Saturday marked the Summer Solstice, which means, among other things, that our days are getting shorter. People who are my age are already aware that our days are getting shorter.
What are we to do about it? Dylan Thomas had one idea:
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
A professor told me that Thomas was writing about his father’s impending blindness, not death, but most people think it’s about death, and so do I.
Rage? I don’t think so. But yes, of course, sometimes rage is appropriate – we see that taking place in the streets and elsewhere, and rage certainly can be constructive. But for the most part I prefer to “go gentle,” especially the gopart. Yes, we are going into “that good night,” but we aren’t there yet. (I doubt the dead read my blog.) So: keep going, and gently, if possible.
How do you go gentle? With empathy, kindness, patience, trust, appreciation, and some suppression of the ego. I know – these are just words, but they can help us focus.
“That good night”? If you believe in an afterlife, then I suppose there’s a chance that the night will be “good.” But if we follow the night/death analogy, as Hamlet did, then who knows what dreams will come with our last sleep?
To die, to sleep;
To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there's the rub:
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause—there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
I don’t happen to believe in an afterlife, not that any of my readers care, so I have to find my heaven or hell here and now, or perhaps create it in the here and now, rather than waiting for it in the dream-like maybe-later. So:
· Play outside. Or work outside – what’s the difference?
· Share a hug, even if only a cyber-hug.
· Taste your food.
· Make something.
· Make a surprise phone call.
· Do something you have been postponing.
· Be gentle with a loved one.
· Let go of a grudge.
The Summer Solstice, of course, means more than the days are getting shorter. It also marks the beginning of summer. It also marks a large planetary shift, as the place where the sun rises and sets starts to move the other way on the horizon. Change is good.
So go play outside while you can. This week Kim and I planted some trees, transplanted some flowers to a sunnier spot, pulled some weeds, moved some stones around our property, and cleaned the birdbaths. Play. And we did some reading together on the porch, occasionally glancing out the window at our Paradise.