In his 1987 single “Heat Of The Night,” Bryan Adams sang a dark noir song about a terrible reckoning. The song became one of his more successful singles, a top ten hit . Not long after this, from 1988 to 1994, a television show named “In the Heat Of The Night,” based on a film and book by the same name, dealt with the racial reckoning of the South in the period after 1964 . In both cases, although they do not relate to each other, the heat of the night is considered to be an ominous phenomenon, as the night is supposed to be cool and allow some rest from the heat of the day. When even the night is hot, though, one does not get to enjoy any sort of respite from the discomfort that one faces. One thing that we long for in life is the opportunity to rest, and this opportunity is denied when our circumstances are too adverse, when we are sapped by our surroundings. Of course, this heat may be literal or figurative, or both, and for some people it can be a serious and real threat to life if it continues for too long without any break. The fact that the people responsible for the reckoning are themselves often flawed only makes it more difficult to manage.
Yesterday, while at the memorial of a deceased friend of mine who I had gotten to know during my time in Portland, I was chatting with one of the deacons in my local congregation and part of the conversation included a complaint about the heat. I was amused by his story of how he tried to keep cool when he woke up in the middle of the night by drenching his head in cool water, allowing him to rest. I tend to find at least some cooling in drinking cold water shortly before bed, as the heat tends to exacerbate my somewhat native state of dehydration. During my time in Florida, Ghana, and Thailand, I used floor fans and ceiling fans to at least circulate the hot and humid air to make it cool enough to sleep. At least, that was the goal—once at summer camp I ended up with a serious head injury due to a ceiling fan that required a trip to the Emergency Room in rural Central Florida, and in Thailand and especially in Ghana the irregularity of electric power made the fans an uncertain benefit. Suffice it to say that any time I am too hot to sleep because of the weather, I am reminded of my childhood and some of my more traumatic travel experiences, which is probably not a good thing.
It seems almost unfair that there are such barriers to good sleep. At times it feels as if one can be a character in a fairy tale where conditions must be exactly right to sleep because one is so sensitive to anything going wrong. One of the main factors in the timing of my haircuts is the presence of enough hair on the back and sides of my head that it interferes with the ability of my head to cool off at night, which is an analogous problem to that my computers often face, for similar reasons. If the night is too cold it is in danger of triggering gout attacks in my right big toe as well as charley horse cramps. If the night is too hot, though, I cannot fall asleep or stay asleep well because I cannot cool off enough to slow my mind down to acceptable levels. There is an optimal range, but it is probably not as wide for some people as it is for others, where my toes can stay warm and my head can stay cool, so that the whole body may be content. If there is one lesson in life that it is easy to learn, it is that conditions are seldom ideal and that life is often a rest of resilience in less than enjoyable circumstances, but that we become wiser and more compassionate as a result of our endurance.
For nighttime in general, whether it is hot or not, is a time for reckoning. After the normal affairs of our lives are done, we may fall asleep in our beds and dream, where our memories or fears or longings come alive. Out of these fevered dreams may come the stories that we will tell in the daylight, or that will wake us up in horror. Alternatively, we may lie awake wracking our brains for the solution to problems, and occasionally we may be fortunate enough to stumble on something. If we are unfortunate, we may have lucid dreams full of as much toil as our waking lives, and much less profitable too for our toil being imaginary . Yet while our bodies sleep, dreams offer us the chance for insights, in recharging our batteries and in providing the opportunity to confront the horrors our waking eyes have seen, in combination. Perhaps even these unpleasant matters may be a reminder that the conditions of our life will have an effect on us at all times of day. May the night serve its own purpose, so that which is resolved in the night no longer needs to bleed into the day.
 See, for example: