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The Hour of the Wolf

My favourite University lecturer in fundamental Physics, a long time ago, a true gentleman with a learned mind, quite old already back then, gentle and wise, reported once about what he called ‘Wolfsstunde’, the hour of the wolf, hours of merciless awakeness in the dead of night. Yet he added back then that those nocturnal periods had turned for him from bouts of melancholy to moments of quiet and peaceful reflection in solitude.

He seemed to have acquired the skill to turn such moments into an art. He would get dressed carefully in his best comfortable clothes, carefully prepare a good cup of something hot to drink and start thinking and reflecting about things for which there was never time during busy days. Those hours of the wolf, so he said back then, had in fact become a pleasant, agreeable and ever so necessary pastime of his life.

For many, such periods of nocturnal times of being unable to sleep are difficult and uncomfortable. Same for me, initially anyway, until I remembered my old Physics lecturer who on that particular day long ago spoke of many insights and wisdoms who weren’t understood at all back then by any of us young students and kept being dormant in my mind for a very long time and which only today seem to start germinating. A little bit anyway.

There are reasons for being awake at night and they seem to demand to be understood. Science tells us of hormonal changes at night, biorhythms, disturbances of all that and unnatural interruptions of our nightly resting period. Still, once accepted for their existence, those nightly hours awake can provide very good experiences, to the point that one looks forward to those moments of peace and calmness with an alert mind and a creative flow of energy. As a musician I have come to appreciate the fact that my best compositions were created at the dead of night, in my head before I even touch the guitar and start singing them later in the morning. No chance for all that during the day, weekends even, too much pressure, telephone calls, work, emails, life’s worries and demands take their toll. However, in the night, once awake and the melancholic darkness shaken off or thoughts like that ‘one’ really ought to be sleeping, then during the minutes and hours of being awake life changing thoughts can emerge at times. Precious, invaluable, profound, lasting.

A book I know has the title ‘Tears at night, smiles at dawn’. That’s how it seems to be for me, at times anyway. The joys, needs, worries and concerns of my loved ones are on top of the pile of things to think about. Then come the regrets over past events I am not proud of and for which I am made to pay daily by those who are unable or unwilling to forgive. Or the grieving over disputes and disagreements which aren’t necessary yet which serve another purpose instead altogether, it seems. We are living in a pandemic, cooped up, the different views, different preferences are simmering over the hot fire of personal resentments and before you know it the sound emerges of irreconcilable arguments where the subject matter doesn’t even seem to matter anymore. All that seems to matter in such moments is to let off steam and to dish out insults and accusations instead of allowing one’s better instincts to guide the moment. A song I wrote a while ago has the title ‘Tired of the fight’. This song too I wrote in the middle of the night. How so very much fed up I am these days of these expressions of irreconcilable differences. We need each other. Now more than ever. Yet we keep on arguing for the sake of it. About nothing really. And nothing good comes out of it except of having been able to let off steam. A strange balance sheet emerges. In exchange for frustration and bad vibes one is rather unhappier than before, feelings of guilt and regret appear, spoiling the satisfaction of having truly voiced aloud an opinion only to get one back, equally poisonously expressed. Pressure was relieved in exchange for everyone being unhappy. How stupid all this is. Perhaps a few hours of the wolf are needed here indeed to calm down, reflect, allow regret and the emergence of reforming resolutions.

Keep your side of the street clean. So it says. But that too some find objectionable. To not participate in an argument carries a great risk to alienate allies and loved ones, those who count on you, even in moments where they’re wrong. Not to take sides in such times inevitably leads to accusations of being a pushover, a coward, a pathetic whimp. Every peacemaker worth his salt knows that trying to calm the waves in the heat of the moment leads to merciless accusations of weakness from some, the pains of which last long until after those who argued have moved on miraculously. Peacemakers always loose for the benefit of those whose fight they were trying to calm down.

Such thoughts too creep into my mind at night. Doing the right thing, including not taking sides in futile arguments, never offers any reward however well earned. But that is ok. What matters is to do and continue to do what is the right thing to do.

To find peace in these quiet moments at night, less melancholy and more reflection. I seem to be able to count on that these days in the hours of the wolf, those invaluable times awake at night.

I will leave it here for today.

Stay healthy, take care and good luck

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