen a glass of homemade sweet iced tea as my emblem.
Iced Tea
My dad’s side of the family is southern. I’ve never been without a porch swing which, might I add, was always in motion. I’ve grown up surrounded by family and good neighbors. Sweet tea is a staple of the South. I actually went to a restaurant in Hastings, a town near my father’s house, which served nothing but sweet tea. No soda, no coffee, just sweet tea. That’s all anyone orders there anyways. Once you travel out of the southern states, you can’t order it anymore. “I can bring you hot tea with a glass of ice on the side” says the waitress who obviously does not understand. No thanks. This is where the complexity lies. If there isn’t at least 2 cups of sugar completely dissolved in the pitcher, it’s no good. There is an art to making it that not everyone can achieve.

The simplicity of childhood, living way out on a dirt road, playing hopscotch and swinging from the rope swing tied to the biggest branch of that magnolia tree: these are all present in a single sip.


Lightness Analogy: Ballerina

The lightness of writing is like the lightness of a ballerina. She twirls, leaps, and balances in impossible poses; this all being on her own. With a male accompaniment, she is effortlessly lifted into the air as though she is as light as air. We all know that she is, in fact, heavy (although weight is relative considering a ballerina’s size). We also know that she has probably been training since the age of two. These are the logical observations we make after watching the ballet, but during we are suspended in disbelief that she is floating across the stage. A ballerina hides her strength in her beauty.Floating Ballerina

I’m sure you’ve heard about the ridiculous shoes ballerinas wear for point. Literally, all of their weight is focused on their toes, pressed against a hard piece of wood. Their feet blister and bleed until they sufficiently build up calluses. Yet, in this picture it is as if she doesn’t even touch the ground. The very tip of her shoe rests effortlessly on the floor. We see beauty; she knows the difficulty that it takes to get there.

The writer knows that if they were to write a piece that was effortless, it would not result in beauty, just like an audience would rather watch the ballerina who has trained for years over my personal dancing skills. (I’m hinting at the fact that I’ve never taken lessons).

Lightness Graphic: Rhythm and Balance

Rhythm and Balance
Or to be more specific, I’m looking at a sub-category of repetition and change. Dawn uses repetition and change by showing the same few backgrounds multiple times as they change on a loop. Not to mention the sound that seems unchanging despite the fact that it too is just repeating itself.

How does this embody lightness?
Graphic Design: The New Basics, written by Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips says that “repetition is an endless feature of the human environment…Beauty arises from the mix.” Repetition is something we learn early in life. It’s the simplicity of a child’s song like “If you’re happy and you know it.” Through repeating the same few images, Dawn creates a rhythm that is simple and light.

E-Lit Example of Lightness: Dawn

Dawn- Reiner Strasser and Alan Sondheim

Author description: The poem combines aspects of love, death, and nature in one piece.  Originally it consisted of three parts: text, photography, and sound.  In the Flash version these parts are arranged in a loop completed by a minimalist interface (to pause).

I have chosen Dawn to represent lightness for several specific reasons.

1. It is short and repetitive, unlike some e-lit workd that seem to never end.  The simplicity of a short text can create a feeling of lightness.

2. The background is composed of fading images of nature at dawn.  Nature in itself is light.  It does not contain the complexities of human thought.

3.  Despite the crackling sound which is anything but pleasant, it is looped creating a never-ending sound that could just as easily be only two seconds long.  We don’t know but at the same time it doesn’t matter.

With some philosophical content, the words can be heavy but I felt that this piece’s composition had the representation of simplicity.


Lightness does not refer to the intensity of light within a room but rather represents writing that is the opposite of heaviness and density.  Lightness is the ease with which the words come off the page.  No translator is necessary.  The writing is simple, straight-forward, and to the point.

Calvino argues that lightness is difficult to achieve.  The entire world around us is extremely heavy, after all.  Refering to Milan Kundera’s “The Unbearable Lightness of Being,” Calvino tells us that everything we choose in life for its lightness soon reveals its true, unbearable weight.

“One should be light like a bird, and not like a feather” (Calvino 15).  Here he says that light writing may feel effortless but the writer actually puts much effort into it.  A feather does not naturally float, but falls like all objects.  A bird, however, can soar high into the sky.  Work is exhorted in order to look as though the wind carries it along.

Calvino tells of a part of a story by the Florentine Poet Guido Cavalcanti which is emblematic of lightness.  “The sudden agile leap of the poet-philosopher who raises himself above the weight of the world, showing that with all his gravity he has the secret of lightness and that what many consider to be the vitality of the times-noisy, aggressive, revving and roaring—belongs to the realm of death, like a cemetery for rusty old cars” (12).  In his weightless leap over a grave he leaves behind all the density of the world.

One novel that I feel particularly demonstrates the quality of Lightness is The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff.
This novel discusses philosophy in a light and simple way. Winnie the Pooh is a silly children’s book character, yet he is used to explain something more complex and aimed at adults.

“When you discard arrogance, complexity, and a few other things that get in the way, sooner or later you will discover that simple, childlike, and mysterious secret known to those of the Uncarved Block: Life is fun.”