Tuesday, December 21, 2004

To be human, and the night; Solstice

“If you want to think out of the box, get out of the box; the house/office box, the car box, the computer/television box.”

What does it mean to be a human being? It all starts in the ocean, nine months in the womb, almost no gravity, no light, no cold, no past, no future, at one with the mother. Then, it all changes: we come plopping out into a world of light and sound and gravity and breath. This is a lot of new. We need to suck to get our food, temperatures can change, if we aren’t supported we flop all over the place.

Life on earth. We had sound in the womb, but no light. We might have felt gravity a little, but now we have to learn to raise our heads, to roll over, to come to crawling. Sooner or later we walk, a miracle. Standing on feet so small compared to our body size is amazing. If you don’t believe me, make a clay human figure with feet not glued to a base and see what happens. Amazing. We learn language, we get social, we decipher the whole word of “dog” as an indicator of that furry, moving, warm and smelly thing, of “grass” as a pointer to that green stuff that feels neat under and between our toes, of “sky” as a pale substitute for that blue (even blue is a pointer) stuff up above. We lose immediacy when we come into language and we gain the communication, common-unification thing.

Gravity rules life on earth. As I write this, as you read or hear this, you are pressing down on the earth in certain ways. The earth has a big attraction for you. You are connected. Stand on one foot for awhile and you remember this is an important game, this reconciling to gravity part of our lives.

Gravity rules, sound heals, light brings delight. Color and clarity in the day, movement and shape at night, when there is far more to see than we are accustomed to allow. Out in the fields and on the hills, there is the moon bouncing off the sun’s light all nights of the month but three, complemented by the lights from our city and even Napa. You can’t pick out a ripe tomato at night, but you can follow a path, notice more clearly the shape of the trees, listen to a stream, hear your own footsteps. It’s a quieter world at night, if we can get out to some land, some earth away from this last century’s bedazzlement, the electric light. Four million years of human history, one hundred years of electric lights, sometimes it’s useful, but what have we lost?

Our connection to the night. Is the Overlook Trail open at night? Let’s assume it is. Humans need places to go to celebrate and partake of the night. This is half the world, always, everyday, every moment, half the world is in the twilight or in the dark. This dark tells us to rest, to listen, to pay attention to our heart beat and our dreams. We cannot walk so mechanically in the dark. We can’t see night animals nearly as well as they can see us. All our gadgets don’t seem so powerful. We are a small being in the shadow of our big planet, we are out of the mother’s womb, but back in the world dominated by sound and sensation. We are breathing. Can we notice that? Our feet are on the earth, maybe we can notice that more clearly, and the owls may be hooting nearby, frogs croaking up their symphony this time of year.

Sound, sensation, listening, breath. This is an exhilarating world, and in these longest nights of the year, can we partake of some of the rich nutrition this darkness has to offer?


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