Solstice Thoughts

 December 21, 2021 

This solstice is a time of both darkening and quickening, the cyclical plunge as the sun dips his toe into the abyss and then pulls it out again for yet another round of providing, uncaring, warm and plasma in the absolute zero of space. The astronomical I Ching.  

We live on this pea-sized blue-green jewel bathed in the elusive illusion of our own importance. We are infinitesimal, and our lives are as small as the time it takes for light to cross an electron cloud. Almost, but not quite nothing, and immensely significant, it is the lowest limit of the universe’s calculus, so much tinier than the mitochondrial furnaces that keep our dreams fed.  

We are constantly Plancking. (sorry, geek joke)  

Our core, the heart of our matter, unstable by nature, is always risking to turn into a black hole, or exploding into light and gamma and gravitational waves, all across the universe, where each dot on the map is a billion-star galaxy.  

And we think an F-350 Hemi is a big truck.  

I am despairing, depressed, terrified, and exhilarated beyond awe and wonder. Biology drives Materials Science on the compressed, tarred, brick-and-glass-walled streets.  

I am an unapologetic astrophysical geek. Spacetime fascinates me. So there.  

Solstice is my new year, my Yule, my turning of the calendar. Rather than an arbitrary date hooked into a mythical birth story that could be equally applied to Mithras, or Horus, as well as Yeshua ben Maryam, I prefer the path of the sun across the sky. The pendulum traced east to south and back again across the horizon. It is regular, predictable, and has, to date, no commercial value in the shopping malls.  

We tell stories: Light disappears into Dark; Dark blinks and in one form or another, Light returns. Rinse and repeat.  

Whether the dark patterns itself into our individual or collective minds as death, hardship, failure, injustice, illness, war, or pandemic – I am reminded of that apocalyptic quartet of horse: War, Famine, Pestilence, Death – the passage of the solstice provides a natural, astronomical background for a narrative of hope. Persephone returns every year.  

So what are my wishes for our lives? I shy away from the annoying positivity that Life of Brian so exquisitely mocks in the song “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” (Yes, I hear you whistling.)  

Darkness, loss, death are as real as a gravestone, a chemo drip, and a divorce decree. But you are still breathing, aren’t you?  

My wish for you this solstice evening is that you be open and pay attention to the truth of each other’s darkness and light, and as much as it lies in your power, be kind.

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