NIGHT AS A FRONTIER, by Murray Melvin is one of the finest pieces of writing and research I have ever run across. I thought I’d share it with you. Every once in a while I run across “prose” that are so precise, so focused, so illuminating that it nearly takes your breath away. This piece of writing is one such example. There is an old saying, “I wrote you a long letter because I didn’t have time to write you a short one.” So true. I, myself, find myself writing more words than is necessary to tell a short and compelling story or set of facts. There, you see, I have done it again. I am rambling.At any rate, read the following then go to your browser and type in Murray Melbin or Night as a Frontier and you can read the entirety of Murray’s shear genius. Notice the short sentences boys and girls. Complexity is always the hobgoblin of fraud and confusion or someone who really doesn’t know what they are talking about.
Humans are showing a trend toward more and more wakeful activity at all hours of day and night. The activities are extremely varied. Large numbers of people are involved. And the trend is worldwide. A unifying hypothesis to account for it is that night is a frontier, that expansion into the dark hours is a continuation of the geographic migration across the face of the earth. To support this view, I will document the trend and then offer a premise about the nature of time and its relation to space. Third, I will show that social life in the nighttime has many important characteristics that resemble social life on land frontiers.
The Course of Expansion
We were once a diurnal species bounded by dawn and dusk in our wakeful activity. Upon mastering fire, early humans used it for cooking and also for sociable assemblies that lasted for a few hours after darkness fell. Some bustle throughout the 24-hour cycle occurred too. Over the centuries there have been fires tended in ceremonies, sentinels on guard duty at city gates, officer watches on sundown and end at sunrise, innkeepers serving travelers at all hours to name a few . In the first century A.D., Rome was obliged to relieve its congestion by restricting chariot traffic to the night hours.
Yet around-the-clock activity used to be a small part of the whole until the nineteenth century. Then the pace and scope of wakefulness at all hours increased smartly. William Murdock developed a feasible method of coal-gas illumination and, in 1803, arranged for the interior of the Soho works in Birmingham, England to be lighted that way. Other mills nearby began to us gas lighting. Methods of distributing coal-gas to all buildings and street lamps in a town were introduced soon after. In 1820, Pall Mall in London became the first street to be lit by coal-gas. Artificial light gave great stimulus to the nighttime entertainment industry. It also permitted multiple-shift factory operations on a broad scale. Indeed by 1867 Karl Marx was to declare that night work was a new mode of exploiting human labor.
In the closing decades of the nineteenth century two developments marked the changeover from space to time as the realm of human migration in the United States. In 1890 the Bureau of the Census announced that the land frontier in America had come to an end, for it was no longer possible to draw a continuous line across the map of the West to define the edge of farthest advance settlement. Meanwhile, the search for an optimum material for lantern lights, capable of being repeatedly brought to a white heat, culminated in 1885 in the invention of the Weisbach mantle- a chemically impregnated cotton mesh. The use of the dark hours increased thereafter, and grew further with the introduction of electric lighting.
And on-and-on it goes. Many more words, many more pages; all quite well written. This is well written because it says much using few words. To most these days, except the text-generation, the longer the document, letter, correspondence, message or memo…the better. I highly recommend you find this article and read as much as you can, as often as you can. No, it doesn’t take long to get the meaning of what the author is saying, however, it is a constant reminder to me [and I hope you] that simple is better. And, if you cannot say what you do, where you’ve been, where your going or when you’re going to get there [quickly, tightly, without rambling] you’d better go back and read old Murray one more time. Here’s where I must leave you. I have said all that need be said…so, I will say no more.
By Parson Boyles (An inferior writer to Dr. Melbin for sure … but I keep trying)