The idea of keeping a watch and try to protect us from whatever is lurking deep in the forest is a very old one.
One of the most fascinating aspects in HBO’s outstanding series “Games Of Thrones” (Fire and Ice) is the concept of the “Night’s ‘Watch, “a military order which holds and guards the wall” (wikipedia). The order consists of black clothed men who swore an oath and have no normal life. On their wall of ice high up in the North they protect the kingdoms from something, which is outside. We imagine demons and we learn soon about the zombie-like white walkers outside.
This sounds like a great concept maybe loosely inspired by the great real walls in human history, the Hadrian’s Wall and of course the Chinese Wall. We could easily imagine everyday life, (Roman) civilization and safety on one side of the wall and outside the land of the unknown. Therefore the idea of the “Night’s Watch” has an archetypical quality because through history we are familiar with the concept: a wall separating civilisation on one side and terra incognita on the other side.
I believe this could also be a great metaphor in a different sense:
We don’t build any walls in our days and more. And we don’t have a “Night’s Watch”, which would protect us from whatever is roaming the forests and the mountains. But most of all we have abandoned the idea of a terra incognita.
However, maybe we have build other walls in our very rational world where there are no longer any dragons. It’s really astonishing how many people can live a whole life without ever question their idea of reality. The walls in these days are in our heads. But is somebody out there, standing on top of the wall and keeping watch, what’s going on outside?
There are always a few people who feel a strong need to probe the unknown. We know the dedicated writers, filmmakers, artists and researchers who teach us that we might have forgotten that there is another world not far from here.
There are people who make big sacrifices and seem to play a certain part in the great cosmic game. Writers of the supernatural like Algernoon Blackwood and H.P. Lovecraft which in their best stories, like “The Willows”, give us the creeping feeling that they have seen something out there which is very real. Then there are the men like Charles Fort who documented the endless accounts of the unexplainable in his famous “Book Of The Damned” and desperately tried to find some sense in the endless manifestations of a daemonic reality.
Aren’t they the real “Night’s Watch, the men who seem to have a strange relationship to whatever is outside the wall? There is something “otherworldly” about them, it’s like they came too close to some kind of radiation from the other side. In reality they are often outsiders because in our days our protection wall is simply to forget what we don’t know or what we don’t want to know. Any word of a terra incognita might endanger the status quo of our so-rational capitalistic world order. But part of the job of this real “Night’s Watch” is to remind us from time to time, that we live our lives on a tiny island in the midst of the “black seas of infinity” and that we should “watch the skies”. The job isn’t easy since there are always people around us who defend the status quo of pure ignorance. The agents of darkness are already here for a long time and keep trying to transform humans in soulless robots.