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Seeing the dark

It was as I climbed the stairs up to my flat today that it occurred to me to question the phrase 'see the light'. The stairs are always quite dim, I can't always (be bothered to) reach for the timed light switch as I get to the first landing, with a bag in each hand, and continue up to the second.

There are a few seconds in the dusk that something makes itself known to me; or as me. It is a something - a deep part of myself - that exists on the same spectrum as the despondent feeling I remember from childhood Sunday afternoons stretching into nothingness - the natural light greying the walls - the artificial lights not yet having been switched on by anyone. It can be the same in meetings of any kind, where one enters a room with perfectly sufficient daylight, and then suddenly, you're all looking at each other's faces in the approach of dusk; someone inevitably jumps up to render light to the room - and everyone seems to enliven somewhat.

This sitting in the silent dusk, so often associated in my mind with childhood days spent waiting for Morrisey's type of Sunday to pass so that I could move on and out into the exciting adulthood that kept me going, was - is - a type of 'lite' existentialist crisis. The waning of daylight reminding one, subliminally perhaps, of death; the end of The Day. When I was about seven I used to lie on my bed and stare at the wall. I would start so intently that the wall itself would darken - I was attempting to experience what death must be like. I often thought, as I grew up and out, that such an action - a sought state of being at such a tender age - signified how thoroughly fucked up things must have been - but seven is a 'normal' age for children to become aware of death. So it was normal mental development.

I have never been able to sleep in the dark either. It's as if the prolonged and concentrated despondency - or even that moment of being connected to some 'true' inner self - turns into the despair that leaves one sighing and dis-illusioned.

Darkness is a state of disillusionment - hence, then, the moment of feeling 'true'. It was the same state represented in a scene in which the main character in Murakami's 'The Wind Up Bird Chronicle' took himself off to sit at the bottom of a disused well. It compelled me. I identified. Related. It is, then, the lack of visual stimuli. And of movement. One cannot make too much movement in the dark - or is at least slower in the darkening. So from where does the phrase 'see the light' derive? From the seventeenth century, apparently. There is also 'the light within', that term favoured by Quakers.

Migraineurs are tormented by the light and need the relief offered by the dark. What could this mean, except, in this narrative, that they are too bogged down with illusions? Too much stimuli? Encouraged to feel the 'light within'? Perhaps. Perhaps not. The types of migraine I have suffered from - since a toddler - have begged not for darkness, but for some light to be left on - the dark has exacerbated them - magnified.

My Mum loved to have the television on in the evening with all lights off - so that we stared only at an illuminated box in the corner of the room. She refused to believe - or accept - that it actually brought on many headaches.

So, what is the moral of this story? What can we deduce from my experiences of dark and light? Whatever you like. We do not read stories; they read us.

Location:Kew

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