Fear, Darkness and “Nightfall”

For the past three days I have had to live alone in a house that has not been completely renovated. So the paint is peeling in some places, the stairs are rickety, there are no curtains on the windows, the backdoor barely locks and the basement is the scariest, creepiest space in the house yet.

I’ve always found myself pining away for solitude and some time alone, hoping I didn’t have to go to my sisters and that everyone would just leave me alone. Now that I have the entire space to myself, I am scared beyond belief. Mornings are ok. Mornings are great. I cook for the evening, clean the entire house again and again, do some math, do laundry (in the basement), listen to music, watch movies etc it’s all good. Come evening, when the sun sets and it takes with it my peace of mind, all my confidence and leaves behind the fear of being murdered.

Maybe the fear has something to do with the fact that I am watching the X-files all over again. But I highly doubt that. I’m reading “Nightfall” right now, a short story by Isaac Asimov that was expanded into a full novel in collaboration with Robert Silverberg. I had read the short story a long time back and only got around to reading the book now but the thing about the book is how Asimov is capable of introducing and bringing to our attention concepts and ideas that we usually tend to take for granted because we aren’t even aware of them. The ideas and concepts are there somewhere in the back of our head but we are not really conscious of them until and unless we loose them. Or until we read one of his books and marvel at the fact that he can make us so keenly aware of something we just took for granted.

  1. “Nightfall” is about humanity’s innate fear of the unknown. Since we are conscious intelligent beings, we tend to assume that what we know is fact and loose the ability to see things from a different perspective. The book reconciles religion and science for me in a way. Because to me religion has always been about science. It’s just the way you look at things. We fail to understand that information from the past wasn’t just written down and passed as scientific facts. We were given information in the form of stories, fairytales, legends, information was passed on in the form of religion, rituals, traditions, customs. All of these things tell us things. Scientific things. In “Nightfall” the world seems divided into two- the religious nuts and the scientists. The religious prophesies (however vague) are proven to be correct on whole new levels- by a psychologist, an archaeologist, an astronomer. Again, we assume people from the past, our ancestors, didn’t know shit. But what if they knew more than we ever did? And we are just re-discovering everything they knew through science?
  2. The second thing that struck me was how true it was that we just get used to assuming that things are the way they seem to us. We cannot comprehend a world different from ours. We look at a world that is different from ours and just assume that life cannot exist there. But we are so wrong. Life as we know it could not exist on that world. But a different kind of life form could very well thrive there. We need oxygen to survive. Maybe there are other beings out there that don’t. It’s difficult to step out of our shoes and look at the unexplained universe in a different way. We have been so busy trying to explain how things work that we are expected to know all the answers even when we don’t. It’s ok not to know. It’s ok to admit that. It’s ok to be thought of as a fool rather than going down a false path that might take centuries to rectify.
  3. Fear of the darkness doesn’t just exist in books. It is real. Even when living in a world that is engulfed in darkness for half a day, come nightfall, everyone is afraid of being alone or of being outside in the darkness. I don’t know if it is ingrained in us because of survival instinct that has been passed on from our ancestors or because there is just something pleasing about being in the light. There is an innate fear of darkness, even in the world where we should be used to the world going dark for half a day. The absence of light takes away all the confidence and vigor out of a person. I figured this out not only while reading this book but while I watched myself being alone in the house in the day and compared it to my mental state at night.

I love this book. Read it if you have time, because I highly recommend it. If you don’t have the time to read the full novel, take the time to read the short story. It will open your mind to possibilities we could not have imagined. Here’s a link I found to the short story:

http://web.ics.purdue.edu/~rebeccal/lit/238f11/pdfs/Nightfall_Asimov.pdf

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