Caught between the umbra, penumbra and antumbra of shadow, mankind is perpetually subjected to a layered cake of night every twelve hours. The safe blue hue of television, the LED keychain batons and a simple savory bonfire: all subtle weapons to defeat the ink the sun leaves behind.
At night our vision is weakest. Yet, an average human being can see up to infinity, despite the fact that what lurks in the bush under a night sky a mere ten feet away can be rendered invisible to us by our own shortcomings.
Our eyes have a certain resolving power. If we are to see two points of a distant object, there should be some finite distance between them. If it is not so, the object for us may become blurred, pointed or may not appear to us at all.
If an object is less than 25mm before us it appears blurred. However, if an object is very far away e.g. a distant star, our eyes fail to resolve its image and it appears as a pointy object or does not appear at all.
At night the furthest objects visible to the naked eye in the western world (due to air pollution) are in the center of the Milky Way, some 30,000 light years away. On a clear night perched on the apex of the Mount Everest - more like 50 million light years.
But because we do not know if the universe is infinite or not; if it is only what we see, it is 100%. If it is infinite, we see approximately 0%.
“Let the night teach us what we are and the day what we should be,” the writer Thomas Tryon said in 1691.
Before the modern life of night vision goggles and constant streetlight, humanity was terrified and transfixed by the mystery of the pure, dark, night. The time after the sun dipped down below the horizon was the playground of criminals and demons, night terrors and moonstruck lunatics — the night was a menacing world beyond anyone’s control.
The Night was dangerous. In the mid-17th century, authorities in European towns and villages used to impose order on the nightly anarchy, with curfews and night watchmen or restrictions on weapons and disguises.
This fear, and underlying paranoia, is still inherent to our human condition. I am a grown man of thirty-six, just under six-feet tall and two-hundred pounds strong. Yet when I haul out the compost to the garden after dinner or take a midnight smoke break stroll, I feel a heavy evil “presence” lurking, watching somewhere in the twelve acres of pitch-black farmland of my home. Is there a crazed rabid coyote studying my movements? Is there a vagrant psychopath bedding down in my old abandoned tobacco barn?
And that’s just it. Association and relationship with The Night is topographical. In the dark, men and women, from the dawn of kerosene lampposts and the gallantry of opulent chandeliers cut free of tightly-corseted social convention and acted on impulse and desire. The Night was no longer an eclipse of the mooncalf and a domain of witches, but that of simple human interaction.
Today, The Night is no more dangerous than it’s counterpart. According to the NCVS (National Crime Victimization Survey), crime happens at all hours, though particular crimes exhibit different patterns. Violent crimes occur between 6 A.M. and 6 P.M. in 52.7 percent of cases. Simple assaults occur 57.6 percent of the time during these same hours, as do 42.2 percent of aggravated assaults. Approximately two-thirds (63.2 percent) of rapes/sexual assaults occur at night. Most property crimes occur during the day, except for motor vehicle theft, which occurs 71.7 percent of the time at night.
The Night, as juxtaposed as day is unto it, is therefore celebrated on four very distinct holidays: Halloween (All Hallow’s Eve), Winter Solstice, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Each presenting a ritualistic homage to the inception of the ebony sky, each celebrating the wane of solar algidity and a wax of nocturnal zeal.
This year, we had an event for the first time since 1638. A full lunar eclipse on the cusp of winter’s solstice night. Wondered what the criminal, demons and necromancers in mid-17th century thought of the original.
Perhaps a bit of fiction from the late 20th century can summarize this strange concept of the Night's shadowed dark nothing:
G'mork: I am G'mork. And you, whoever you are, can have the honor of being my last victim.
Atreyu: I will not die easily. I am a warrior.
G'mork: Foolish boy. Don't you know anything about Fantasia? It's the world of human fantasy. Every part, every creature of it, is a piece of the dreams and hopes of mankind. Therefore, it has no boundaries.
Atreyu: But why is Fantasia dying, then?
G'mork: Because people have begun to lose their hopes and forget their dreams. So the Nothing grows stronger.
Atreyu: What is the Nothing?
G'mork: It's the emptiness that's left. It's like a despair, destroying this world. And I have been trying to help it.
Atreyu: But why?
G'mork: Because people who have no hopes are easy to control. And whoever has control has the Power.