By: Brittany Cramer
Darkness can be frightening. The darkness of the unknown makes us uneasy. Maybe it is the fear of a dark room, the idea of being uninformed, or confronting something previously unseen. We all want the path ahead to be well-lit. We are made uncomfortable by the potential shadows down the path so we carry our own tools of light while traveling. Our homes, cars, and cities brim with light. Our faces are illuminated by cell phones, tablets, computers, and televisions. Our minds can be constantly lit up with information, ideas, and opinions. Advances in lighting have led more and more to the desire to remain perpetually lit up without much concern or thought of the source. We are collectively becoming afraid of the dark.
When I heard about the push to increase the number of dark sky friendly communities I was struck by the idea. Surely increasing darkness is the last thing we need, I thought at first. But I learned that dark sky friendly is about creating boundaries and limits to artificial light in order to allow celestial lights to be seen. It is because the abundance of man-made light, despite the inferiority in power, overwhelms our senses and blinds us to the light from above. Thus, artificial illumination is not inherently bad, but when taken to excess, it limits our ability to see anything beyond.
Historically, stars were used by travelers to orient and guide them on their journey. I imagine the stars were not only necessary, but comforting in their consistency. In every land, north is always north. It was possible for a traveler to know where they stood even when they didn’t recognize the land or sea surrounding them. Over time, many created tools to help them understand and interpret the light from above. We now have access to so many tools to help guide us on our journey, but instead of assisting us in connecting to celestial guidance, these tools can obscure our view. Unfortunately, in our efforts to ease the discomfort of potential darkness, we flood ourselves with the glow of temporary warmth and as a result we veil what is most essential to see.
Our efforts to illuminate our own lives do not remove the stars. The sky is celestially lit regardless of our access to it. How much more enlightened could we be by limiting the artificial light? What if we, like those that wandered this land before us, looked to the beautiful, consistent, and endlessly more powerful light from above for our direction?
Doing this might initially be uncomfortable. We may find ourselves in temporary darkness as we allow our eyes to adjust. However, as we create boundaries around our man-made light, we will become better able to see the infinite horizon of celestial light. With some intentional limits we can better learn to recognize true north and how to orient our journey toward Him who is always there. He, who is the creator of those celestial, pure, and permanent lights in the sky, is waiting and willing to guide us home. We will find Him and all the peace of His light if we create the environment to see.