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Night, and How to Cope with it

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A snowy bush at night.
  1. In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
  2. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
  3. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
  4. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
  5. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day1.

We spend almost, but not quite, half our life in the period of darkness called 'night'2. The hours of darkness are the time of day when most of us traditionally sleep and renew our energy. They are also, for many, a time of romance, adventure, mystery and fear. Many stories and songs involve the night.

Dawn and Dusk

If you shine a torch3 on a ball in a dark room it will light exactly one half of the sphere. The Earth's atmosphere bends the light rays and the light will appear before the sun has risen above the horizon and lingers a bit after it has set. While this period is fairly short near the sun's path it can be quite long in places well to the north and south of the tropics. Near the poles each day and night can extended to a six month period; it is not likely that the casual hitch-hiker will experience this phenomenon. The lingering evening light is also known as twilight, or the gloaming in Scotland. Just before the sun emerges from the horizon, the early morning light is known as dawn, or pre-dawn in some cultures.

Nocturnal Activities

Many animals have adapted to hunting and scavenging under the cover of darkness. Large eyes, superior senses of smell and hearing can be observed in these animals. The sight of thousands of bats emerging from their lair at dusk is an impressive sight. Cats, rodents and owls are all examples of species who have adapted to activities in the night.

From the earliest times humans have avoided activities in the darkness, except for nefarious purposes. Many criminals ply their trade under the cover of night. Several pagan religions, such as the Wiccans and Druids, conduct services after the sun has set. This is more because the entities being worshipped are associated with the night, rather than an attempt at hiding, at least until modern persecutions began.

Should you find yourself outdoors during the hours of darkness, be sure to look up. The night sky holds many wonders not visible during the daylight hours. The visible stars may be an unbelievable distance away. You never know when someone, or something, might be looking back.

Night and the Stages of Human Development

The population of humans can be divided into different age groups as follows:

Foetuses

While it may not be overly apparent to the fledgling hitch-hiker, the human embryo soon becomes aware of its mother's activities and schedule. If the mother, like most humans, is active during the day her natural motion will rock and sooth the infant and relax it. When the mother stops for her own rest, this soothing action ceases. It has long been observed that many births occur, or at least begin, in the hours of darkness. Most human consider this only a coincidence, and instead believe it is only the child's way of being as inconvenient as possible.

Babies

From the time of birth until their second year or so, humans are classified as babies. They are expected to sleep at random hours and not have an ordered schedule of sleep times. Those born during the hours of darkness tend to be most active during this period, while those born in daylight hours keep a more normal routine. All babies need to be fed every few hours, so even the most well behaved will interrupt their parents' sleep several times each night. You should resist the urge to ignore the babies cries in hope that your partner will attend to its needs, after all you got into this situation together.

Children

From the age of two until their 13th year humans are classified as 'children'. They are expected to perform the actual action of sleep during the night and are therefore often thought to be the most innocent and also the most boring. In practice this is only a myth as most children view bed-times and sleep as an unfair interruption of their play-time. Many a game and threat have been used to compel a youngster into bed at the proper hour.

Teens

From the age of 13 to 19 or sometimes 21 (depending on how pedantic you wish to be) our off-spring will become rebellious and wish to sever their ties with their boring families (no matter how outlandish the family may appear to others). This will lead to many late nights spent away from home with friends or alone. A favourite trick is for one teen to ask to spend the night at a friend's house, while the friend requests to spend the night at the other's home. In an ideal world the two youngsters will have a carefree night without any supervision. In the real world parents talk to each other far too often for this to be successful on more than one occasion. Very few teens reach adulthood without hearing the phrase 'It's a school night' when asking to say out until late night.

In the later teen years most humans begin searching for a suitable mate. This is an activity that usually takes place in the evening and early night. Those who spend an entire night with a potential mate are considered to have poor judgement by the rest of society, no matter how innocent their actions may have been. For some reason the irrational actions of teenagers are often used to judge their parents and siblings.

Young Adults

After graduating from secondary school, or dropping out and choosing their own path, most young adults leave their parents' home and have to begin exercising their own judgement. This usually begins with many late night activities, that are hopefully, tempered by time, replaced with an understanding that a good night's rest is an essential tool for the next day's tasks.

The usual activities include; partying, playing cards, chatting, making love, eating, drinking, smoking, watching films, and being on the computer until dawn arrives. Most often it is a combination of several of these activities.

Adults

At this stage people begin to take the responsibilities of life more seriously. Many will purchase a home and begin a family of their own. It is more a matter of goals, rather than age, when, or if, this stage is reached. Employment in trade or housekeeping will now occupy most of the daylight hours of the typical human. If the next generation should arrive in your household4, the night will become much more complicated.

The evenings and nights of this period will involve both recreation and a time for sleeping. Many become involved in clubs that they find interesting, or more often involve the interests of their children. Even if no one involved is really interested in the activity, children must be taught to 'give back to society'5. The secret key to success in the period is to learn the other people's names. You can not go wrong by addressing anyone by their name, it doesn't really matter what you say if you call them by name.

Mature Adults

It is an over simplification to place this metamorphosis at a given number of years6. This stage begins as the young adults leave home and the night begins to once again allow you to seek your own pursuits. If you are lucky your significant partner will still be at your side, otherwise you are on your own. In any event the home will be almost empty and it is time to find friends elsewhere; pubs, restaurants and parks7 are all suitable choices. If you find yourself wandering the streets and talking to yourself you should probably seek qualified help.

Senior Adults

It is not really polite to say 'old people', even though you want to. This term never applies to anyone who is less than 10 years older than yourself. Should you live to be 90 years old you will hardly ever see a 'senior adult'. There is not a single example in history of anyone who considered themselves as a 'senior adult', it is contrary to the definition.

Many who are less informed believe this stage is reached at retirement. You are no longer required to awake at a given time each morning8, so you can stay awake as long as you like. Unfortunately by this stage you will have little desire to participate the your old nocturnal activities. As eyesight fails, it gets harder to see in darkness. Restaurants host an 'early bird special' dinner at reduced prices for seniors before the others are released from work. If you hear someone say 'I must be getting home, it's late' half an half hour before sunset, you are probably talking to a senior adult.

Although it it seems logical that seniors should enjoy a long uninterrupted sleep at night, this is rarely the case. Aches, pains and a sudden thought can stir them to action in the middle of the night. You should not set an alarm-clock to remind you in the wee hours to take your next sleeping-pill, but this has been known to happen. Many compensate by taking long naps in the daytime. You should, however, remember to set your alarm-clock for the early-bird special!

Death

While not really a stage of life, a brief mention of Death must be made. Young humans are horrified by the possibility of death9. As seniors approach the end years it no longer seems as frightening, at least they might get a good rest. In Greek mythology Hypnos (the God of Sleep) and Thanatos (the God of Death) were brothers, half brothers in some accounts and twins in others.

Should you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, remember night is the preferred time to haunt those you wish to frighten. It is just not as effective in broad daylight.

People Who Work at Night

There are many vital jobs that must be performed around the clock. Policemen, nurses and power-plant workers all fall into this category. Sailors on a ship at sea must stand watch 24 hours a day, many factories also work at all times. Those who work from 4:00pm to midnight are called the evening shift while those who have the midnight to 8:00am are commonly known as the 'grave-yard' shift. Friends and family of those working the grave-yard shift must be taught that a chatty phone-call at noon is the same as their receiving a casual call at 3:00am. The middle of your sleeping period is not a time for chat.

Crime at Night

Many criminals choose to use the hours of darkness to commit crimes. The famous exploits of Jack the Ripper are only a very few of the examples that could be listed. Burglary, rape, treason and murder are some of the crimes committed at night. In the dark it is much harder to recognize and pursue the culprit. In warfare enormous funds have been spent to develop and perfect night vision devices. In urban areas electronic lighting has been credited for 'turning darkness to day', but in most rural areas light disappears with the sun, at least in open areas.

Roll on, Columbia, roll on.
Roll on, Columbia, roll on.
Your power is turning our darkness to dawn,
Roll on, Columbia, roll on
.
– Woody Guthrie (1936).

This was written as an advert for the hydro-electric project in the Pacific North West US.

Films People Watch at Night

There are several films that are best watched at night, most horror films fall into this category. They also include: The Day the Earth Stood Still, Key Largo10, Rear Window11, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and the Christmas film The Polar Express. These should all be watched in the hours of darkness.

Some other cult films like the Monty Python series and Family Guy can be viewed at any time.

Where to Go

If you are a hitch-hiker looking for a place to be and have fun at night time, you should check out loud, populated cities where there will be an assortment of inns, stores, shops, live performances, pubs, and other people.

Where to Lodge

If you are looking for a place to rest after a sudden crash due to a minor fault in the improbability of space and time, there are many places to satisfy your interests on Earth. You should look for a calming area to sleep in. There is an assortment of places with beautiful scenes and backgrounds, mountains, beaches, deserts, and forests where you can just stare and fall asleep peacefully.

Most animals look for a hidden place to sleep during the night because then they are the most vulnerable. Small animals dig small holes in the ground, others may live in caves or in nests. There are thousands of beautiful places just waiting on Earth to host your stay.

As a human your best option is to find a room in a hotel, inn or a home offering 'bed and breakfast' accommodations. If you choose another, more exotic, location make sure it has not already been claimed by a predator.

1King James Bible - Genesis Chapter I.2It is, of course, possible to spend more than half your life in darkness if you engage in a sort of reverse migration and travel from winter to winter instead of seeking the warmer places.3Flash-light in the US.4See section on 'babies' above.5If you really want to find a society that cares about itself, I would look for a different planet.6As tempting as it is to place an age of 42 and oversimplify the solution to the meaning of 'Life, the Universe and Everything'.7If you decide to visit a park make sure it is well lit and has several friendly visitors, poorly lit, overgrown parks that are surrounded by decaying buildings with broken windows should be avoided at all times, especially at night.8Although many continue to do so from force of many years habit.9In spite of the foolish things they do to risk it.10With Humphrey Bogart.11By Alfred Hitchcock.

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