October 20, 2012

The Doch-Ness, monster?

James Tanizaki praises shadows, and I do too. I realize that his aesthetic treatise is more about appreciating shadowy nuances in the face of glaring modernity than about dwelling in utter darkness, and that his given name wasn’t James. Nevertheless, Ive noticed quite a bit of backlash from people to certain other people (read: Nathan) hanging out in the dark. “Men love darkness because their deeds are evil.” It’s a subtle, biblical backlash but a palpable one.
Logically, we probably should be concerned for those who spend a lot of time in the dark, but I don’t think that makes physical darkness necessarily bad. For just as stillness helps you to hear better, darkness can help you to see better.
I will not appeal to the Tao or the Force to justify spiritual darkness. Metaphysically, darkness is very real and very present and is not necessarily good. I’m more interested in justifying aesthetic and literal darkness, which I don’t think is necessarily bad.
If everything we do is metaphysically important in only the most immediately obvious way, turning on a light is a little act of creation. Why else would people so often accompany their light switch flipping with an affected James Earl Jones intonation of “Let there be light!” (Maybe that was just me, a few years ago before I was into darkness.) Or perhaps turning on a light is not just symbolic of creation but redemption. To transform a room that was once black and frightening into a warm and welcoming environment is surely good. The things in the room have not physically changed but have taken on new life. If these are reasons why you appreciate keeping the lights on, okay. But I’ve found that there is also something lost in the illumination.
At the end of Arthur C. Clarke’s 2010: Odyssey Two — SPOILER ALERT — criminals and lovers have to adjust their schedules to account for the second sun now parked where Jupiter used to orbit. This is supposed to be an inspiring, fresh start in our solar system, but it’s also a tad unnerving. No more darkness? 
Darkness, aesthetically, can represent melancholy and anguish. Those are not good, but they are real and should not be ignored. Yet aesthetic darkness is not necessarily a total downer either. While it can be peaceful and comforting when near and known, the distant darkness, because unknown, holds terrors, blessings and all else we put there. It’s exciting, the great if. The edge of any light is the beginning of a frontier, and maybe it’s the American in me but I need to keep that open. 

I swear I’m not an emo, but I like rainy days and long winter nights. Besides being a statement that probably wouldn’t go over too well in a personal ad, this might just be a little fad. Perhaps I’m just jazzed about experiencing a full winter for the first time in five years. On the other hand, I’ve thought for some time that I wouldn’t mind living in Iceland. Not only are the modern-day Vikings really happy and producing excellent music, they appreciate light more because they spend so much time in the dark.
Almost all of the universe is absolutely freezing and utterly black, and it’s short-sighted — pardon the pun? — to focus exclusively on the little lights in front of our faces.