Night for Day or Day for Night in the Heart of Darkness

“I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air”
– Lord Byron, “Darkness”

Overheard in a coffee shop: A woman and a man are sitting together at a table.  She with a laptop open before her and he with a coffee and a book.  Looking at the screen, she says to him, “I didn’t know that the solar eclipse lasts for 70 to 80 minutes, going from partial to full, and the full eclipse lasts just 3-4 minutes.”

The man replies: “And if you’re lucky, the partial eclipse lasts more than 70 to 80 years, because then the full eclipse is forever.”

She acts as if she doesn’t hear him, as if his sardonic humor has nothing to do with her death anxiety or with the media’s celebration of the darkness visible of the total solar eclipse due to occur on April 8th across North America that the media is calling “eclipse mania,” while failing to mention they are promoting it as such.

It is strange how today people revel in the darkness even while fearing it.  Sunsets are far more popular than sunrises, even while death is the great bogeyman and birth deserves cigars and champagne.  Crowds regularly gather in the evenings, cell phone cameras raised, to laud the death of the light that they embalm on their dinguses (i.e.gadgets, just as the atomic bomb was nicknamed “The Gadget”), trying to freeze time, even as they celebrate the death of another day.  This twisted relationship to day and night, life and death, darkness and light is perhaps best summoned up in a few lines of poetry from Rainer Maria Rilke from his Duino Elegies:

For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror
which we are barely able to endure, and it amazes us so
because it serenely disdains to destroy us.
Every angel is terrible.

We are such strange and paradoxical creatures.

And now the upcoming plunge into night for day with the solar eclipse is the next great big thing to see.  A plunge into the heart of darkness that is apposite to the dark heart of U.S. foreign policy with its ruthless power, craven terror, and pride in killing.  It is uncanny how the darkness of social life today is reflected in the promotion of a natural event as if it were a must-see film that has just won the Academy Award.  As Joseph Conrad wrote in Heart of Darkness: “Like a running blaze on a plain, like a flash of lightning in the clouds. We live in the flicker.”

And we will die in a flicker if the dark-hearted leaders of this country continue to push against Russia in Ukraine for the nuclear war that they previewed in 1945 at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  It is understandable why in retrospect the great Australian journalist Wilfred Burchett’s first report from Hiroshima was so widely censored and why he was for many years portrayed as a communist dupe, even as twenty years later his honest reports from Vietnam were so important for those interested in the truth that the mainstream media blacked them out.  The exposure of America’s ongoing war crimes was for decades blamed on communist influence, just as today it is blamed on Russian propaganda.

But now it’s time for a flick to give us crocodile tears from the father of the atomic bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer, with that must-see Academy Award winning film, Oppenheimer.  The imprisoned and executed German pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, writing from prison before he was executed by Hitler for opposing Hitler’s mass atrocities, called such subtle self-glorification “cheap grace.”  It is grace we bestow on ourselves, forgiveness without requiring repentance, feats of self-glorification mastered by Hollywood.

A biopic of one man with all his complicated and twisted personality and scientific brilliance is a far cry from Wilfred Burchett’s article, The Atomic Plague: “I write this as a warning to the world.”  But then the Academy Awards’ ongoing support for Ukraine in its U.S. proxy war against Russia – a war rooted in the 2014 U.S. engineered coup and NATO’s encircling of Russia – is just the opposite: a provocation that makes nuclear war much more likely.  It’s a sick celebrity game.

The creation of the atomic bomb and its use on the Japanese was demonic – pure evil.  Robert Oppenheimer was not a tragic figure as Kai Bird, the coauthor of American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer, claimed last year in The New York Times. As I wrote in “Trinity’s Shadow,” he was “complicated, yes; but he was essentially a hubristic scientist who lent his services to a demonic project, and afterwards, having let the cat out of the bag by creating the Bomb, guiltily urged the government that used it in massive war crimes to restrain itself in the future.” Asking for such self-regulation is as absurd as asking the pharmaceutical and big tech industries, or the CIA, to regulate themselves.  Anyone who would give the name “Trinity” to the site where the first bomb was exploded had a twisted mind.

Oppenheimer, which excludes scenes from the devastation in Hiroshima and Nagasaki but includes one wherein scientists rapturously celebrate with flag waving the exploding of the bomb over Hiroshima, recently opened in Japan. The New York Times published a piece about the opening that contains various Japanese reactions, including one from Yujin Yaguchi, a professor at the University of Tokyo, that accurately raises a fundamental issue: the film “celebrates a group of white male scientists who really enjoyed their privilege and their love of political power. We should focus more on why such a rather one-sided story of white men continues to attract such attention and adulation in the U.S. and what it says about the current politics and the larger politics of memory in the U.S (and elsewhere).”

Exactly. The issue is political, not aesthetic.  Why it is good to see some flickering images and not others?  Why is night for day and the blocking out of the sun by an eclipse so good but the reminder that we are on the edge of a nuclear eclipse because of the policies of our dark-hearted leaders is not?

We live in very dark times.  There is no need to watch the sun being extinguished and day turn to night in the heart of an immense darkness.  Kurtz’s dying words as recalled by Marlowe at the end of The Heart of Darkness – ‘The horror! The horror!’ are not words we want to utter as we realize we too have gone mad in our souls because we looked the wrong way as the nukes were in their flight.

Chase the light!  As Oliver Stone writes in his memoir, “One of the first basic lessons in filming is chasing the light. Without it, you have nothing. . . .”

It’s true in life as well. We live in the flicker.

So if we are to celebrate the dawn of a new day on earth, paradoxical and contradictory as it might sound, we do need to look into the darkness – the heart of the darkest and demonic crimes committed by our heartless leaders – Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the genocide in Gaza, the escalating and expanding war in the Middle East, and the U.S proxy war against Russia in Ukraine, to name a few.

And if the contemplation of the eclipse of the sun disturbs you enough to impel you to do so, a quick peek won’t hurt.





12 thoughts on “Night for Day or Day for Night in the Heart of Darkness”

  1. A wonderful piece Ed. I just re-read it now, after first reading it the day you posted it. I didn’t have the opportunity to comment then as I was hosting family members from the States for a week of sight seeing and visiting. Two kind people, NPR democrats, both master degreed, both possessed of Trump Derangement Syndrome at levels that made any discussion of the Democratic Party’s obvious apocalypse inviting – “issues” – impossible to even broach without instigating a panic attack. Yes, they could agree that the Democratic Party is supporting genocidal mayhem in Gaza – but that is – quote – “Trumps fault” – “not Biden’s “- I kid you not.

    Of course in their defense – when indoctrinated with a good steady dose of NPR (or any number of other American/Western MSM) – the response is typically incredulity when exposed to information that falls outside the “official narratives.” (“What? There was a coup in Ukraine?”) It was a grim reminder of that old adage regarding systems analysis – “garbage in = garbage out.”

    The orange-haired clown hasn’t been in office for years now yet he haunts the psyches of my “progressive” friends and family like an evil supernatural specter from another dimension – ready at any moment to return from the bowels of hades to wreak his “racist” and “sexist” havoc. Amazingly, somehow he is so very powerful that he also remains responsible for any and all failures of the current administration. Go figure.

  2. “We live in very dark times.”
    Edward Curtain is right. There are few signs of approaching dawn. The “dark-hearted leaders” are marching us to nuclear Armageddon. Yet they do not see it: all convinced in the certainty of victory. Most of the public do not see it. A simple syllogism might throw some light on the matter: every empire in history has eventually faced the war it was trying to avoid; today everyone wants to avoid WWIII; therefore that is the fate that awaits humanity. Paradoxically, the only chance of avoiding that fate is to accept it. I explore this in my new publication, The Doomsday Syllogism.

  3. “Chase the light” is indeed a great moto for life …. for what it’s worth, I’ve always preferred mornings and sunrise to evenings and sunset …

    The great lesson of Openheimer should have been that the creation of the tool is the creation of its use. One cannot be separated from the other. And when the tool created is necessarily one of indiscriminate mass murder and destruction, the immorality of its creator is clear and present.

    As Mad Albright asked Colin Powell, what good is this marvelous military you’re always telling me about if we can’t use it … indeed, the creation of the tool is the legitimation of its use. Dark times when the best things your society makes are tools of war.

  4. There is much sanctimonious hubris coupled with unspoken denial on display in “Oppenheimer”, a film mirroring these extreme times and the strange moral vacuum in the country and world we currently inhabit. And only one of many examples demonstrating our predicament. There is much on the menu to contemplate these days. Darkness is certainly in the ascendent, and it is mesmerizing in its own way.
    In considering the metaphorical aspects of sunrise and sunset, it seems significant to note that rise and set are part of a larger recurring cycle that continuously repeats, with each sunset then followed by another sunrise, and so on. In Vedic cosmology, the Yugas move through a similar repetition, suggesting renewal at some distant point, though for all practical purposes that will be far beyond our lifespans. We’re now entrenched in the Kali Yuga – the Age of Iron – which will run its course, like it or not. Individual experience can vary widely, but the larger picture is decidedly grim, and getting worse. A challenging time to incarnate that tests each soul. At a personal level, the term “endure” comes to mind.

  5. Where do we go from here? The masses are sheep dipped in propaganda and infotainment. They are fish asking “what water?” All of our institutions are utterly corrupted, and our political arena is stocked with narcissistic sociopaths stuffing their pockets with dirty money from Big Pharma and the war machine. Meritocracy has been replaced by DEI nonsense, and the three “R’s” are racist. “The Horror” seems insufficient to the “reality”. I remember from the ’70’s the saying “Think Globally, Act Locally”. If we can avoid nuclear winter, I think that is where our only hope lies.

    1. Hi Skip – Love the mention of the great D F Wallace “What is Water” … He should be appreciated more.

      Re our present situation, I put my hope on sheer bankruptcy … the money power is the root of the evil and easy money needs to be expunged for some semblance of morality and truth to reemerge.

      1. I wasn’t aware of the origin of that analogy. Thanks. I have yet to dive into D F Wallace. I am fortunate to live in a rural area where many folks barter their particular skill set with their friends and neighbors. I think when the collapse comes that is how we will survive (if we survive).

    2. Hi Skip…you asked; “where do we go from here?” I think that is precisely the question, the thought we need to focus on! The problem is in the ‘we’ since unity, real community is a difficult idea, though at this point in time, I feel it should not be.

      1. There is more unity in “flyover America” than on the coasts and in the big cities. Rural people, for the most part, will not drive by a tragedy, and will stop and help if they can. Communities like the Amish are growing, and they are largely self reliant and truly “communal”. They are the type of people most likely to survive the rot that has infected our societal and government institutions. As the inevitable collapse accelerates, I hope that their example will be a valuable lesson to others.

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