We are more than a week away from the solstice still. Here in the northern hemisphere the December dark falls early, especially in stormy weather.
Down in the village holiday lights are on full dis[ply, dramatically outlining most of the houses and buildings. The lights are cheery and hopeful, a welcoming sight in the deep darkness.
A mythology of the primitive seems to permeate our ideas about solstices long past. How often are we told the people gathered in fear and built fires to force the sun’s return?
I personally doubt ancient peoples were overly concerned with the dwindling light. They were out and about in all weathers, and most likely kept a keen watch on the skies. They would have known the progression of the sun and seasons, the certain repetition of the calendar year. Certainly many marked the great yearly transitions at the solstices, perhaps with little anxiety and more awareness that all life cycles. They almost certainly knew that we are, after all, the stuff of the world, inseparable from the great systems that govern all life here.
Perhaps in winter people gathered to celebrate the returning sun as reminder that death is complex and inevitable, as are birth and rebirth. Their sense of time would have been cyclic without beginning or end, rather than progressive and linear. In a linear world there is an inherent movement away from a beginning and towards an end. There is no sense of repetition, or rather repetition is forced to the background, outside the inevitable progression of history.
How lonely! How diminishing of the possible human, of all life!
Progressive, linear worldviews seem to generate cultures of death, societies focused on an imagined inevitable final ending, a permanent solution marked by nothingness. They remove humankind from relationship with all life, or envision us in a world in which other life forms are our enemies. They forget that we are each constructed of untold numbers of cells and billions of organisms, and therefore are ecosystems embedded within ecosystems, freely exchanging nutrients and wastes, and always in the process of becoming the other.
No wonder our physics envisions a universe in which ends when entropy has distributed all energy and matter evenly, creating space without light, heat, movement, or life. What a perfect, ending story for our culture of death. Yet, we do not know the ultimate fate of our universe; we only know that everything cycles. Perhaps physics is correct, but perhaps it is not. Our understanding of the universe is fluid and easily upset; it is a changeable and changing story.
As we approach the solstice, perhaps we might take a moment and contemplate a cosmology of circles, cycles and belonging, a Joyous Cosmology of becoming and relationship. Surely a bit ‘o joy and belonging can’t hurt.