“The sun never knew how wonderful it was until if fell on the wall of a building,” according to Louis Kahn, one of the most accomplished modern architects from the West. Even before the rise of modern architecture, going back to the beginnings of humanity, there has always been an innate compulsion towards the brilliance of sunlight. Gods and deities have been christened in the name of the sun as a promoter of growth and prosperity. But, what of his counterpart, the moon, in our modern era? The mellow aura of the moon, which begets the serene solidarity of night, has long slipped away from our society where everything has become illuminated. At night, cities radiate bright lights long after the sun has departed, eradicating the vista of heavenly twilight skies.
Where daytime and sunlight is personified through the hustle and bustle of activity, conversely, there is an antithesis within the vivacity of society when night falls. Introspection seems to be more deliberate, and contemplation becomes easier when the commotion of people dissipates as the sun sizzles out below the horizon. Henry David Thoreau mused that the “higher harmonies of thought” were more easily procured “in the hush and quiet of darkness.” Night, furthermore, propagates the cycle within humans to sleep, propelling one into the sphere of dreams and visions, analogous, perhaps, to the slowly rotating celestial bodies of the cosmos; they are seemingly unreal, yet continue to materialize upon us like clockwork.
Within our modern and industrious society, luminosity has become a prevailing feature that is illustrated through bright city lights and gleaming high-tech gadgets. The Japanese culture of old, however, serves as a juxtaposition of those concurrent trends that our society follows and is best exemplified through the writings of Jun’ichiro Tanazaki. Tanazaki addresses how the Japanese welcomed light with moderation in order to achieve harmony through all aspects of their life such as in their home, food, silverware, and use of materials. Tanazaki interpreted all issues related to ambiance, comfort, thought, and appetite as being negatively influence by the modern penchant towards more and more illumination. There is a sublime dimness that encompassed the traditional Japanese culture, but it seems that it made them more pensive, appreciative, and at ease.
While industrialization is imperative to the progress of society, introspection becomes lost when things move too fast. Though light is not the only factor that affects our loss of harmonious thought, it is important to acknowledge its importance.