Everything Is Illuminated
It is that time of year when the days are getting perceptibly shorter and the nights pleasantly longer. The proverbial rooster now crows at 7:13 am - which is an almost respectable time - and will soon rise even later than the neighbor’s dog across the alley who is released into the yard at 7:30 am sharp every morning and performs the task of waking all creatures within a three-block radius, whether they wish to be awakened or not. I have often dreamed of harming this dog, but, unfortunately, this is a criminal offense. One should not even intimate such things. According to article 264.1(1) of the Criminal Code, “everyone commits an offense who, in any manner, knowingly utters, conveys or causes any person to receive a threat to kill, poison or injure an animal or bird that is the property of any person.” A bird is not an animal, in other words. It is a bird. Moreover, to poison an animal – or a bird, for that matter – is not the same as to kill it, perhaps due to the fact that a poisoned animal – or bird – might, in fact, survive. The law is intricate and nuanced and full of categories. The legislator also always forgets to mention something important, like reptiles for instance, leaving ample room for interpretation and thus generating work for lawyers, for which I am grateful.
Animal, bird, reptile or human, however, we are all just moths searching for a light bulb.
Case(s) in point:
Every fall, Montreal’s Jardin botanique (Botanical Garden) organizes an event called Jardins de lumière (Gardens of Light) or La Magie des lanternes (Magic of the Lanterns) featuring life-sized paper dragons and cranes and pandas and all manner of magical creatures which are lit up from inside at nightfall and glow spectacularly in the dark. Although the event lasts from the 8th of September to the 31st of October – nearly two full months – a long snake of visitors twists and bends from the parking lot to the ticket counter every single night and it can take a whole hour just to get inside. There are many parents with children in this line, but at least half - if not more - of the visitors are simply adults who have come to catch a glimpse of these unusual lights. They will endure the dense crowd and the screaming children and the snail’s pace of progress through the garden grounds in order to see an illuminated paper bird and bear, and I happily did so myself the weekend before last hardly noticing the surrounding commotion and grinning stupidly and quite uncontrollably as soon as the dragon lanterns were in sight.
The city is known for other annual light shows, including the Montreal International Fireworks Competition which draws dazzled crowds in the Old Port every summer night in July even though there is only so much variety you can accomplish with fireworks: the apex is usually reached when some country manages to reproduce its flag in the night sky. After about three minutes, all the fireworks begin to look alike, one’s neck begins to hurt from looking up, and yet one cannot tear away one’s eyes. If you happen to hear the fireworks from afar, I’m putting money down that you rush out onto your balcony and crane your neck to see if you, too, can see a bit of something spectacular and bright.
Then, winter comes and the Quartier de spectacles rolls out that year’s Luminothérapie installation, inviting Montrealers to symbolically bathe in the gift of artificial light during the interminable December and January nights. This is followed by the festival Montréal en lumière (Montreal Highlighted, if you will) whose signature event is the Nuit blanche or White Night when everything in the city remains open all night. Although I was born old and so never managed to stay up past midnight, it is always a delightful thought, when I hit the sack on that particular night, that the city will remain alight until the moment when the dog barks.
The city authorities know that taxpayers will do just about anything for a bit of light. This is why, in preparation for Montreal’s 375th birthday, an alleged $39.5 million was spent on the Living Connection project, “a unique interactive lighting concept” which now illuminates the Jacques Cartier Bridge at night.
Admittedly, the bridge is utterly beautiful and there is something stupidly wonderful about having this glowing city landmark even as it stands to reason that the astonishing sum could have been better spent on illuminating minds by investing more in education – or something equally necessary and important.
Some concerned citizens have made this point exactly, but not even God is on their side because "in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light."