Sunday, August 03, 2008

Dark is good...

My first published article in Farm Journal was "Let there be dark".  Since then I have noted the response of visitors to two peculiar aspects of living where I do.  It gets dark. It gets quiet.
There is nothing inherently wrong with or evil about darkness.   Indeed,
night brings with it wonderful gifts.   We are freed from the tyranny of
appearances.   My friends, for instance, all say I'm much better looking in
dim light.   In the dark, men don't have to hold in their stomachs, and women
don't need makeup.   Wonderful things happen in conversation.   Because
you can no longer be guided by visual signals and body language between
talker and talkee, words are chosen with greater care, inflection and cadence
become more potent, and the power of our language increases.   In the
process, communication often erupts.   The dark is unparalleled for telling
ghost stories, whispering dreams, or revealing feelings.   It provides a
comfortable atmosphere for the silences of friends together, moments full of
healing and joy.   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 our sweetest dreams.   Distances expand, sounds
and smells emerge to occupy the foreground of our perceptions, and
imagination seems as natural and easy as our slow breathing.
These two phenomena are remarkably unusual for most Americans. Consider the idea of natural darkness.

Unfortunately, because of the tremendous increase in light pollution over the past quarter century, the majority of our current generation have never seen the night sky in all its grandeur.

In his book "Nightwatch," the well-known Canadian astronomer Terrence Dickinson comments that in the aftermath of the predawn 1994 Northridge, California earthquake, electrical power was knocked out over a wide area. Tens of thousands of people in southern California rushed out of their homes looked up and perhaps for the first time in their lives saw a dark, starry sky. In the days and weeks that followed, radio stations and observatories in the Los Angeles area received countless numbers of phone calls from concerned people who wondered whether the sudden brightening of the stars and the appearance of an eerie silvery cloud (the Milky Way) might have caused the quake.

"Such reaction," notes Dickinson, "can come only from people who have never seen the night sky away from city lights." [More]

In his book about time travel to the Middle Ages, Timeline, Michael Crichton expertly addresses the profound darkness that the world knew before electricity.  Indeed our parents understood the necessity of scheduling by the sun and not the clock.

Maybe one of the stranger outcomes from expensive energy will be lessening of the fight against darkness.


Anonymous said...


I agree. 'Take time to rest the horses' seems to be a seldom used activity. I am amused (?)(!!) as my sons are walking to me on the farm to ask me where a certain needed item is currently located. When I show them where it is, we both realize it was something they either just stepped over, or walked beside while walking to talk to me. Seeing the item was missed because while walking to talk to dad they were either texting or talking on their cell phones.
Today we are half way through our 2 week Methodist campmeeting. 2 weeks among some 1000+ people with no showers, radios, TV on the grounds. A pleasant resbit!! Between services, Bible studies and meals the main activity is sitting in cabins or porches and actually talking. What a novel idea!!! I am noticing however more use of cell phones, since it is done in 'silence' during this past week.

Doug Marvel said...

I'm old and am having trouble reading your quoting process (pink color with some sort of brown script.)
I'll give you a dollar if you can change it. How about keeping the pink outline and using black letters?
PS OK, I'll give you bushel of corn if you change the format....

John Phipps said...


Obviously, I was not an art major. Thank you for your input - I have literally no idea what I am doing when I select colors.

I will try to modify the format ASAP.