Signs of Darkness

Signs of Darkness

From KJ 36

One summer evening not long ago, in a certain part of Tokyo, a big city up north, hundreds of households right at the pinnacle of prime time were suddenly plunged into an unfamiliar state known in pre-electric eons as “utter darkness.”

Workmen were sent out at once to bring back the light. After searching fruitlessly for the usual technological glitch, the workmen broadened their horizons and found a large, well-done eel stretched across some high-tension lines, shorting them out. It was concluded that the eel had been dropped on the wires by a fish¬ing hawk. The workmen removed the eel, the lights came back on, and all was resolved. Or so everyone seems to think. But something deep within, where the ancient ones live, tells me that given the long symbolic and mythological history of hawks and eels, there is more to this event than merely modern reportage would have us believe. Some almost forgotten kind of paleoreportage is needed, that includes the voice of Nature. For Nature is never mute. Indeed, she can make her opinions known with earthshaking clarity. And as with a slight nuclear reactor leak, or a small ozone hole over the Antarctic, or a barely measurable rise in sea level, the hawk-eel blackout was, I suspect, another of Nature’s many recent attempts to tell us something we’ve forgotten how to hear, as modern environmental history will attest. Nature is talking to us all the time, but we’re no longer paying much more than ear service; and the threads of a Natural statement in hawk-and-eel syntax are harder than ever to grasp nowadays, when so many are deaf to what remains of the wild. But hawks have aboriginally been respected as long-distance visionaries and spirit guides; and it goes without saying that eels, mythologically ever at the bottom of it all, are no strangers to high-voltage electricity. Our own bodies as well, urbanely shortsighted as they’ve become, have always run on electrical power, though for millions of years we were in the dark about that; we only discovered electricity a couple of centuries ago and are still fiddling with the knobs, don’t understand it, just flick a switch. And to do what, operate hawks or eels? Not even close. Generally more like neon lights and coffeemakers, air conditioners, escalators, quiz shows, conveniences, diversions from that big conversation out there. Maybe the hawk gave up its meal to say don’t forget the darkness, if you want to truly see. Maybe the eel surrendered its life to remind us not to treat power lightly, if we hope to survive. Maybe Nature was saying get these high-tension lines out of your sight, before the father of hawks drops the father of eels. Sad to think that a hawk has to drop an eel on some power lines to remind us of the night; sadder still that we just remove the eel and return to our regular programming, unwarned of the long deep night that will fall if we don’t heed the gathering signs of darkness everywhere around us, and shadowing ever closer to home.

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