On the Sanctity of the Night

Nights bring out the other side of us.

On the Sanctity of the Night
Leh Nights by Monstellar

I hear the birds chirp outside. The sound comes at the same hour every time and then I know that its time. Time to turn in because soon the light will break the horizon and it will be daybreak. In those late hours of the night, I had always found a certain peace, a calm that I could never find in the day.

I have always found the calling of the night to my liking. It started when I was prepping for my exams in school. My upper limit to go to bed was midnight. But when I was preparing for this one exam and I wanted to revise more of the topics, I breached my midnight barrier and opened up the silence of the night. Once this wall was lifted, I found myself at the tail end of many a night, reading my favorite novels, with only the birds serving a reminder in the early hours.

There is always an hour when you feel drowsy and then it breaks to a clarity, at which point, I believe my mind gives up on trying to get me to sleep and just goes the other way😅. I came across the article Why I adore the night, by Jeanette Winterson, and it got me thinking on my affinity to the night.

Why I adore the night
­ Jeanette Winterson isn’t afraid of the dark – for her, it’s the perfect time to think, to dream, to love ...

Why I too adore the night?

There is something about the silence of the night. Time and space exist differently then esp. in the dull yellowish light of the bulb. The deep contemplations and thoughts come at a free flow, uninterrupted by the hubbub of the outside world.

Jeanette Winterson goes on to talk about the night and how the "dark time" changes the pace of time.

We have all experienced negative darkness – those long stretches of the night when we can't sleep, and worry about everything, and so we know that "dark time" can seem interminably long, compared with daytime. Yet this slowing of time can be the most relaxing and beautiful experience.

I have found myself right in the depth of thoughts in those moments when I am trying to sleep in the late hours. In the those hours it's just me alone with my thoughts, and I travel to places I have never been to before. The rest of the world is asleep while I am wide awake.

Food, fire, walks, dreams, cold, sleep, love, slowness, time, quiet, books, seasons – all these things, which are not really things, but moments of life – take on a different quality at night-time, where the moon reflects the light of the sun, and we have time to reflect what life is to us, knowing that it passes, and that every bit of it, in its change and its difference, is the here and now of what we have.

A lot of ideas and connections form and that inspiration has driven me to create more. Ideas formulate into articles and stories as I find my thoughts align. It starts with a train of thought that finally finds a destination and keeps heading towards it.

These moments of clarity come with the lack of the distraction of the day. But of course, it is not a scalable idea to stay up. Humans are meant to be diurnal, not nocturnal. Our body and mind are primed to exist in the day. So, it falls to the evenings after the sun is set that we can create such moments. This reminds me of evenings when the electricity is cut at home. We choose to use candles in our home, instead of torchlights and electric lanterns and that just creates a new dynamic.

The Power of Candlelight

Spending the evening in candlelight, and maybe by the fire – with no TV – talking, telling stories, letting the lit-up world go by without us, expands the hours, and alters the thoughts and conversations we have.

It is has always been the case that in the absence of light, I truly appreciate what the candle brings.  I have found that my mom's food comes out tastier when made in the dim light than on a regular day, and have found her surprised every time that happens. Is it the darkness that brings out the best of the taste? Or an overall increase in focus in the preparation itself?

The entire home takes a different vibe then. We all huddle together by the candle light while we have dinner and deep conversations ensue as we are no longer distracted by the TV.

Candle Light Background
Photo by masden picture / Unsplash

Do we take on a new dimension in the dim light? I wonder how we can bring this to our daily routine and I realize that it is as simple as turning down the lights. It is interesting to do it voluntarily in a world, built to be lit 24/7. Even when you look at the horizon in the night, we see the dull hue of the city in the distance.

In today's smartphone world, it is harder to find those moments of serenity because despite the lack of electricity, the mobile phone with its long lasting battery persists through. It then comes down to us to make the choice. We can choose to turn down the lights in our homes, turn off the devices and find ourselves in a different zone. In the light of the candle, we are likely to find dancing stories and the rekindling of our imaginations as we gain opportunities to come together in conversation or thought.

Closing thoughts

Our mind is primed to exist both in states of light and darkness. As much as we need our 8 minutes of sunlight to prime us in the morning (as recommended by Dr. Andrew Huberman), winding down at the end of the day is best done by the dimming down of the lights.

I invite you to make use of dusk, which marks the onset of the night. Prepare your environment with as little light as possible. Use candle light and you end up with a more compact closing of the night.

I leave you with a final quote from Jeanette: "Life is too short to be all daylight. Night is not less; it's more."

Let me know your thoughts on the sanctity of the night. Have you found yourself come to appreciate the same? Or does another time of the day work for you?

Originally published on 3rd June, 2023. Inspired by the April 10th edition of startupy newsletter.