Sometimes, it may feel as if the universe refuses to cooperate, even just for a bit. It’s typically one of those recurring moments, wherein life refrains from delivering the promises told to us when we were still little.
Influential grown-ups in our childhood supplied within us a certain image of the future. Cheerful stories of success and luck. Words of encouragement and optimism. They wholeheartedly promoted the notion that life is naturally a good thing. And that if we persist in staying positive, we’ll achieve our goals. Once we’ve arrived in adulthood, we could become a pilot, or perhaps a renowned singer, or make a lot of money by inventing something brilliant.
Metaphorically spoken, it is daytime that represents life as such. The pursuit of our promised achievements takes place on ‘working’ or ‘school’ days, usually squeezed somewhere between 7am and 6pm. Rushy daily activity is the collective practise of chasing all the ambitions and expectations, as internalized in our younger years. These are the hours to claim what life was supposed to owe us: prosperity, growth, success, glory and perhaps even a splendid love relationship.
But upon having entered maturity ourselves, an unsettling truth is slowly revealed. Namely, that these key figures in childhood have told us -quite understandably- only half the story. Idle expectations bump into unforeseen obstacles and are realized only partly. Youthful high hopes have become a burden instead of a calling, as they cruelly reminisce the unfulfilled potential, even if the eventual compromise between hopes and reality is objectively agreeable:
Perhaps, the compromise of adulthood shows that we’re better off listening than singing, and we’ve become a part-time counsellor instead of a world-known artist. Or it appeared that we don’t have the required eagle eyes to be a pilot, and needed to compromise with becoming a bus driver instead, which appeared to be quite fulfilling as well. But sometimes, the jolly optimism of daytime can suddenly be a confronting mirror. On those harsh, discordant moments, one might reach out for an unexpected hideaway: The night.
After darkness has fallen, when everyone is asleep, society stands still. Shops are closed, roads are empty. Without making a single sound, the darkened streets and alleys seem to whisper at you. They seem to divulge a dark secret that was withheld from us by grown-ups in childhood in an attempt to protect us from the bittersweet truth.
The stillness of the night reveals that the universe is neither good nor bad in its nature. Nighttime neither approves, nor disapproves the vulnerable human being we’ve ultimately come to be, because it’s sheer indifferent towards our humble lives.
This stoic silence of the nighttime is nevertheless more coalescent with our disappointment. Without interrupting, it listens to our sorrows. Hidden under a thick blanket of darkness, the nightly anonymity appears to be a rather soothing medicine against the compelling optimism during all the bustling daily activity.
For just a brief moment, the nocturnal world offers redemption from the unfulfilled hopes and expectations that can haunt us in the daytime. The nightly quietness is kind and nonjudgmental to our broken dreams, and accepting towards the ultimate compromise we’ve needed to make between reality and dreams.
Artwork: Night Shadows, Edward Hopper, 1921.
Photo: Stefan Hoekstra.
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