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May 03, 2022

Do not go gentle into that good night


There was a city. It doesn’t matter which one. The sun sets beyond the edifices or the tiny houses. It disappears behind the high mountains, or dips into the cerulean waters of the sea, marking the end of yet another common day for its inhabitants. Every pebble of the city is shrouded under the veil of the night, having accompanied the people to the warmth of their beds. Boys and girls place their toys inside their makeshift shelters. The parents gently kiss their children gently before letting them go into the starless night. Grandmothers and grandfathers glance at their descendants’ photos one last time before clinging to their warm blankets in their beds and surrendering to the dreams moulded by an abundance of memories. Few leave their houses rubbing their sleepy eyes to start their shifts or pursue oblivion and bliss in drinking.

Time wears on and the city falls into silence. The only sounds to be heard are the subtle rustling of leaves as they sway into the night’s breeze and the laughter of youngsters coming back home after spending the night enjoying the jolliness of youth to the fullest.

There was a city. It doesn’t matter which one. The first rays of the morning sun are chasing away the darkness of the night. Slowly, coral hues replace the midnight blue. A strip of crimson sun springs on the horizon. And then, a piercing whistle cleaves the wind amid the larks’ warble, followed by an explosion somewhere far away. Neither sound was loud enough for human ears to detect. Yet some wake up. An ache in their hearts foreshadows what it was, but even they don’t know yet. Their lungs are flooded with pain which makes their breathing difficult. The feeling that something has changed conquers their mind, unable to resort to any other thought.

Some would fall back to sleep, telling themselves that it was nothing but a bad dream, an idea, a folly. They are partly right. Sooner or later though they will turn on their televisions or talk to their neighbours and be confronted with the inevitable truth. Their body wasn’t wrong. Their lives have changed forever. A minute was enough. Two sounds, one after the other, were all that was needed to drain every bit of serenity from the following nights. Even if they never heard them, even if they learnt of them they could not understand them.

Some will rush to safety, for the sake of their children as well as themselves. Some will decide to defend it for the same reasons, even by making their own future more uncertain than ever. Some will stand with their city; some will betray it. No citizens shall inhabit the city, only soldiers and civilians. With any luck, the latter will abandon it standing on their own feet rather than being held by others.

There was a city. It doesn’t matter which one. Soon it will be surrounded by strangers threatening it with their weapons. And yet, their thoughts in their majority show no difference from the ones they are threatening. Dear God, let me live… Days go on and their blood is boiling. Humans are losing their lives; the survivors are losing their humanity. Death is a power that touches both the one it takes and the ones around them. A flame is burning inside them, the thought of the ones they protect, the ones they leave behind, the ones far away and the ones beside them. Yet it’s barely kept alive amidst all the blood and debris.

“Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light”

Every mouth screaming “why”, whether young or old, of one side or the other. A “why” will surely drip from their tongues, and will surely pass through their brains. Many answers are trying to silence it, but not one succeeds for long. Every moment that passes another heart stops beating once and for all.

The toys are now crushed under the fallen buildings. Parents are kissing their children goodnight in the bowels of the earth, or on the side of the road. Countless grandfathers and grandmothers forever shut their eyes under a rocket’s blinding blaze. Their long life full of memories has tied their heart to their homeland much like their age has trapped their body.

There was a city. No, it doesn’t matter which one. It may have infinite wealth. It may have belonged to others once. Someone may have convinced the world that demons and horrid monsters inhabit it. The soldiers that would conquer it may understand that none of these was ever enough. They will be the first to look upon their “good” work. At the children that will never laugh, at the eyes that will never shine bright. Someone will throw their gun down. Then another one. Some might turn it against whoever led them to this action.

One day, a murder command, an order of destruction, will be nothing but a medical indictment in an institution. But I’m afraid that even if that were to happen, even if no one lifted their weapon against another, at some point people would forget its consequences. After all, they already have so many times.

Is this what human nature is like? I hope not, because then we’re certainly doomed as a species. How many years does Darwin’s theory need to transfer us to the next stage? Probably years that we don’t have. Let’s advance then, by force. Heroes are forged by fire, yes, but so are monsters. And nothing can cover the screams of the ones burning to ignite the flame.

Photography by the Photography Team of TEDxAUTH 2022


Author
Eugenia Manolidou Chatzi

They call her Jane. Despite the namesake she has nothing to do with ministers and she is far less cringe (well, the bar was already low). She studies Physics in AUTH and, as expected, her mind is burnt out. She likes music and literature. She is often said that her eyes shine when speaking about something she likes (particularly the characters of the book she keeps postponing). She looks scary from afar, but once you meet her you understand the appreciation she shows to her friends and that she overthinks their birthday presents.


Translators
Kiriaki Arnaouti (she/they)

Born a Drama queen, both literally and figuratively. Her mind is constantly switching back and forth between Greek, English and Spanish but her heart is set on two things only; iced coffee and books. Her Sagittarius nature convinces her that she’s the funniest person alive, but that’s for you to discover!

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Vasileia Gioti

English Literature undergrad with more dreams than she can handle. Passionate feminist growing more cynical by the day, and defender of the Oxford comma. Lover of fantasy novels, Greek poetry, Jane Austen, and Argentine rock music– her tastes are almost as chaotic as her mind! Dreams of travelling, connecting with women from every corner of the world, and listening to their stories.

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