When I taught environmental ethics at the University of Minnesota, I would commonly shut off the lights for one of the sessions and read to the students of the beauty of darkness (“City of Light will dial it down,” Feb. 26). The ritual became a favorite.
Aldo Leopold begins his essay “Too Early” in the dark. “To arrive too early in the marsh is an adventure in pure listening,” he writes, and then, “the pre-dawn pact lasts only as long as darkness humbles the arrogant.”
It is in darkness that unique forms of life come alive — bats, spiders, nighttime lovelies. It is in the darkness that we find a world we, light dwellers, do not fully know. In darkness we heal, and in darkness seeds are born and begin to sprout.
Larry Rasmussen, in his 2001 book “Earth Community Earth Ethics,” also says it well: “Darkness. We could ask whether it might not be what it has only rarely been — a positive, saving symbol, a vital element of Earth’s own redemption, a needed way of seeing. If eyes can be trained to see darkness as a contributing symbol, perhaps other needed re-orientations can happen as well… the mood is sheer receptivity.”
Darkness is dream time. Let us hope that the world can soon dream itself back to better health. Let’s hope that allowing more beautiful darkness, like Paris is trying to do, can humble us all.
Beth Waterhouse, Excelsior
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