In the many years I have spent wondering the earth in search of stuff and junk I often come back to the ideas of light and darkness. These concepts are common place in the average person’s understanding of time, good verse evil, and iconic yammering of hope. For me I know now unlike I did when I was younger that I have what I call a heart of darkness. There is a part of me at the core that is dark, not brooding like this month’s movie heartthrob, but a flowing current of darkness like an oil spill across a white snow covered plane. To note this is not just my own understanding this is something I have had several people (including family members) tell me when they try to relate their view of me to me. I came to understand that when people get this impression of me it was one coated in a negative air. This of course stems from the ideology that darkness = evil, menacing, and/or demonic. To me when I look at that place in my heart I do not fear because I feel that we as a people have been told to fear the dark as if it will creep into our homes to steal away our very souls. So what I am getting at in a roundabout way is why do we associate darkness with evil?
The idea that darkness equates to evil comes from many different sources. First of which would be social stigma taught to us as kids either through the retelling of verbal history or through religious schooling. Honestly when was the first time you were told that dark things were evil? Was it through a ghost story told around a camp fire, or possible via a bible story which talked about the temptation of sin which clings to dark thoughts or actions? But really is it just that idea of fear that breeds this understanding, or is there something genetically coded into us that says if it comes from the darkness you must fear it because it is evil. Having studied a some anthropology and world philosophy I can tell you that in most of the major religious practices, either olden or of today, there is a breaking of light and dark which commonly happens at the very beginning. In the book of Genesis it says that “God said let there be light and he saw it was good, God separated the light from the darkness calling the light day and the darkness night.” In the Greek mythology it says that the world was pulled from the void of chaotic darkness that was. Even science tells us that the universe was nothing and then either through the big band or strings or whatnot there was an explosion of activity which lit up all existence leading to the point at which I am writing this. You could say that the common point in all of these ideas is that at one point there was nothing but darkness and then from it, or in it, or because of it there was the creation of light. To me that would say that both light and darkness are of the same stuff just two halves to a greater whole.
It is known that without the light of the sun all life on this plane would die off. Even though we are not like the plants which live off the sun we breathe the air they produce when doing so. Also if the sun were to die out the ambient temperature would drop far below zero and there is not enough blankets or fire wood to keep any amount of space warm. So with that said one might draw the conclusion that because at a cellular level we need the sun to live or bodies create an image in our minds which relates to the idea that darkness = death which is something most people fear all the time. Just like the fight or flight response which kicks in when we are threatened, this same reaction could be the cause of the rationalized learned behavior of seeing darkness as an agent of evil intentions. I would say that my dark heart is not anything genetic, but it could be that I fear death a bit less than others because biologically (due to my childhood onset diabetes) my body is on the verge of death every moment of every day. Viewing this understanding one could say that because I came to terms with my own mortality at a very young age I was less likely to cling to the light because I did not need it as others do to stay alive. I know some might argue that my view of diabetes is incorrect, and yes they have a right to it, but just as much right as I have to my view stated here. Either or to me it makes some sense.
Moving on to my second point, I offer the idea that society has given us the fear of the dark like it gave us the idea that fat people are ugly. Think to yourself about how many scary movies you have watched, or books you have read, or even new stories you have heard about in which some heinous act happens at night in the dark. There are countless examples of this no matter where you turn, but honesty some of the worse crimes of humanity happened in the light of day. The holocaust was done during both the day and the night, openly without regard or any effort to hide it. Both attacks on America took place during the day. The crusades called for a holy war to bring the light of Christian ideals to the holy lands and wipe clean the dark stain of Muslim occupation. I say the crusades because it was not a holy war it was battles fought for money and trade routes which kept both kings and the church in power for centuries. On the converse of this yes, there have been horrid things done at night by both men and women. But did they do them at night because it was the darkness that called to them or was it more to the effect that they were less likely to get caught? Jack the Ripper hunted ladies of the evening (as a way to hide the illegitimate marriage of Prince Albert to a whore) which drew people into their homes as soon as the sun went down like he was made of shadow only able to strike at night. Also when you look to the horror stories told to kids or adults they all take place at night because it gives an air of dread, but again I am sure I could scare the pee out of you with a story taking place in an open field during a bright sunny day with bunnies and trees that grow nothing but jelly beans. The fact of the matter is that we are told and then reminded that things go bump in the night so we must fear the darkness around us. Again I say nay, and offer the idea that you could just as well get bumped in the day just as you could in the night.
Lastly I say that for me it is the darkest of heroes that are the best of all we have to look up to. Hellboy written by Mike Mignola is for me one of the greatest heroes in the history of comic books. He was born to bring about the end of the world, the son of a human witch and a demon, and given for his right hand the key to unlock the old gods which would destroy the world. His whole purpose for being is to chase the light from the world and plunge us into darkness forever, but due to how he was raised and who he chose to be he fought the darkness and came to terms with it. In his own words he would say “I don’t care, and I am indifferent to the idea.” Does it mean that again light is better than darkness, no it shows that those with a dark heart can do just as much good as those claiming to be of the light. Another example would be Batman created by Bob Kane. Batman chose to take up the mantle of darkness, shrouding himself in it so that he could strike fear into the hearts of bad guys. He took his own darkness (caused by the death of his parents) and turned it into a weapon for justice. He is even referred to as the Dark Knight, but does that mean he is evil? Again no, he just used what he had and made it positive. Finally I will cover Luke Skywalker created by George Lucas and played by Mark Hamill in the movie Star Wars, who fought against the dark side of the force. You may say “hey he fights the dark, so that proves it is evil.” I would say no, Luke was able to defeat his father, a dark lord of the Sith, because he understood that it was neither light nor dark that was better. It was the balance of the two that made him as powerful as he was. He had anger, and love which were said to lead to the dark side, but he also had logic and compassion which were aspects of the light side. It was this balance that gave him his strength, not the separation of the two. All and all each one of these heroes carried with them a heart of darkness, but in their own way they found strength in it and used it to be just as good as any light bearer.
Now finally if you are still with me (and I did not lose you when I broke into comics book heroes) I will say what is the point of making this statement? To me the point is that I am who I am and accept the fact that in me I have a dark heart. This aspect of me does not make me evil, or sadistic, or twisted. It only makes up a part of who I am, and if I did not accept it, or tried to fix it would I not be doing harm/ evil to myself in the process? I use this part of me in many ways, most of all in understanding and relating to the world around me. I also use it to write both creatively and honestly so that I am speaking with a voice that is my own. I will not fight against your ideas on light and dark, but I will point out that in the color black, the color we all associate with darkness, there is every color that we know no the complete absence of color like white is. If you don’t believe me then take a moment to draw a solid black circle on a white piece of paper with a sharpie. Once you do that take some rubbing alcohol and drop one or two drops into the center of that circle. What you will see is the bleeding of all the colors contained within that black spot. It’s actually a really cool experiment and a cheap way to dye clothes, point being that even in the color we associate with darkness there is every other color that we would say is light and good. I may pump darkness through my veins, but in that blood there is also the understanding of good even without the light to justify it.