Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Light and Darkness

Last night our power went out around 7:30, and was still out when we went to bed. I was returning home from class and drove through miles of eerie, inky darkness. We're having what passes for a cold snap here, so the house was getting pretty chilly when I got home. I found Enrico bundled up in fleece, extra blankets on the bed, in the dark, listening to the iPod. We lit some candles around the house and found a battery-powered radio. We went to bed knowing that we had a battery-powered alarm clock to get us up. It was cozy.

However, I must say, I learned a few things. One, I need to keep more batteries around the house. Two, I really hope the big earthquake comes during the summer months. It's partly the problem of the cold, but more importantly, having no power during the time of year when we get a mere 8 hours of sunlight would really suck on a long-term basis. Sitting there reading my book by candle lantern and battery-powered head lamp, I thought about the people living in dark, cold, northern climes before electricity. You'd probably develop highly evolved conversation and story-telling skills, and get lots of sleep, and become great at word games. But I have to believe there's just a lot of boredom involved in living with that much cold darkness.

It made me appreciate the Advent season - the Christian incarnation of this time of diminishing light. I'm sure that going back to the beginning of human time, people have marked this period, when the days get shorter and shorter, and the darkness seems to be winning the battle. What if the sun just kept disappearing, the days diminishing to nothing instead of getting longer again? At some point in human history, this must have genuinely seemed like a possibility. Hence all of the rituals around light - the Advent candles, the menora - that compensate for the diminishing sun, encourage it to come back. And meanwhile, you embrace the dark, the waiting, the introspection that inevitably comes from being stuck indoors with your own thoughts under a lot of blankets, with little to do.

And then, imperceptibly, the days get longer. The sun is returning, and has not abandoned its children on earth. So of course - you have a big honkin' holiday to celebrate. You create stories and metaphors about the coming of light, of new life, new beginnings. It all makes perfect sense.

No comments: