Darkest before the Dawn?

by: Christopher Rockwell

An angry rant, or a scientific expose of an age old cliche?  You decide…..

No, I am not fucking ok.

Wait. I am sorry. That was simply an innocent question; I did not mean to snap at you. You are just looking out, and thank you for that. Things are just all kinds of fucked up right now, is all.

Hold on a second, WHAT? Can you repeat that part?

Darkest before……dawn huh?

Look, I understand you are trying to comfort me. I get that. I do. It’s just that an overused cliché that truly doesn’t capture the depravity of the situation here may not be exactly what I need right now. How about a beer? What about a beer instead? And some silence served, neat, right next to it, as your words are about as comforting as a bed of nails. You liked that bed of nails comment didn’t you? That’s a gift from me to you as its obvious you like tired and uninspired jargon.

You see, this whole situation is pretty fucking dark indeed. That part works I suppose.  So dark I couldn’t fathom a dawn emerging from this caliginous hole I find myself in. But if you say so. A new dawn awaits! I am simply worrying in vain I guess. Everything is better come morning, right?

This isn’t the first time I have heard this shopworn phrase used in unsolicited council. Its been spoken many a time mind you.  Although many attribute this quote to Sojourner Truth (Isabella Baumfree), an African-American abolitionist and women’s rights activist, a quick jaunt through The Yale Book of Quotations sites the earliest known version of the saying in Thomas Fuller‘s A Pisgah Sight of Palestine (1650) -“It is always darkest just before the Day dawneth.” So it seems as if armchair therapists such as yourself have been saving lives with this one for centuries now! No wonder civilization is in perfect working order. When the going gets tough….remember it’s always darkest before the dawn! Whew….

But I ain’t buying it. If we were to take a moment to examine the logic behind your go-to cliché, used like a band-aid in time of need for all the troubled souls fortunate to be around you when catastrophe strikes, there are faults all over it. In truth it is most dark when the sun is aligned 180 degrees away from where you are on Earth, assuming the moon doesn’t screw things up. So, it’s darkest at (literally) mid-night, or 1 a.m, if the sun sets at 8 and rises at 6, for example. Simply put, the darkest part of the evening is about halfway through the night, when the sun is on the opposite side of the planet. Just like the sun is highest in the sky between 11am and 12pm….aka high noon! One could even call the darkest time of evening high night, if so inclined.

The fact is the night is darkest throughout the night except for when the sun is going down and coming up. And, some nights are darker than others depending on the amount of light being reflected from the moon of course. Holes, holes everywhere in your little lifesaver.

Let’s dig deeper. As it all comes down to the definition of dawn I suppose:

The dictionary defines dawn as “the FIRST appearance of light in the sky before sunrise.” By this definition, we can conclude that even the smallest, most incalculable measure of refracted sunlight treading into the night sky in the wee hours of morning is actually dawn. So, I assume your argument, if you have ever even thought this through, is that any moment BEFORE the morning sunlight begins accumulating in the sky is “before the dawn.” This would indicate, to you and those of your ilk, that “before the dawn,” is, in fact, the darkest time of night, since we can assume that this moment occurs before any of the morning light arrives, and occurs after any light from twilight leaves the sky. Well, good luck with with that one, as it’s hard to make a scientific case that it is physically darkest just before dawn. Overnight darkness can be affected by moonlight and a variety of environmental factors. On some nights, it will be brightest just before dawn depending on where you are. Think about that! And poof……there goes your beloved timeworn motto, which rights each and every wrong, every time!

Listen, I know you didn’t mean anything by it. No one means anything by anything I suppose. An age old excuse for crimes against humanity. Of course this isn’t a crime, just some pedestrian advice. And maybe it is actually helping. I mean, look at the tangent you propelled me into which got my mind off of my problems for a moment at least. Maybe I needed that……and maybe, now that I think it through, it is actually darkest the moment your most unimaginative of friends digs deep into their duffel of hackneyed phrases and reassures you to fear not, as it is always darkest before the dawn. And then, that very moment, things began to change for the better. Yeah, that has to be it! I guess I should thank you for gifting me with this musty adage, as I intimately nuzzle up to rock bottom as this now makes sense…..It’s always darkest at the moment someone tells you it’s always darkest before dawn…..and then, that instant, the metaphorical dawn rests right around the corner!

I think I am beginning to feel better already…..

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