The night cometh, when no man can work, says John. But how long has this been true? We as a species have sought the light, and where there is none, we have fought for its appearance. Slowly, we are driving back the night.

Light after dark is more personal. The sun in the sky shines over us all. But at night, the small flame of a candle illuminates only a small sphere. everything else is the darkness, the unknown. It seems only natural that we would huddle around such motes, carry them with us, let the feeble flame shield us from the terrors of the night.

How much of our best work has been done after dark? A candle or lantern lights the desk of a writer or revolutionary, long after the turning of the earth would have blocked the sun's light from gracing the whole room. And perhaps that solitary light is the inspiration. Like the writer, the light is alone; through the work, the writer may bring a light of a different sort to the rest of the world, to chase away the dark when the great light in the sky is no longer there to guide us.

Years ago we were driving down a side road within the forests of northern Arizona, not long past midnight. The driver soundlessly pulled to the side of the road, and we all got out. The stars were nothing like we had seen before, at least not the two of us raised well within the limits of one of the world's famously brighter cities. we stood there for hours, shivering in the chill October weather, fascinated. Perhaps one of our long-distant ancestors stood, similarly rapt, spellbound by the millions of tiny lights that seemed to hang from the domed curtain overhead, or the strange cloudlike trail that passed among them.

The shadows cast by the small glow of the lights we carry can be as amazing as the lights themselves. A common trick is to hold a flashlight under one's chin; the shadows thrown distort the face into a monstrous visage; the familiarity is still there, but it is joined with the unknown, with the strangeness of the dark, that it is perhaps made even more terrifying.

It is interesting to see what someone chooses to illuminate at night. walk down a residential street one night. the lights you see pick out what is important. "You need to look at me", say these lights. Everything else is cast into the void. They are unimportant; you do not need to see them. Even in dim lighting, brighter light is used to highlight (there, even in the word itself) the important and diminish the mundane.

There is a strange blue glow that comes out of the window sometimes. It is the electric light of the television. we use the powers of light and shadow to our own advantage here. the eye is drawn to the only light in the room, the flickering paths traced by the electrons across the screen. The small details of the room are obscured by shadow, and we instead find ourselves drawn into the scene, forgetting where we are.

The interface between light and dark is far more sharply defined at night. We are not bathed in a glow coming from everywhere at once; we are held instead in small puddles. We can clearly see that here light ends and there darkness begins. And in that there is beauty. in that there is control.

for janey

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