Notes on Day and Night

— vincent hiscock

My last reflection, in many ways, was a reflection on what I might call “the presence of Night in the world today”–a veritably liturgy of destruction. This sense of Night is very important to me, because it challenges any expression of history that attempts to maintain a univocal outlook. Night calls for a litany of affirmation, a litany that breaks through our multiform ideologies–and theologies–as if from an outside whose insight goes beyond our betrayal of political or Christian witness. We cannot go beyond suffering without all those who have been caused to suffer. The charity of Christ becomes mere tokenism when global beneficiaries of mass violence and exploitation “accept” the “good news” while simultaneously rendering invisible the historical subalterns who celebrated in the commons of Christ’s actual ministry. This is all, of course, to pose again the question of faith: faith based on ritual assent or faith based in a resistant call for economic, political, and psychical transformation.

But to pose such a binary risks promoting a flatly discursive rivalry betwixt institutionalized religious symbols and merely cultural symbols of “alignment” and cross-cultural solidarity. Night, on the other hand, compulsively promotes the reconfiguration of the already stultified ways in which we have come to perceive the world and ourselves. It constantly threatens us with abandonment (and the death of our most cherished formulations of profundity) in the ordeal of facing again the chaos of the other side of our own, as yet unsuspected reality.

Night thoughts are not day thoughts.

Chilean activist and writer Joan Casañas asked amidst the Pinochet-led massacres of the Chilean people: “Activist, what do you see in the night?” He quotes a conversation with a fellow worker in Guatemala recounting then-recent events following the CIA-orchestrated coup and US-backed genocide of indigenous peoples: “All day long we were fleeing. We ran seeking the ravines. We brought all the injured from the other villages; there were many. The largest number were women and little children. We hid in the mountains, but the women wore cloths of many colors, and from the helicopters they could see us very well. We saw the helicopters beginning to fly in circles, surrounding us all. They began to machine-gun the people. The only way to save ourselves was to run to the ravine and throw ourselves into it, which was quite steep. We began to run and run to the mountain, falling and falling. The small children ran alone. They were being left behind, getting lost among so many people; and all shouted, ‘Mama, Mama.’ One woman cried; she cried a lot, talking in the language Quiche. I didn’t understand well what she said. Someone said to me, ‘She’s crying because her child was killed.’ I had seen the little child. She had been born 15 days earlier. The woman had carried the child on her back. She fell when she was running, and she fell on the child and it was killed. She said, ‘God is going to punish me. I have a great sin on me because I have killed my child.’ A woman said, ‘God is not with us, God has abandoned us. If we haven’t done anything bad, if we haven’t asked for so much, why does God abandon us now?’”

Percepts shatter precepts. There is a fidelity which comes not from failed understanding, but from a knowledge that undoes understanding.

However scandalously, these thoughts that have percolated from that bottom half of Spero’s “To the Revolution” have entwined with a fragment of TS Eliot’s The Four Quartets that I had the pleasure of reciting in a time of reflection with my housemates this past Wednesday:

So we moved . . .

To look into the drained pool.

Dry the pool, dry concrete, brown edged,

And the pool was filled with water out of sunlight,

And the lotos rose, quietly, quietly,

The surface glittered out of heart of light,

And they were behind us, reflected in the pool.

Then a cloud passed, and the pool was empty.

And so I have some notes on Night and Day, chattering, with what I want to say still hiding, crudely pointing. Day is not in binary with Night. Both are tertiary. For those who live in Night, insight also comes in the depths of the moment, in accelerationist virtualities. Rapid motion standing still. This is a fidelity which comes not from failed understanding, but by means of a transformed knowledge that makes us innocent of understanding and free to accept anew with each Now-movement the gift of psychic transformation. You might just call this changing your mind.

You can always change your mind. Considering piecemeal, there is no ideology, no theology, no world picture. Here you can always begin again.

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1 Response to Notes on Day and Night

  1. John Ambrose says:

    As I was reading the passage from Casañas, I heard echoes of these lines from “Little Gidding” where Eliot recalls the London aerial bombings during World War II:

    In the uncertain hour before the morning
    Near the ending of interminable night
    At the recurrent end of the unending
    After the dark dove with the flickering tongue
    Had passed below the horizon of his homing
    While the dead leaves still rattled on like tin …..

    And was then pleased to find you later quoting the lines from “Burnt Norton.”

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