The concept of darkness has maintained a negative connotation in Western human culture for many centuries. Perhaps this notion arises from fear of the unseen or more metaphorically, the fear of the unknown.
In Western literature, both secular and religious, darkness has been used to represent evil or sadness. In the East, darkness represents the Yin principle or female energy. Yang or male energy, of course, is represented by light. Like so many neutral phenomenon, people like to give some sort of meaning to dark.
But actually, darkness is not evil nor depression nor female energy nor anything else of the sort. Dark is simply the apparent lack of light. The same as cold is simply the apparent lack of heat. Aside from the use of such beliefs in drama and literature, it’s good to let go of archaic notions about darkness.
When a person lets go of her fear of the dark, amazing things can be accomplished. Often what comes to mind is a darkroom. With the use of emulsion based photography, the film or glass plate that has been exposed to an image in a camera must be developed in order to be useful as a viewable image. This film development must take place in a dark environment or darkroom. Eventually, some red spectrum light can be introduced in order for the photographer to finish the processing by eyesight.
When we enter a dim or darkened room, we habitually look for a light switch so that we can turn on a lighting fixture or lamp. This action is so common, that we rarely give it a thought. The only times we are aware of this is if we enter a strange room with a light switch placed in an inconvenient area or if we turn on the switch with the result of no light. Perhaps the bulb has burnt out. Then we still flick the switch on and off a few times because we simply don’t believe the lamp doesn’t work.
We’re light loving creatures. We gravitate towards light and away from darkness much like sunflowers follow the sun. I love a beautiful sunny day as much as the next person. I also love to experience complete darkness. I find it fascinating. Maybe more accurately, I find my reaction to dark interesting.
In the South Dakota Black Hills area is a cavern called Wind Cave. If you take the guided tour, you will see a place untouched by sunlight since the formation of the planet millions of years ago. Towards the end of the tour, the park ranger will switch off the lighting circuits to plunge the cave into total darkness. Without any sort of visual cues, many people become anxious and a bit fearful. I’ve taken the tour three different times and have learned to anticipate the lights out part of the visit happily.
It is very rare that average people experience total darkness. think the exceptions are miners of coal or precious substances. One scenario that I think would be frightful would be a partial collapse that would sever the electrical wires that supply the lighting in the mine. To not know when or if lighting will be restored must be trying to one’s sanity.
That said, if you descend into the darkest diamond mine with sensitive scientific sensors and instruments and shut off the lights. You will be able to detect some light. Not much, but there will be some light. This is because nutrinos and quarks from our sun and from interstellar space can easily penetrate our earth’s crust. In the process of interaction with our planet, the nutrinos and other atomic particles emit photons.
In effect, it is impossible to have absolute, total darkness anywhere in our solar system and likely anywhere in the universe. Even in outer space away from the sun, you will see countless spots of light. Even if you’re in the darkest imaginable place and you close your eyes, you will see some sort of light even though it is biological and is created by your mind.
I like to sit in a dark room very late at night or very early in the morning. Lately, the street light has been malfunctioning. It will go out for about a minute then flash and fade back on. Over and over the bulb cycles this way. When the street light goes out, my living room is almost totally dark. It is when the room is very dark that I can focus clearly on thoughts. The living room then becomes a darkroom so that I can develop and process my mind. There are fewer visual distractions.
Likewise, I have almost totally blocked out the glass windows in my bedroom so that I can have near perfect darkness at bedtime. The only glow I see is from the display on my clock radio and the two glow-in-the-dark dragon figurines I have perched on shelves. The mental state I enter is indescribable by the written or spoken word. I can estimate it as a sort of blissfulness.
When the sky brightens with sunshine, I again welcome the light of day. With my craving for darkness comes the complimentary desire for light.
The Blue Jay of Happiness finds that darkness is restful and energizing.