Tuesday, May 18, 2004
The Darkness of Night
Tonight, on my way back to my temporary place to sleep--a building in the middle of pine trees--I saw the darkness, the total darkness of the forest. It was years I had not seen total darkness of nature at night. The last time I had seen such a darkness was the short period I lived in a camp in Iran-Iraq war front, and before that I remember total darkness from my childhood trips to the villages in Southern Iran, where there was no electricity available. But all these were forgotten memories. The darkness I confronted in the forest appeared very new to me. Something I never had thought about.
Standing in the middle of the pine trees, I felt lost. The only thing I had to look at, the only bright space around me, was the sky lighted with stars. I watched the stars for a while and realized why heaven has always been imagined as a place in sky, and why Dante's Inferno began with "In the middle of our life's way, I found myself in a wood, so dark that I couldn't tell where the straight path lay."
The darkness of forest at night was the place religion was invented.
In our modern daily life, night's darkness doesn't have the same meaning it had for thousands of years. Electric light has changed our understanding of distinctly separated periods of cosmic time, and the way they used to be perceived as metaphors. We no longer associate night and day to certain feelings that used to be represented by them. They have lost their former hidden meanings. They are reduced to an "agreement" about measuring time. That is how we could invent concepts like 'daylight-savings' which never existed before. Night and Day's connections with Good and Evil (and the strange mixture of them in Down and Dusk) are fading. The disappearance of metaphysical meanings is something positive here, but it also has a negative aspect: we have forgotten about the moments in life when one can see absolutely nothing, and the areas that are so dark one can't walk into them.
Illustration: Dante astray in the Dusky Wood by Dore.