Tuesday, January 22, 2008


[5] Vizual

I was three or four years old. My ‘baba’ (papa) was a military chief at Mardin Nusaybin (Syria border, southeast Turkey). Our Home was the only one built with cement in Nusaybin. It was located outside the village at the top of a small hill. Nusaybin did not have electricity at that time. My mother was a little bit nervous because of my father’s duties. My ‘baba’ had to go out to catch smugglers at nights. A deep darkness would sink over our Home those times… Sometimes would burials take place in the cemetery at distance right in front of our Home… Night burials, according to the local customs. I used to watch them secretly my hair rising… The groups walking in the darkness, candle lights, the dead being carried lying over ladders… Not really understanding what was going on…

Six months later my mother’s efforts succeeded. My father gave up his carrier. He applied for his well deserved retirement. We bought a new house at one of the then suburps of Istanbul. Our new Home had a large garden. We used to have nice evenings at the front-garden in hot summer nights. I remember, every now and then, my father used to send me to the back-garden to fetch some stuff during these night leisures. I was ‘damn’ afraid of going to the back-garden in darkness. Everybody would burst out into laughter and make fun of the situation rather than me and we would have a sweet time in the family about a small secret that belonged to us all.

Although the fear of darkness in my childhood decreased gradually, it followed me for many years. It transformed into a sensitivity and sense of prudence through time. I wonder, if I had not lived the experiences in Nusaybin at the ages of three to four, would I have a fear of darkness? I do not think so. I would not… Nevertheless, many people get nervous about darkness or fear from it. For many justifiable reasons.

OK then, what is the thing that makes darkness such a source of fear? Why is darkness fearsome? Is darkness the fearsome thing itself or is it something in ourselves that makes us afraid?
Is this secret thing located there in the darkness or is it somewhere else? Really, why do we think that something we can not see is located in the darkness, rather than somewhere else for example under the street lamp?

The reason that makes us nervous about darkness is it is not something we could hold in our hands, it is not an absolute object. Just like time… Difficult to understand… Specially difficult for people younger than age 16, who has not developed a concept about abstraction, yet. Darkness is not an object like a door, a table or a wall. Maybe it is rather something like tiredness or sadness…
Its opposite enlightenedness (aydınlık, tr) is rather like happiness, joy… In short is darkness a situation and a mood rather than an object.

Darkness is both a phsical situation and our perception of it. If sunlight falls on the furniture in our house our Home is ‘enlightened(aydınlık, tr)’. The sun light beams that are reflected from the furniture reach our eyes with enough intensity. But in the evening, the intensity of the sun light decreases. First, some colors begin to lose their liveliness and begin to appear as a shade of grey. Then, they become grey in semi-darkness and disappear in the darkness.

Our interaction with darkness in our modern lives is not the same as in the nature. We move from darkness to light and vice versa suddenly during our daily lives for many times. For example, when the child wishes ‘good night’ and goes to her room she has to go into darkness first and then open the light suddenly and then close it again… Or, when you are driving at night, the cars approaching from the other side of the road dazzle your eyes frequently.

Car, airplane or any vehicle drivers abide the night vision priciples. Airplane pilots’ night flying techniques include a different vision technique. “In daylight you have to look directly at the target object. At night, you have to look at slightly one side of the target object. Scanning the target by moving your eye permits “off-center” viewing. You should not look directly at the target object at night unless there is a special reason.”

“The explanation for this lies in the DUAL STRUCTURE OF OUR EYE’[4]. The cones work in day light and the rods at night. The rods are located on the periphary of a circle around the cones.

The cones need a greater intensity of light to function, and stop working in semidarkness.
The rods can function in 1 / 5000 th of light intensity. The cones are 100000 times sensitive in dark as they are in light. So, they work at night.”

The problem is; what do the rods do in the day light? The rods provide a grey scale view, while cones provide coloured… Rods lose their sensitivity after short exposure to light. This means less sensitivity is used only for percieving objects in the peripheral view…

In short, seeing is not as simple as we naturally presume. Our ability to see changes at different levels of light intensity… We can not see with the same quality in all conditions. Our ability to see in darkness is much less than in sun light. If explored, we can easily find that our seeing ability is not limited by only the availability of the sunlight. We have other limits also… The views of fast moving seperate things appear to us as if belonging to a single thing moving continuously, for example.

Seeing is not limited with the functions of the eye of course… Our brain first percieves then understands the things that our eyes see. We also have some limits in our brain’s visual perception naturally… We can not percieve the second event if two events happen too quick sequentially… They call this perceptional blink sometimes…

Our seeing abilities, given by the Creator, require a period of adaptation when the conditions of the environment change, the environment that we are temporarily in. When we move into darkness
suddenly, the rod cells in our eyes need some time to get activated. At these instances, give yourself sometime for your brain to get healthy-correct information from your eyes.

During the flow of times, we all experience sudden changes of things we are used to. The problem is not only the change in the conditions that we are accustomed to but also the fact that we, ouselves change. Whether we notice it or not, the way our body and mind work, changes according to the conditions that we are in. A small kid gets red spots on his skin suddenly, a software engineer approaches the end of his project, a pilot lands with his co-pilot in bad climate conditions, or an air traffic controller whose job is to keep airplanes apart from each other loses his radar system which enables him to see the skies…

When you fall into sudden darkness, I believe, there may be a few tricks that you may learn and borrow from an air traffic controller who has lost the view of airplanes on his radar. He at least has strips of papers in his hand that shows the locations and directions of his resumed airplanes... If the lights go off when you are on the stairway, you should have kept certain reference points in your mind beforehand, such as the location of the handrail, your relative position in the current floor stairs…

Darkness is not an object to be afraid of, it is a sitaution, a mental mood. To cope with darkness, you should have reference points that You have created before. We can not control everything in our lives but ‘knowing ourselves’ could make us stronger against the difficulties, at least.

Ali Riza SARAL

Note: The inspirational bases of this article lie in:


2. Chip HEATH and Dan HEATH, MADE TO STICK – “the curse of knowledge”

3. HOW TO BE A DAMN SEXY MAN– “let the kids turn the page”

Helicopter Flight, http://meanwhile.com/?domain=helicfi.com
5. Gavrus BOGDAN, Vizual, http://gavrusphoto.blogspot.com/