Residents of a Nottinghamshire housing estate have installed pink lights which show up teenagers’ spots in a bid to stop them gathering in the area. Says Dan Lockton, pointing out its resemblance to the Mosquito, “I don’t understand why Britain hates its young people so much. But I can see it storing up a great deal of problems for the future.”
In the heart of the big myths is the dark passage, the Night Sea Journey; it contains the most ominous and mysterious places through which the hero must pass before the quest, whatever it is, can be fulfilled. One thinks of Dante going down, layer after fantastical layer, or of Odysseus, his ship sunk, swimming alone to Phaeacia, or even of the Ugly Duckling struggling through his long and awful winter. In one of our oldest stories, the legend of Gilgamesh, the great king—Gilgamesh—loses his friend in death. This throws him into angst about his own mortality, so he goes to seek a workaround in the faraway land of the divine. As part of his dark journey, Gilgamesh must run through a tunnel under the earth, the very tunnel the sun uses on its return from west to east. He must clear the tunnel before the sun heaves through—and (I spill the beans) he does so without incident. Yet among the many Night Sea images, I find this small passage particularly haunting: the image of one man running for hours in cindered darkness, watching for the first light of another world while at the same time listening for the ominous rumbling of a star. In the old writings of the sublime and the beautiful, there’s the observation that the difference between beauty and terror is largely a matter of distance. A single star on the horizon awakens a poignant joy, but much closer to its fires, the earlier joy grades quickly into a feeling more edgy and raw.
E: The beginning of daylight savings and the realization that it won’t be lighter than it is now until sometime in February has me looking for “light in the darkness.” I saw this auto store last night, and liked it.
N: Did you know that Goethe’s last words were “More light!”?
E: Oh, how wonderful! The only Goethe quote I know is “everything is a leaf”
N: The really funny part is, you see it quoted like that, but I looked it up and evidently his final sentence was “Could you open up the shade in the window so as to let in more light?”
E: That’s so much better! Less mystical, and therefore more so.
Coda: Of course now I had to look it all up again. Goethe’s last words, like those of many a famous person, are contested. The top alternate contendor is, “Come, my little daughter, and give me your little paw.” The original German version of More Light is, ”Macht doch den zweiten Fensterladen in der Stube auch auf, damit mehr Licht hereinkomme.” Pesky German habit of ending the sentence with a verb! Well, “Come in here!” has its own mystical charm too.