Darkness on the Face of the Deep …
“Moonless Midnight of the Mind”
Nothing good happens at Midnight. Just ask Cinderella. Or Edward J. Smith, Captain of the Titanic. Case in point: On an unsuspecting August evening in 1961, just about midnight, East German troops planted the seeds of what eventually blossomed into the Berlin Wall. Scary place. Scary time.
Author and Shippensburg State grad Dean Koontz put it this way: “Sometimes there is no darker place than our thoughts, the moonless midnight of the mind.”
Consider the moonless midnight of Pharaoh’s mind, documented in Exodus 12:29: “Now it came about at midnight that the LORD struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of cattle.”
A gruesome deadline, with the emphasis on “dead”: Dead kids. Dead men. Dead cattle. Still don’t believe in mid-night’s mystical mojo? Ask John D. Bessler, the law professor who wrote “Death in the Dark: Midnight Executions in America.”
’nuff said ’bout that.
Of course, we’re all preoccupied with “The Witching Hour” because of New Year’s Eve — out with the old, in with the new. Years ago, a writer by the name of Bill Vaughan made this observation: “An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.”
Which are you?
Finally, there’s “The Doomsday Clock.” If you’re a Boomer like me, you’re well-familiar with this mythical metaphoric timepiece. It’s been around since I was born (1947) a byproduct of The Nuclear Age launched by the dropping of A-bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A bunch of smart people (including 18 Nobel Laureates) calculated how close the world was to global disaster. In its inaugural year, the clock was set seven minutes from Midnight.
By 1953, the tick-talk ticked the clock to two minutes. (As bad as it has ever been.) The best? That would be 1991, when scientists pushed back the clock to 17 minutes. It’s been downhill ever since. As of a year ago (Jan. 22, 2015) the D-Clock clocked in at Midnight minus three minutes. (Close, but no Cuban cigar.)
We seem headed for what Martin Luther King, Jr., called “the starless midnight of racism and war.” Not a particularly positive prognosis.
What to do . . .
Well, if I were a bettin’ man (and I’m not) I’d not roll the dice expectin’ 7s or 11s. I’m guessin’ snake-eyes. Or six-six-six. On the other hand, knowing Americans the way I do, I suspect my fellow citizens will follow the lead of that great philosopher (and country singer) Alan Jackson:
They’ll be heard having said, “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere,” even as the clock strikes Midnight.
Jim Lamb is a retired journalist living in Florida. He’s author of “Orange Socks & Other Colorful Tales,” the story of how he survived Vietnam and kept his sense of humor. Occasionally he writes from “The Dark Side of the Midnight.” For more about Jim and his writing, visit www.jslstories.com.
BONUS: “Black Swans”