Tuesday, December 25, 2018

The Physical Gears of Time

Solstice Sunset
If a human being could be born with an innate realization that her life is fleeting and miraculous - that it is beautiful beyond all measure - if she were born knowing the earth is a magnificent physical gift from an unknown benefactor - then perhaps she would not waste long years worrying about things that do not matter.  She would know that life is the journey and the journey is the lesson.  On the other hand, if she were to pay better attention in school many things have already been discovered and presented in successive age-appropriate lessons.

I lived at Spiritcreek for several years before I realized the full moon is always opposite the sun in the sky.  Oh, I understood the phases of the moon but I had never spent any effort observing the mechanics of those phases in real life.  In over four decades of full moons, it had never occurred to me to turn to the opposite horizon at moon rise or moon set.  I spent long hours of my life watching the moon through a bedroom window, or through a car windshield, or from an outdoor vantage point contemplating the mundane to the sublime.  In wonder, heartache, loneliness, grief, and in happiness, excitement and anticipation, the moon had long been my philosopher's stone, my silent, mysterious companion.  I paid no heed to the waxing and waning moon advancing and retreating in relation to the sun's position, though.  My understanding of the phases of the moon moved from theoretical into practical observation in single flash of recognition.  Oh yeah, I thought to myself.

Human time-keeping grew organically from the observations of the moon and sun and the slow progression of constellations across the night sky.  We gradually came into awareness of when to move to warmer shelter, when to move away from floods, when the herds would return, when plants were ready for harvest.  This timing is intrinsic within our bones even though we do our best to ignore it with our unnatural 24 hours of light and noise. The movement of the physical entities in the universe is a cosmological time piece.  The spinning orbits are the movement of a clock measuring time on a scale we cannot even imagine though we have a word for it:  infinite.  

We are mortal here because we incarnate into a time universe, a ticking universe.  We each have only a short measure, an individual span.  There must be universes where time does not exist - it is where the idea of infinity originates.  Long before we knew the science, we recognized a year and saw that it was divided into four reassuringly repeating quarters.  Long before we were clever enough to build a machine for it, we knew how to keep time.  We are made of time, immersed in time.  We live and die by time.

This year I had the opportunity to celebrate the winter solstice with a group of like-minded gentlefolk.  We were meditating together just an hour past the local moment of solstice, blessed by the full moon.  The next winter solstice full moon will not occur until 2094.  It is safe to say I will not be here for that one, at least not as the me I am right now.  I have marked the winter solstice alone for almost 30 years, mostly because I could not find anyone else interested in celebrating this most fundamental passage of time.  It was a pleasant and unusual experience to share the solstice.  There were other groups of people also gathering locally and the world over.  Humans are remembering something important when we recognize this natural timing and attach no other significance to it except to wish others well in the coming year.

It is a good sign...

Solstice Moonrise

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