We have an interesting and difficult relationship with the idea of darkness. Of course, it’s seeped into our culture as a bad thing. You’d be hard pressed to find a movie or a comic book that doesn’t make some reference to the forces of darkness as a bad thing. The day is this supposed good thing that keeps us safe from the forces of night. This makes some sort of symbolic sense to some degree. After all, humans are a diurnal species. We are most active during the day and we sleep at night. Though we often like to think of ourselves as having conquered the natural world, in reality we are still very much at the whim of our wild impulses. We sleep at night, we are active during the day and we still eat the food that grows from the earth. Everyone from the boss of a st louis landscape lighting company to an outdoor lightning specialist to the queen of England is subject to all these needs and necessities. But, out of all them, the one that often goes most unquestioned is our relationship to day and night. How did it come about and how does it affect how we conduct our culture now? It does, most certainly, and more than we can see on the surface level. How did we get here anyway?
- The way the world used to before light
Let’s go back, way back, to the beginning of recorded history. While it is true that there was much human history before this point, the rise of recorded history coincides with the rise of complex civilization and the rise of mass lighting in general. Before this, the world was simply dark at night and that’s how it was going to be. The night was the force that humans were powerless to stop. It made them victims, even after the rise of Sumeria and the very first city states. Back then, it was considered evil and for good enough reason. Creatures stalked through the dark, creatures much more adept and powerful than ourselves. Though we were rapidly gaining control of things that happened during the day , at night all that progress was brought to a grinding and screeching halt. We were at the mercy of the saber toothed cat and other predators who knew we were there and knew we couldn’t do anything to save ourselves. The night was where these creatures thrived and, even after moving into villages and towns, we felt it strongly. We hid and were afraid.
Fighting back, fighting forward
It took centuries, pretty much all of recorded historical centuries until the last two, to bring this threat under some sort of prototypical control. Even in medieval cities and the great Chinese and Mongolian empires of the middle ages, darkness wasn’t something easily controlled. If a crime was committed and no one saw it, there was no way short of supposed supernatural means to solve it. Night was the time of evil and crime because it was easy to get away with pretty much anything. They had lightning and lanterns and other forms of small light but these were only useful indoors. The outside world was still considered very unsafe. It was, as well, and the people were relatively right to be cautious.
The world we live in today
So when and how did this change? Well, the obvious answer is with the advent of electricity and the rise of mass media. Sure, the world was still dark but with electric lighting lighting up the new and modern cities, things were seemingly a little safer. This development was also only compounded by the invention of cars and trucks which were able to safely navigate at night by use of massive outdoor lighting. Lighting is what did it, the invention of lighting to brighten up even the darkest and most secluded spots of night. But, as much as we like to think we conquered the night, there is still a piece of us that remains scared in the dark. It reminds us we aren’t always in control. Never ever forget that lesson.