I was watching something recently on the History Channel about those hours we all spend in darkness. It was a pretty interesting program. They have a scale for measuring darkness in various areas. There is a big valley in Wales that gets very dark at night. It gets a two or a three if I remember correctly on a scale of ten. New York City is a nine. This program spent a lot of time talking about the Middle Ages and the problems people had at night. Many could not even afford candles and, of course, there were no city lights so it was very dark in the average home.
And people had different sleep habits. They would go to bed early and wake up around midnight or one in the morning. Then they would mess around or maybe go out and talk to their neighbors. A few hours later they would return to bed and sleep until the light returned. For some reason this really made an impression on me. I found myself imagining the sounds in the night of people talking or laughing together in the dark hours with the sounds of crickets or small animals in the background and the amazing impressions of millions of stars in the skies.
You had to be careful of course because it was easy to fall in a ditch while you were walking down the path to see a friend. And there was always the danger of running into a robber or actually being attacked in your home.
This program made me feel more comfortable about my sleep habits as I always wake up after a few hours of sleep and spend time reading or going to Middle Earth with the hobbits and elves in Lord Of The Rings Online. Then I become tired and am able to sleep a few more hours just as they did in the Middle Ages.
I used to think that there was something wrong with the way I sleep and maybe I should see a doctor or take a sleeping pill. But after seeing this program I realize that it’s just part of my cellular makeup. There are bits of people inside me who lived hundreds of years ago in small dwellings and looked forward to visiting their buddies under the stars with a drink or a smoke and the latest gossip. The air was cooler at night and the music made by thousands of insects calmed their bodies while a canopy of light brightened their souls and made them smile.
The program on the History Channel had a more pessimistic theme. It was about the terrors that awaited man in the darkness. But that was just our modern spin put on something our ancestors would probably not even recognize. We live in fear or a state of anxiety more than they did perhaps.
Or at least that is the way it seems to me as I write these words to my friends on the other side of the world at four in the morning.