Saturday, July 4, 2015

Let there be dark

March 1994

Sometime when I was a child, someone sold a lot of  nightlights to rural America,  a fact which becomes obvious flying over the Midwest during the winter.   For a few pennies we could make the night as bright as day.

The idea was straightforward enough. Since criminals, especially thieves, and more especially gas thieves, were three parts vampire, the presence of photons in large numbers would thwart their plans. No one ever checked to be sure.  One thing we now know is they don't have to bring a flashlight when they burgle a farm anymore.   

Mostly I think, nightlights are good for chasing away the dark, just like the Donald Duck nightlight in the kid's bathroom. I think we
are adding to, not decreasing our fears. There is nothing inherently wrong with or evil about
darkness. Indeed, the night brings with it wonderful gifts. We are freed at night from the tyranny of appearances. My friends say I am much better looking in dim light, for 
instance. In the dark, men don't have to hold their stomach
in, and women don't need makeup.

Wonderful things happen to conversations.  Because you cannot be guided by visual signals between talker and talkee, you can concentrate on your words or on listening. In the process, communication often erupts. The dark is unparalleled for telling ghost stories, whispering dreams, 
and enjoying comfortable silences in.  It rests tired eyes while expanding our vision. The dark is a natural tranquilizer for frayed nerves, soothing us with a surrealistic world only slightly removed from the sweetest of our dreams. Distances expand, sounds and smells come up to occupy the foreground of our perceptions, and imagination seems as natural as slow breathing.

Best of all, you can find a treasure that few will ever be able to enjoy as we do on the farm. Now playing, on a sky near you, with a cast of billions - the heavens. Ambient light has stolen this privilege from most Americans, and the rest of us have taken it for granted, but it never fails to dazzle. It is an experience that endures repetition and defies analysis.

But if you're still unconvinced, try this. In early autumn, go for a walk in the moonlight around your farm. Your dog will love it, and you will see your farm as you have never seen it before. After a few minutes, you will be surprised how bright it is. For those hardier souls, do this when there is snow cover, or better yet, go sledding in the moonlight. WARNING!  Moonlight is a suspected source of magic.  Be careful whom you are with when exposed.

Above all, take your child with you. They need to understand what darkness is and is not. In the end, we may discover that darkness is simply nature's way of telling us to go to bed.

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