Days dwindling into darkness, the sun slipping away, owls perched on naked boughs woo-wooing those sorrowful mating calls. It’s the very longest night of the year.
Good News/Bad News
The winter solstice holidays fall on practically the darkest day of the year, which metaphorically suggests that now is as bad as it gets, a comforting if dubious sort of reckoning. Even though civilization has enabled junkies to sleep with the sun and rise with the moon, even though we can flood our shopping malls with fluorescent light, even though night time [might be] the right time/ to be with the one you love, our bone marrow hates predatory darkness.
It knows. It remembers the fireless cave and the terror of tooth and claw and the heart-clinching night shrieks that travel in waves through your ears and down your quivering limbs. Deep down inside, your reptilian brain knows, your bone marrow senses that dark ain’t right.
Therefore, sun worshiping makes sense to me. Godzillions of people have worshipped stupider concepts than the sun. And, let’s face it, whether you call it Christmas, Kwanzaa, or Hanukkah, what you’re really worshipping is the sun – the end of its decline and the beginning of its revival.
After the blessed event, for half a revolution, each succeeding day’s light will last [cue Maurice Williams] a little bit longer. In the deepest darkest December, it’s time to huddle near a crackling fire and celebrate solar rebirth. Hang the mistletoe and ivy . . .
And so the cycles run, both positive and negative, with always something to celebrate and rue, each year’s waxing and waning seemingly swirling faster and faster, your children transforming before your eyes in time-lapsed photography as your face in the mirror begins to melt.
The glacier knocks in the cupboard,
The desert sighs in the bed,
And the crack in the tea-cup opens
A lane to the land of the dead.
WH Auden: “As I Walked Out One Evening”
Sure, in the Late Empire, Christmas has devolved into little more than a potlatch, an obscene one at that, one that hideously underscores the disparity of riches: a thumb – if you will – in the communistic Son of Man’s eye – he who divided and distributed the loaves and fishes, who warned that it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God, who exhorted the rich man to sell all he had and give it to the poor – we celebrate His coming by making the rich richer, yet somehow, during the holidays, the poor are so much more obviously with us.
Still, you have to admit the Christian myth offers about as elegant as a solstice symmetry as you get – the soon-to-be resurrected Son born as our sun is reborn.
Meteors flash in the clear winter sky. Orion makes his nightly journey. We breathe in and out.
A new year is rising just beyond the horizon. Time to forge resolutions. Time to celebrate, to hope.
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Thanks! Happy Solstice!
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