In the gargantuan canyons of the urban troglodytes, the lightning pops like a paparazzo’s flashbulb, making famous for a millisecond every late-night window watcher. And then the thunder, mere tardy herald of the fulgency, gives a name: fulgurant. Filling the ungrateful gulfs, it echoes like a waterfall of the Sambatyon, and then is digested by the great glass and granite until it is mere borborygmus and grunt and echoing eructation.
Fulgurant: this is the adjective that is thrown to it. The air and the eye are full with the coruscating crack, the intense scintillation, the crooked white river on which rides for an instantaneous eternity the angel of death. (Imagine a flash of this order every time a soul shucked its shell: an instant’s intense glow over there, then over there, then over there, and sooner or later where you were standing.) It purifies the vulgar; its white heat foments a corybantic ecstasis among the atmospheric molecules and, like Bacchae, they issue forth in destructive trance and dance, no guarantee on the outcome, but their collisions impel and expel and this ague causes crashes that argue and rant and at last dissipate and even out.
For there can be no flash without bang. What, a mere dropped white hanky in the sky, a flash in the pantheon, with no report? Cheated. An idea without expression. This word fulgurant names what we see: flashing like lightning. Lightning, Latin fulgur. The /g/ may seem too soft and guttural for the atmospheric Lucifer, but a name – any name – is what binds it to the earth. The lightning does not exist because of the thunder, but without the word would the thing be real? Would we know it? Has it in fact come just to send forth the thunder? What is priority? Why, indeed, would we think that time is for lightning as it is for us?
Why has the sky given us this word, this bright idea and its rumbling name? But while lightning may flash across the sky or between sky and ground, it is never a simple giving. There can be no fulgurance without potential. When the earth is increasingly positive, there is a moment of mutual recognition of potential between ground and cloud. Both sides are ready. The word does not simply descend from heaven; the connection happens only because our need to take matches its need to give. And in that bright instant exists the illumination, which shocks the air into reporting: yes, fulgurant. The unity is divided, the soul is released, the exaltation of the flash makes all famous for fifteen microseconds; the fractal branches and breaks. Blissful ignorance is incinerated in blitz, in einem Augenblick – in the blink of an eye. Your wish has been granted in full.
And then, as the echo passes, it all evanesces. Not to be frugal – the sky is prodigal with its prodigies. But the world works its wonders with myriad myriads of words, a lexical googolplex. Every scintilla of insight is an instant of scintillation; when you figure it all out you are engulfed in fulguration, and each light is a light of a word that will soon enough be heard.