Lights Over Amherst

(Craig Campbell)– I’d like to draw attention to an issue that’s been bugging me over the past few months. Why is the Amherst College campus so damn dark at night? How difficult can it be to upgrade the outdoor lighting system with some brighter bulbs? I’d prefer total darkness to the sickly orange glow that currently bathes the quads.

At the darkest point of the year – the conclusion of finals and Winter Solstice – dusk was descending around 4 pm. Which leaves a whopping 10-or-so hours of darkness before most of us, in imitation of the sun, set ourselves to rest.

Nothing in nature is more splendid to me than watching the sunset, but each day as the sun goes down, I can’t help but feel like something is slipping away, that there was something in the day that I didn’t or couldn’t complete, and that I won’t complete by sunset the next day, either. Sure, we’re chasing sunsets, but they’re forever eluding our grasp. They’re always over before we’ve even had the chance to make sense of the day that just ended.

Night is when the world goes to sleep. I guess I just take issue with the fact that the world we’ve made for ourselves here seems to be going to sleep so early each day. Maybe I belong in the City, where people are buzzing about all the time, where sundown doesn’t mean shutdown.

Yes, I’d prefer a brighter campus. But that’s not to say I have no regard for the night.

I spent a lot of time outside this Interterm. It was nice. These January days have been filled with clear skies, the nights with starry dreamscapes. On Memorial Hill in the wee hours of the morning, staring toward the celestial zenith, we bear witness to infinity of space. And so we remember that we’re small.

We talk ourselves up in admissions essays/cover letters to be the very MOST important applicant. We brand ourselves, setting up for sale. And we have to be the name brand, of course. The very best one. Not some shitty off brand. Students at elite institutions are on a fast track to a life of success. We were the chosen ones, remember? The world revolves around us, and don’t you forget it.

At the end of each day, the sun, our own dear little star, sinks beneath the horizon. But then a whole new phantasmagoria of lights begins to emerge. As they dot the sky, the stars seem to say, “Welcome to the labyrinth!” They serve as a reminder that the constructs we create, the mazes we make up in our heads are fleeting. The world does not revolve around us.

The sun, the moon, the stars and the clouds – they’re for dreamers, I guess. They’re for those who would rather set their eyes permanently skyward, stumbling about on the ground, than accept the reality of the world as it is, so full of flaws. But isn’t life an endless series of illusions? A dream? Wouldn’t waking kill us, then?

This is escapism, which isn’t such a bad thing after all. The dreams, the illusions: they’re an escape from the planet, from habit and habitat, from our sadness and our problems. We wouldn’t be biologically equipped with a fight-or-flight drive if we weren’t meant to flee (fly?) every once in a while. So, fellow dreamers, when the darkness seems most oppressive, when the world feels most heavy, just look up!

The moon has nothing to be sad about.