The Bright Side of Collapse #1: The Return of the Dark

i)

It was only after I typed this title that I saw it was a paradox, so I can’t take any credit for it intentionally being deep — “so, the bright side is the darkness. . . whoa!”

However, I think this disdain for the paradoxes nature presents, the desire to have the yang without the yin, speaks to the problem of industrial humanity, in particular petro-humanity. We want days that stretch as long as we will them, and to hell with what our bodies need, how it will impact how we treat others the next day, or the long-term health of the eco-sytsem. We want to have light without dark. And to quote Bradbury in Fahrenheit 451,

“We are living in a time when flowers are trying to live on flowers, instead of growing on good rain and black loam. Even fireworks, for all their prettiness, come from chemistry of the earth. Yet somehow we can grow, feeding on flowers and fireworks, without completing the cycle back to reality” (Bradbury 83).

As we continue along the long descent (also, see book), we won’t have the energy to make constant, bright artificial days for ourselves. We will have to accept more darkness during what are naturally dark times. And I can say from experience that we will be better for it.

ii)

My experiments with literal darkness began after I heard a Kunstler podcast with Clark Strand, who wrote a book Waking Up to the Dark — Ancient Wisdom for a Sleepless Age.

The podcast discussed how in areas that lost power due to blackout, people talked to their neighbors a bit more, went to bed earlier, and dreamed in ways they hadn’t remembered doing for a long time. How else to say it more poetically: when the power goes out, your dreams return.

I was so impressed with this podcast that I began experiments in what I’ll call “darkness therapy,” at first thinking of it as a spiritual exercise, and then seeing immediately that it could help me with my insomnia.

Because I have been a teacher, I have been free to experiment with darkness therapy last summer and now this one. I keep most of the lights off most of the day, and in particularly in the afternoon, getting used to finding sources of natural light to work with. As evening approaches, and the house gets darker than outside, I end up being outside, watching the sunset and coming back in to find a darkened room to think. I am married and my wife only occasionally wants to indulge me on the matter of a completely dark house, so I pick a room where I can be in the dark until I get tired enough to go to sleep.

I find that getting back to a natural cycle of darkness really helps with sleep and gives some time to think clearly. Also, like any type of fasting, it helps with the appreciation of what you have when you return. Having as much control of light as we do is a miracle, one that we won’t have all that much longer. There is no good reason to take it for granted.

When that day comes that power goes out in our communities and stays gone, and after people settle in to a new reality, this connection to the dark will be a wide-spread benefit. And without so much light pollution, we will have the stars and be able to contemplate better our place in the universe against a source of immense beauty, one that we tried to usurp during the two century petro-bubble, but ultimately must give way to.

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