Thank you so much for your kind words, Oh. I very much enjoyed thinking and writing about the experiences, and was delighted to find Eavan Boland, a contemporary Irish poet. I intend to do more exploring of her work.
‘I wanted to go back to Liberia. Looking down into the chaos-filled streets, the West African bush seemed preferable to “civilization” in any number of ways, not the least of which was the quality of its darkness.’
I understand the feeling. It seems there are two conflicting drives in our human nature. One is a desperate anxiety to ward off the darkness. The other is the profound awe to be found under a sky illuminated only by starlight — in the connection with a beautiful and seemingly serene universe so much vaster than our daily concerns and struggles.
I’ve received so much pleasure and knowledge from your WU postings – I’m pleased to have your response to my quite non-scientific approach to such things!
Many thanks for your insightful comment
Civilization sure is but a veneer…thank you for your eloquent recall of your experience.
Speaking of Africa, one of my favorite movie directors just passed away. I know a movie is nothing compared to the real experience, but for someone who hasn’t been there, the movie “Out of Africa” has powerfully evoked some poignant sentiments in me with its images and music.
Thank you again for such an inspiring piece of writing…and photos as well.
I thought Sydney Pollack might be one of your favorites; I was sorry to hear of his passing.
Just a gentle quibble re: “Out of Africa” – please don’t say it’s “nothing” compared to the real experience. Even – or especially – for those who have “been there” a movie like Pollock’s can help to sort through experiences and assess their significance. And, for those who say the movie wasn’t true to the facts of life on the African continent, there’s always that wonderful quotation from Faulker: “Facts and truth really don’t have much to do with each other.”
Thanks so much for the kind words – I’ll pop over later to see what you have to say about Mr. Pollack.
I don’t think I’ve ever thought about the various forms of darkness itself, and yet I’ve been aware of the different forms of darkness that you describe. It’s interesting and instructive to explore these ideas, and I appreciate how vividly you have presented each idea of darkness.
I was just thinking today about how my own attitude toward darkness has changed over the years. I love it now – I enjoy dusk, and sunrise, and even the heat of the afternoon. But there is nothing quite like 2 a.m. – quiet, and filled with night voices I love to write about.
The poet’s line just came to mind – “Do not go gentle into that good night”. Perhaps we should rage against the dying of the light, but the night is still good!
Another fascinating read. It is interesting how some choose the cover of night to become beasts and others choose it to become poets.
There are a couple of things I really like about Luther, and one is his insistence that anything in the world just “is” – how it is used, for good or for evil, is left to individual choice. As I mentioned elsewhere, the same hammer that pounds the nail can split a skull. A bit of a graphic illustration, perhaps, but the point is clear. We are given the gift of darkness, and how we acknowledge and make use of it is up to us!
It is extraordinary how many people are afraid of the dark. Even where I live, halfway to the middle of nowhere, I can count seven dusk-to-dawn lights. If you ask ‘why the light?’, the answer is always ‘for security.’ But I’ve never understood how lighting up the countryside makes it more secure. And secure from what? An errant skunk or possibly a bear?
I suppose it’s all in the mind. And if having enough surrounding light to read by makes people feel better, so be it. But my lights are on switches or are small and recessed, just enough illuminiation to navigate the stairs. For most nights, if I’m out, my gaze is upward and starward.
Sometimes I wonder if we simply haven’t become so accustomed to light we don’t know how to live without it. There was a time when people navigated a darkened world as easily as I walk around my house in the dark. They knew what they were going to “bump into” and weren’t frightened by it.
Of course, they had the same sensitivity to gradations of light, and could distinguish seasons and hours by the position of the sun. I’ve developed a bit of that working outdoors all day, every day – haven’t worn a watch in years, and really have trouble with daylight savings time. I’m “off” for at least two or three weeks until I “reposition” my inner sun according to clock hours!
Periodically I make time to peruse your archives. Clicking on tags brought me here today.
Extraordinary that you, who are not otherwise a New York kind of person, should be in Manhattan on that of all nights. Intriguing to think how the fates have woven that thread together with all your other life’s experiences to result, eventually, in this marvelous blog entry.
It is amazing, isn’t it? Of course, I might argue that if the Fates placed me there, I nevertheless did the weaving, but that’s a small quibble. ;-)
What your comment does remind me is that “being there” is only the beginning. The significance of what we experience, its deeper relevance for our lives comes later.
I’ve used the image of the kaleidoscope before, and still think it’s one of the best analogies for the creative process. We’re given the bits of experience, but it’s up to us to give them a twist and see what new patterns emerge. Sometimes, we get very, very lucky, indeed!
I enjoyed re-reading this, too – thanks for bringing me back here!