Friday, June 21, 2013

Summer Solstice: A Dark Day

   The longest, brightest day of the year almost always depresses me. No, really. Just a little. What is wrong with me? How does it happen?

   I am a very glass-half-full kind of guy. I am often able to successfully rationalize the benefits of an event, even if the event switches. Does that make sense? Say there is this meeting I'll eventually need to have, for whatever reason. The meeting could be today or it could be next month. I find myself thinking "If I have to go to this meeting today, that's okay because then I won't have to have it later," but then if the meeting is later, I will think "I sure am glad I don't have to go to this meeting now, I can just go to it later." I shouldn't be able to pull a best-case scenario out of a binary action like that, but I do. All the time. (actually, comedian Demetri Martin sums up my life-philosophy quite well in this little bit. It's safe.)

   So, as a teacher who treasures his summers, loves warm, bright evenings and could spend all day outside, why does the Summer Solstice sadden me? Because it harkens a decline. A decline in the hours of the day, really. It should be the pinnacle of the year, but WHY CAN'T IT COME IN THE MIDDLE OF JULY!? When it comes seven-tenths of the way through June, things are just starting! The sun is growing it's force, school is barely out, playing is just about to really get going, and already the days start to get shorter?! That doesn't seem right. It's hard for me to deal with.

   On the other side, I love the Winter Solstice. The shortest day of the year? Sweet. We got through it. It's all getting better now. Soon the clocks will switch back, the nights will be brighter, and the worst of it is over. I somehow enjoy the worst day of the year more than the best day of the year. I dread the decline but look forward to the ascent. This flies in the face of my perma-glass-half-full defense I've set up, but it persists.

Oregon. Be jealous.

   I feel a lot of pressure when the sun is out. Everyone who lives in the Pacific Northwest gets this. We have such ample stuff to play in, with our lakes and rivers and mountains and ocean aplenty, and we have so few days of sunshine to really play with, that when they come you feel the need to use them. I don't play video games in the summer unless the sun is down. If I am going to read, I read outside. If I have work to do, I do it early in the morning before that heat is there to power my solar self. I actually go for runs (I detest running) because it's a reason to be outside. There's a finite amount of play that I can have. I need to play in it.
   I feel the pressure to have a successful summer. My goal is to have this day, some randome day in the middle of August, where I take a deep breath, satisfied that I have done enough. That I've swam and biked and hiked and frisbeed and floated and hammocked and laughed and firepitted and traveled and explored and adventured enough to get me through the upcoming play hibernation.
   I don't feel that pressure in the wet months. In fact, I feel free. I feel free to sit around, to play video games, to watch Netflix, to grade and write tests. I love that my job takes place during the bad months and is over just as things get good. I'd have a hard time working when the sun is out. Something feels off when I find the winter months more calming, despite the calm that summer actually brings to my life.

   (Fall helps. I am able to ease into the end of summer with beautiful weather, surrounding beauty, harvest foods to consume, and of course football.)

   This is my main dilemma - maybe I shouldn't say dilemma but instead "question" - about heaven. Is it always summer? Can there be a winter? Can there be seasons? Is there change? Change is hard. Change is bad, right? If things are perfect, there can't be change, because that would imply either things weren't perfect before the change or they aren't perfect after the change, right? Is that river always flowing, and the sun always shining, and every day it is there for me to choose to either swim in it, lay by it, float down it, or stare at it and listen to it?

   I actually think that's the great miracle about heaven. Well, maybe not the Great Miracle of heaven. Apart from the idea that heaven is infinite, that you never reach a halfway point and therefore never have to worry about the decline (there is no solstice! what?!). Apart from the fact that you are with God. Apart from all of the obvious stuff, I think the miracle of heaven, at least for me, is that change is good. Always good, always better. We can change from one perfect to another perfect. Change is transformed from a source of pain (is it THE source of pain?) to a new type of joy that comes from change. There has to be change, because we'll always have more God to experience. There's no solstice with Him.

   Maybe that's the real root of my anxiety about the longest day of the year. It's not something that I want to experience, because ultimately a climax signals either a decline or an end. I don't want those things. I don't think I am going to have them in Heaven. There's no solstice there.

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