What’s it like living without lights?(experiment)


My first inspiration for this experiment was the reading of books by Mark Twain, Willa Cather, and Laura Ingalls Wilder. Their atmospheres of local life captured my imagination and the imagination of many others. Life back then seemed scarier, wilder, and much more magical and interesting. Secondly, I like experimenting with different lifestyles, particularly primitive ones.
Considering that most of humanity has lived with little light in the night-time, I wanted to see what it was like doing the same thing. Thousands of years ago people either made it around in the dark or perhaps used torches. More recently, in the Medieval era, they had candles, but the oil lamp was not generally used until the 1800’s. In the end of the same century, the light bulb was invented but was not put into common use until perhaps the 1920’s. Being that my generation is one of the first generations to not experience completely dark nights at all, this experiment was quite exciting for me.

Go one night without light bulbs or similar sources of light. Using a computer on the dimmest setting, or a dim flashlight two tea lights, is permitted. No TV, radio, phone, or anything else of that sort.

Before the experiment: Feeling the slight hum from the light bulbs and the variable resistor that powers them in the kitchen was comforting. Life felt normal and vibrant, at least in the artificial superficial way it is for most people. Whatever was happening outside frankly did not matter, and I could essentially do whatever I wanted without any obstacles at all.


0 Minutes: I was able to start at 7pm. Before that, it was starting to get dark, but I was too busy with my friends over to turn all the lights off. I had one on in the kitchen at half power and that was it.
A little light gets in from the streetlight outside and the neighbor’s house. It is similar to the amount of light from a full moon as we have some shades to blot it out. I really notice any change from the neighbors turning bulbs on or off, way more than I would before.
It feels quieter and less interruptive of nature. The fridge sounds very loud now. Outside, there is a slight city traffic noise but it is barely noticeable. Out the window the sky is dark but the neighborhood is very bright. Especially the insides of some people’s houses.
Walking on the sidewalk, I notice three times the brightness outdoors compared to in my house. Now I can barely see inside, between that and the computer monitor. Time for my eyes to adjust again. A half hour has passed, but it has already been full of experiences. Wanting to see a little more, I dug around blindly for some tea lights then failed and used my computer monitor as a beacon to find them. Putting them on a plate, I can walk around slowly and see some things. I am reminded of how much I like prepping and thinking about the apocalypse. It’s a bit of a hobby that I don’t take too seriously. This simulates the atmosphere of no-power post-apocalyptic situations. I cannot believe it’s only been 35 minutes!
45 minutes: Facebooking. Yeah I know it’s horrible. But more inspirational then some peoples’. I’ve spent hours weeding out negativity from it. And it’s my main method of communicating virtually.
70 minutes: finally got off facebook. Darn, time flies. I almost do not notice that the lights are off.80 minutes: Went to the bathroom. It was nice. I feel blessed to have running water. Found, with no light at all, a farmer’s almanac 2015 and read some. It’s hard to read with such little illumination; you have to put the book past it and avoid breathing in the fumes for the pages to lighten up enough. It’s not that bad though, I remember reading in the car in darker situations and surviving when I was little. At the end, some little hairs got into the candle and made a horrible smell. I don’t know what they’re from. Possibly my mini-persian silk carpet I was weaving on that table before the experiment commenced. Blew the candles out after making sure the lighter was working and at hand to use later when I relight them. I feel a tiny bit lonely.
90 minutes: played banjo. I realize how much staying up late is unnatural. It’s just stupid in nature; a completely manmade occurence. I would be going to bed 2 hours earlier than usual if I did this every night.
120 minutes: waiting for my mom to make dinner. online. It feels peaceful.
2.5 hours: Dinner was great. More intellectual conversation and use of archaic words than I’m used to. I felt like I actually needed a relationship with others instead of being my normal half-distracted self.
3 hours: Saw my friends and had some fun. I’m amazed how hard it would be for people to live without lights, how bored they would get and how suddenly all my neighbors would come out of the woodwork and stop pretending they don’t live in immediate proximity to other human beings. Also, if they didn’t have internet or TV, I believe you would see a lot of frazzled minds and then a sudden upswing of human relations and people actually partaking in real activities. How cool that would be. And I remember people in a remote town complaining that their internet got shut of for 3 weeks! Gosh!
4 hours: I believe I shall try this again tomorrow. Going to bed soon. Thinking about the future.
Goodnight! 🙂
Postscript: The biggest difference with this whole thing is not actually in being awake but in the fact that you sleep and wake up differently. I felt like I had been camping; rather excited and refreshed when I woke up instead of negative feeling as I sometimes am. It was very pleasant. When the daylight finally comes back, it means a lot more than it used to.




2 thoughts on “What’s it like living without lights?(experiment)

  1. I was in Ottawa during the great Eastern Seaboard blackout back in 2003 which occurred in August (luckily not in winter). My neighbourhood only lost power for one night but we lost all power – streetlights and all. Lots of people went out for late night strolls and cooked on the BBQ and were forced out of their dark homes into the moon and star light. An interesting experience.

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