Wall and brambles, IG11
What does London Nights mean to you? What do you think of when you think of the city after dark?
The old expression to “make hay while the sun shines” posits that we should work hard whenever conditions are good enough to allow it. However, this becomes problematic in a world that’s increasingly unbounded by the cycle of day and night – that is ‘on’ 24/7. Should we be working all the time? In the past, night-time had a vital role in relaxation, revelry, and spiritual practices. I think it’s important to reclaim the night for those, especially in the city.
In fact, I'll be talking about this at the museum's Illuminating the Night evening on 28 September 2018. I hope to explore this through Heidegger’s contrast between meditative and calculative thinking. In a huge simplification of his philosophy (which is mostly beyond my understanding), he sought to critique the hugely influential dualism of Descartes in which we see ourselves as subjects, and the world and other people as objects.
This view is in fact fundamental to Western thought and has persisted from the ancient Greeks to the present. Because it is so orthodox – totally embedded in all of our culture, science, and politics – we aren’t even aware of it as anything other than common sense.
Heidegger identified this, and argued that world and others, thus objectified, become like mere ‘resources’ that we constantly and unwittingly manipulate in this ‘calculative’ mode of thinking. He doesn’t mean that we all act entirely cynically, more that this mode of ‘calculative’ thinking leads to us viewing every thing, person and situation as a possible means to something else, rather than an end in itself.
For example, what does it mean to just ‘be’ in the presence of a tree without an awareness of it as possible timber for firewood, a shelter, a canoe? Simply ‘being’ like that (what he called dasein, ‘being here’) opens the possibility for meditative thought.
In other words, night as a time to just ‘be’, to wander, to enjoy food and drink, to create, to pray, to dance, to be bored, to do things without purpose.