Updated: Oct 8, 2021
For most of human history the night, the dark, has been something impenetrable to humanity. Sure we had the campfire, the torch, and the candle. But none of these could hold a candle (ha) to the sun and his sister the moon so rare in appearance. The dark was all-encompassing. It ended all work and all movement. Once darkness overtook the land, you retired to the meager lighting of your domicile and then that too would end.
What brought this on? Recently, there was a general power outage at my apartment. No big deal, it’s happened before and it will probably happen again. However, what made this unique was that it occurred at night. Many old folktales and warnings exist about traveling at night. I completely understand them now. You don’t quite grasp how dark it is at night until you’re in a location where electricity is out for several square blocks.
The candle that was lit cast eerie, flickering shadows all across the room. The light seemed to be fighting a hard-fought battle against the dark. In this setting, it is easy to understand the numerous ghost stories passed down the generations. One could easily imagine oneself sitting huddled around the campfire peering, nervously into the darkness, with every sound perhaps indicating the presence of some nefarious being.
In the modern-day, the night is a minor inconvenience for most. We still tend to confine ourselves to the indoors, but with the impression that instead of merely fighting a losing battle against the night, you are, in fact, residing in a sanctuary where the dark cannot penetrate. In the cities, we have won the battle against the dark. The country house is a stalwart outpost against the evening. The dark alleyways and backs of parking lots are viewed with the eye of an officer tasked with clearing out or isolating an enemy.
All too quickly this disappears when even the most minor of things go wrong with the grid. We are cast back into the darkness which we had long thought we defeated. Forget the water that requires an electrically powered pump to get access to or the food that requires (in most cases) a fridge to keep or a stove to cook. When the darkness comes all we desire is to shut our eyes and wait for the warmth of the sun to bring us the hope of another day. The modern world is truly a miracle, but the dark will always be there.