Palpable Darkness

by Chua Han Au

I never quite liked it when the pilot prompts passengers to buckle up by saying, “Dear passengers, we are expecting some turbulence. Please return to your seats.” This just gives rise to a cacophony of wails from children which is the catalyst to my apprehensive mindset. Everyone starts getting jumpy, mothers tell their kids to buckle up, and I remain seated, looking down. We’re so hopelessly helpless. The lives of many are in the hands of the pilots. And all we are capable of is to pray, calm down and wait. On contemporary, I start convincing myself to have faith in this adept pilot. Should the plane crash, I couldn’t possibly imagine myself being split into different parts and falling straight down into the ocean full of sharks and deadly beasts, only to be their bait. Alas. And maybe, if the situation aggravates, I should most probably start crafting a eulogy/a note of gratitude to the people on Earth that I so truly love.

I was at 33,000 feet above ground. Unless the pilot told us about the altitude, I wouldn’t have known. And so, I gazed out of the window to take a look at how 33,000 feet was like, wanting to transcribe this magnificent beauty. We were above an aggregation of clouds, human society, meanders, the great eagles that roamed the sky. It was near sunset. And so I continued watching, with an unwavering gaze as the fiery orb hid itself behind the horizon — threads of light penetrated the clouds — forming the most magnificent palette of colours within the empyrean. First came tangerine, a light crimson, then violet. And all that was left was a chalky mauve. The salmon-like sky was then substituted by a blanket of stygian. The transition was beautiful.

I never really thought about the beauty of darkness or the flaw of it. What exactly was so intriguing about it that writers often expound on it, that musicians attempt to purport this sensing through their melodies? I couldn’t quite possibly fathom the element of darkness — it’s just an absence of light.

In darkness itself, there is something enigmatic. And it is this mysterious element that is the distinction between dusk and dawn. In the day, noises arise and it is this noise that conceals our true identities. We let them speak for us. But at night, it is tranquil. The sole voice we hear is the conversation that we have in our heads — a song of reflection, a song of solitude, a song of silence. The night is beautiful and empowering. Silenced souls begin to reveal themselves, for in the day, they are blatantly judged. They are afraid, but in the night, they are humble kings and queens. It is in darkness that the stars can shine the brightest. It is in darkness that fireflies can show off their most resplendent glow. It is in darkness that invites thoughts and reflections to oneself.

In the day, we are pretentious beings, wanting to appease and appeal to everyone. But in darkness, we are alone. We are real to ourselves. The night allows one to be real and honest. And maybe, the next time when you start noticing the beauty of darkness, appreciate the intricate noises that you hear, because they are the voices that you will never get to hear again in the day. I like the night, coupled with the silence it brings and the sounds I hear — the shy rustle of the leaves, the cacophonous chirping of crickets. And all that I’m left is my silent soul. I find myself being able to concentrate better when it comes to reading in the night. The night is empowering as it gives one opportunities that one can never have under the sun.

Yet, there are times where I fear darkness. It is also in darkness that there is death. And as much as I dislike thinking about death, the unanswerable questions that pertain to life after death are indeed intriguing. Relating death to darkness, the only time when one can stay in perpetual darkness is when the death clock strikes and there goes the spirit in his eyes. I often ponder about life after death — about the other entity that we would perhaps be living in after death.

Is it beautiful? Is there joy? Is there music?

When we die, do we still have to be conscious about how others see us? Maybe our emotions might have already faded after we die. As our hearts had ceased to beat, it might also mean that we no longer have a heart to love or hate. We would be living in an entity without sentiments, emotions or feelings. And that’s very dark. I once said that I admired the beauty of silence, and where else can I find silence but only in darkness?

Darkness — it gives rise to a series of feelings and infinite thoughts. Perhaps now I know what darkness truly is — the aftermath of a ceased beating heart — silent yet intimidating.

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