flash fiction kept in the dark

Kept in the dark

Have you ever engaged in an experiment to see how bean seeds grow when kept in the dark compared to how they grow when provided with sunlight? It’s an experiment familiar to many school children. The purpose of the experiment is to show that light is needed for the seeds to grow and children soon find that those kept in the dark do not thrive.

My father used to say that what you don’t know doesn’t hurt you. He wasn’t happy when my brother wrote in my autograph book that what you don’t know doesn’t do you much good either.

what you don't know won't do you much good either

© Norah Colvin

Although my parents were keen for my siblings and me to get a good education, there were some things about which they preferred to keep us in the dark — secret adult things. It seems they thought some knowledge might be dangerous, so they were selective in what we were told.

I am of the opposite view, thinking that a lack of knowledge may be even more dangerous. Just as bean seeds don’t thrive in the dark, minds can’t thrive if kept in the dark either.

Nowadays, in schools, there is an emphasis on the need for being explicit in our teaching, of making sure that children know what they will be learning, what is expected of them and why.

In my childhood days, if a reason was given, it was often ‘Because I said so’ or ‘Because it is’. I much prefer the modern way and, as with many things, believe that knowledge begets knowledge. It is difficult to be interested in something about which you know nothing. But knowing, even just a little, can stimulate curiosity to know more.

I have written about this belief before in posts such as Child’s play —the science of asking questions, Visioning a better school, a better way of educating, and Reflect and refine, to name but a few.

Into the dark flash fiction prompt at the Carrot Ranch

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills wrote about the darkness we feel when we’ve lost our guiding star, or when the spark of creativity has dimmed. She challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the phrase “into the dark.” What must a character face? Write about an encounter, journey, relationship, or quest. Follow the ship’s lights on gloomy seas. Go where the prompt leads you.

Funnily enough, the prompt took me to neither darkness of the mind nor heart, but to the literal darkness of a stormy night. I hope you enjoy it.

Stepping into the unfamiliar

The car lights dimmed as she reached the door – timed perfectly. But, when the porch light didn’t activate, immersing her in total darkness, she cursed the storm. As she pushed the door of the still unfamiliar house, she rummaged for her phone. Dang! No charge. She inched along the wall, fingers seeking the corner and toes the step she knew was close. Stepping down, she dumped her bag and tossed her saturated scarf. She edged towards the sideboard and a battery-powered candelabra. As she fumbled for the switch, the room was flooded with light and cheers of ‘Happy housewarming!’

Thank you blog post

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30 thoughts on “Kept in the dark

  1. Alexis Chateau

    “My father used to say that what you don’t know doesn’t hurt you. He wasn’t happy when my brother wrote in my autograph book that what you don’t know doesn’t do you much good either.”

    Your brother hit it right on the head. I don’t understand people who prefer to live in ignorance or have a prettied-up version of the truth.

    Liked by 1 person

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  2. roughwighting

    I’m a lot like a bean seed. If I’m kept in the dark (literally or figuratively) I feel diminished. Depressed. Dismayed. So I keep my windows clear of curtains and celebrate the light that comes through every day, and I educate myself in all kinds of way, to keep the dark at bay. I agree with you – the best way of educating our children – and any age – is to keep the light of day (and knowledge) available.
    Lovely story, Norah. I was sure for a scary ending, but instead, you ended “light”heartedly. 🙂

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  3. dgkaye

    Loved the light in your story Norah. I too remember asking questions as a child and being told it’s not for me to know. Knowledge is power, and yes, at times, it can be dangerous. 🙂

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  4. TanGental

    I’m trying to remember if my parents deliberately hid things form us? Probably; I wasn’t exactly a curious boy. I think it was more we had to ask a precise question for them to answer it and if we didn’t they didn’t say. Which of course meant we had some knowledge that didn’t exactly fit so we made assumptions about the ignorance between the knowledge with some odd consequences.
    As for the flash, well, surprise surprise, Norah Colvin goes for the upbeat happy ending!! Lovely

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    1. Norah Post author

      I think our generation was generally not encouraged to be curious, and information, back in those dark ages, wasn’t as accessible as it is now, and the standard of education not as high. So I guess there are reasons that explanations and answers weren’t always forthcoming.
      I”m so pleased I surprised you with my story’s ending. LOL. Yeah, I guess I’d gone far enough into the dark. I’ve spent enough time there, I try to avoid it now. 🙂

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  5. Mabel Kwong

    Your post takes me back to my high school days. I went to school in Singapore, and the curriculum over there emphasised a lot on science and maths subjects – and growing our own seeds and nurturing our seedlings was something we were graded on. I remember my teacher asked my class to plant beansprouts in soil and put them out to the sunlight, and I noticed when I put the plant beside the window, the seedling and leaves would grow upwards and lean towards the sunlight coming in. Fun times.

    I reckon it is so important for students and children to ask why in what they learn – and that in turn as you mentioned, there is an need for explicitness in teaching. ‘Because I said so’ gives the impression someone knows more than someone else in an authoritative way. On one hand, some of us know more about a subject than others. But on the other hand, we all learn along different continuums and no question is a silly question.

    Lovely short fiction to end the post. Very visually descriptive, and it turns around at the end to a happy ending, darkness to light. And sometimes light or the better moments in life happen when you least expect it. I enjoyed reading this post, Norah. Thanks for that 🙂

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you so much for your kind words and thoughtful comment, Mabel. I’m pleased you enjoyed the post.
      I’m pleased to hear you have pleasant memories of growing bean seeds at school. It’s such a fun activity and valuable learning experience.
      I agree with you that there are no silly questions, but there are many unfortunate answers, ‘because I said so’ being one of them.
      Thank you for your kind works about and your interpretation of my story. Some of life’s better moments do happen when we least expect them. Perhaps it’s the lack of expectation that makes them better? 🙂

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  6. Annecdotist

    You skilfully evoke that era of unenlightenment and hurrah for your brother in resisting the regime. I was far too compliant as a child and, implicitly understanding my church and parents’ need for me not to know things, kept myself in the dark with disastrous consequences.
    In the political sphere that continues in dictatorships, and to a lesser extent in elected governments clinging to power (or perhaps we become so accustomed to our own darkness we don’t realise). Here in the UK there’s been a recent win for transparency as the government has been defeated in its attempt to keep secret the document outlining the legal advice regarding leaving the European Union.
    Gosh, heavy stuff, so I’ll leave your blog with the thought of a surprise party in your lovely flash.

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    1. Norah Post author

      How I agree with your statement that we become so accustomed to our own darkness that we don’t realise. It is for that reason that we keep ourselves in the dark, and so many oppressed people are happy in their situation, knowing no other.
      I’m pleased you left the politics behind and joined in the fun of the surprise party.
      I hoped the ending wasn’t a bit of a cop-out – like waking from a dream, but that’s where the prompt took me. Ninety-nine words is a tough master.

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  7. thecontentedcrafter

    Thank heavens those days are done with! Though there is a need still to understand how much info is necessary depending on the age of the child – common sense is still required. Love where this flash went – this is the kind of darkness most of us wouldn’t mind so much I’m thinking.

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    1. Norah Post author

      I agree, Pauline. It’s so good that those days are gone. But you are also right about providing children with age-appropriate information. Just how we decide that is difficult though, as my parents and others of their generation weren’t good at making that judgement.
      Thanks for your kind words about the flash story. I’m pleased you enjoyed it.

      Liked by 1 person

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  8. Charli Mills

    Your brother’s response in your autograph book showed he was thinking. I remember feeling rebellious against such strong sentiments — “Do as I say, not as I do.” I agree with the enlightenment of knowledge and the sparking of curiosity. In your flash, your character is making do best she can in the dark until the surprise lights her up. Clever!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Yes, my brother was thinking. I’m not sure how the situation resolved when Dad expressed his displeasure. It must have just fizzled away with us saying nothing, otherwise I would probably have remembered.
      A story of literal dark was probably a surprise after alluding to a metaphorical dark. It surprised me anyway. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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