We are on a weekend. Last night and today night, most Christians will be indoors at home, mostly with their families, and quite a good number alone. Their non Christian friends will mostly be out in a club or a function or basically out exploring, way into the wee hours of the night.
The good Christian family man or woman goes home early over weekdays as well. They bring up their children with a strong discipline to be home by six in the evening. The night is dark, and bad things happen in the dark.
I am not an early bird. I am a night owl. What I do for a living requires that I wake up at 2am or 4 am a lot of times. My good fortune is that I work right from bed when I have to wake up that early. On the other hand, I enjoy late nights, as late as 3 in the morning. Whether am working, taking lessons on the so many things I try to learn every day, reading a book, listening to stories (yes, listening! Audible has become one of my best friends), writing, or just day dreaming (or is it night wake dreaming?) on my bed.
Night and dark are used in the Bible as metaphor for evil. True enough, a lot of things that are evil are planned and done in the cover of the night. But has night always been a period to be avoided and shunned by “good” people?
Being a night person has got me reading widely about night and sleeping and I have come across a few interesting pieces. BBC, in this research report, says historically, people used to sleep in two distinct chunks. It refers to “a first sleep which began about two hours after dusk, followed by waking period of one or two hours and then a second sleep.” During the waking period, the article says “people were quite active. They often got up, went to the toilet or smoked tobacco and some even visited neighbours. Most people stayed in bed, read, wrote and often prayed. Countless prayer manuals from the late 15th Century offered special prayers for the hours in between sleeps.”
The same article quotes sleep psychologist Gregg Jacobs saying “For most of evolution we slept a certain way, waking up during the night is part of normal human physiology.” And Russell Foster, a professor of circadian [body clock] neuroscience at Oxford saying “Many people wake up at night and panic, but I tell them that what they are experiencing is a throwback to the bi-modal sleep pattern.”
Another interesting reading was on Psychology Today which indicated intelligent people are more likely to be nocturnal than people with lower IQ scores. In a study run on young Americans, results showed that intelligent individuals went to bed later on week-nights and weekends than their less intelligent counterparts.
Study Magazine on the other hand in an article quotes Satoshi Kanazawa, a psychologist at The London School of Economics and Political Science who has done extensive research on the connection between sleep patterns and intelligence. The results show people with higher IQs tend to stay up later, and subsequently wake up later in the day.
Emboldened by those findings, I can boldly say some of my most memorable and productive moments have been late in the night, and as somebody once said, no great story ever started with “I went to bed early that evening”. Don’t be too jealous about the events I’m about to relate, most of them happened in the line of duty, but all the same, here is a list of the most exciting moments I can pick top of mind.
- Late dinner by the beach (Yuls, that was my favourite dinner place in Mombasa), then a random swim in the ocean with some friends. That was at 1 in the night. Now, that is something you remember for a long time.
- Watching last movie at iMax on a Sunday. This movie ends around 1 am. This was specifically a favourite. I used to love the fact that everyone was going back to work the following day and here I was without a care in the world (Yes, I am rebellious by nature). Then on my way home, there were all these young couples in the street, a little tipsy, others clearly very drunk loitering around. The sort of sight that, with all the heartbreaks, pain and indifference in the world gives you a little more faith in love.
- Beach walk at 2 am in Nungwi Zanzibar. I took the Zanzibar trip alone and walking on the beach in the night alone was just one of those things that need a little courage. It was a pretty reflective walk at a time I was leaving my Job in Tanzania to try my hand in business.
- Numerous bonfire nights in the Tsavo and in the Mara wild. These were mostly dinners hosted for guests, a lot of which would go way into the wee hours of the night. The open African night sky, sometimes the moon, sighting of an elephant here, and the roar of a lion from a far, sparks drifting off from the fire and burning out lazily and little chit chat as we wait for patrons to dine, wine and leave.
- Night walk in Kigali after a late dinner, staring at their amazing traffic lights, and just enjoying the fact that muggings and hijackings are unheard of there. Being in a strange land not knowing where you are, where you are going.
I could give several other examples, camped in the Aberdares in the cold night or in college when I started expeditions with the president’s award scheme, sleeping in the open in Nandi Hills or at the foot of the Kerio Valley. Those nights were heavenly, or at least in memory. Most of my projects are also done in the night, and I find myself more productive when I work in the night rather than during the day.
Having worked in the tourism industry on the other hand, I can tell you with certainty that the night life of a destination is one of the most critical factors determining the attractiveness of a destination. Having hosted top business executives from across the world in various properties, a common observation as well was how a lot of them stayed late into the night chatting over a drink, and making connections. Most of my directors were night people as well, with a lot of ideas and decision points emanating from a conversation in an odd hour of the night.
Satoshi Kanazawa in the research paper earlier quoted says “it’s widely assumed that for several millennia, humans were largely conditioned to work during the day and to sleep at night. Those who defy the trend are more likely to acquire and espouse evolutionarily novel values and preferences than less intelligent individuals. These “novel values” become the building blocks of leaders. They are the makings of revolutionaries, inventors and explorers. They are the ones who make sacrifices and defy the societal pressure to follow the masses.
I need not talk about all the evils that happen at night, we know them well, and they definitely provide a counterweight for my sentiments above. But as I learnt when tilling my parents little farm, the most unsanitary places also happened to be the most fertile and prolific. I am talking about near the pit latrine, and around the garbage dump. There we had the greenest plants. When I came to the city, burst sewerage also hosted very healthy vegetation, and dare I say lush vegetable gardens!
Unsanitary as the night might be, it seems a lot of us are wired to work better in it. The greatest among us have done great exploits toiling in the cover of the night. It is a shame that to be a “good” Christian, you should be home and asleep when the night comes. Who will sanctify the night for us?[Photo credit: Msingi Sasis]