A Cosmic Pause for Thought

DarknessAndrea/Cara here, musing about light and dark, both physical and metaphorically. I just read a very thoughtful piece in the New York Times on the phenomena we call the Solstice (you can read it here.) Tomorrow is the Solstice—the word derives from Latin and means the sun stands still—and for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere it means the year’s longest night, while for those of you in the Southern Hemisphere it’s the opposite. The author of the opinion piece muses on the physics of the our tilted Earth and how its yearly journey around the Sun affects the angles and quality of light that touch each of us.

636px-Fotothek_df_tg_0008204_Theosophie_^_AlchemieWhile many of us up north shudder at the thought of the longest night, he finds something poetic about this particular day. As his astronomy professor once explained to him, the Sun migrates from one point to another, pauses, then begins the reverse. And he really likes that idea of “pause” and sees it as a contemplative moment, rather than a fearful one—a chance to stop for a moment and reflect before things go back in motion.

Moon 3

Pleiades-1In this fast-paced, frenetic world, the idea of pause is, to me a nice one. Like for him darkness has never been inherently frightening to me. I actually love the night, and those wondrous evenings when the heavens are clear and sparkling with myriad stars and whatever shape the Moon is in. For me, a nighttime walk to view the moon in its splendor is always something I enjoy. It makes me appreciative of Nature and the patterns of the cosmos—perhaps because there’s little clutter to distract from the elemental beauty of our clockwork universe. It’s both humbling—and sometimes comforting—that there is a force greater than the ones we mortals create. And indoors, I occasionally enjoy sitting with just a candle or small kerosene light in a dark room, reading or writing or taking a quiet moment. I find it peaceful, not unsettling.


T Nun_Raises_the_Sunhe other point touched on by the article was that darkness—so often cast as frightening and threatening—is also something that brings people together. Think about it—night encourages us to gather around the proverbial fire with family and friends. It’s often a festive time. We feel warm and cozy surrounded by others, sharing a sense of connection. 
Maybe there's something about darkness that makes us more aware that it's easier to face fears or uncertainty when we're not alone.

SunFor eons—quite likely ever since human first comprehended the rhythm of the seasons—the winter solstice has been a time of rituals to coax the Sun to return. In nearly every culture and religion, they revolve around the concept of rebirth and renewal. These days, we do seem to use the winter solstice as a time to stop and think about where we’ve been and contemplate making a fresh start in the coming year. (Oh, those New Year’s resolutions!) Again, not a bad thing. Most of us don’t spend enough time reflecting on what’s really meaningful in life, and how we can best focus on those things, rather than all the noise around us.

SunsetNow, don’t get me wrong—I love the sunlight, and my favorite time of year is summer, when I can be outdoors savoring the long twilights and watching the subtle changes of color in the sky for hours before darkness descends. But I also appreciate the long nights of winter, and the moments of sitting by the fire with a book or just my own thoughts. Like anything, balance is important —experiencing Light and Darkness gives me an appreciation of them both.

What about you? Do you dislike the dark? Do you find short winter days and long nights unsettling? Or do you find pleasure in both the Sun and the Moon?

50 thoughts on “A Cosmic Pause for Thought”

  1. I love the night sky and sometimes try to glimpse galaxies other than the milky way. I think I can just see Andromeda with the naked eye … best to look to the side of where it is located and use peripheral vision. Andromeda is 2.5 million light years away and I can only wonder at the vastness of the universe …. if other civilizations are out there will we ever know? Was it created so huge for a reason? Looking at the conflicts among humanity on earth I wonder if the size is designed to keep different life forms well separated!
    I find huge pleasure in observing the totality of the cosmos and feel very privileged as a scientist to have studied the fascinating ways in which ‘God’ screwed it all together.
    Andrea, thanks for the inspiring Christmas post!

    Reply
  2. I love the night sky and sometimes try to glimpse galaxies other than the milky way. I think I can just see Andromeda with the naked eye … best to look to the side of where it is located and use peripheral vision. Andromeda is 2.5 million light years away and I can only wonder at the vastness of the universe …. if other civilizations are out there will we ever know? Was it created so huge for a reason? Looking at the conflicts among humanity on earth I wonder if the size is designed to keep different life forms well separated!
    I find huge pleasure in observing the totality of the cosmos and feel very privileged as a scientist to have studied the fascinating ways in which ‘God’ screwed it all together.
    Andrea, thanks for the inspiring Christmas post!

    Reply
  3. I love the night sky and sometimes try to glimpse galaxies other than the milky way. I think I can just see Andromeda with the naked eye … best to look to the side of where it is located and use peripheral vision. Andromeda is 2.5 million light years away and I can only wonder at the vastness of the universe …. if other civilizations are out there will we ever know? Was it created so huge for a reason? Looking at the conflicts among humanity on earth I wonder if the size is designed to keep different life forms well separated!
    I find huge pleasure in observing the totality of the cosmos and feel very privileged as a scientist to have studied the fascinating ways in which ‘God’ screwed it all together.
    Andrea, thanks for the inspiring Christmas post!

    Reply
  4. I love the night sky and sometimes try to glimpse galaxies other than the milky way. I think I can just see Andromeda with the naked eye … best to look to the side of where it is located and use peripheral vision. Andromeda is 2.5 million light years away and I can only wonder at the vastness of the universe …. if other civilizations are out there will we ever know? Was it created so huge for a reason? Looking at the conflicts among humanity on earth I wonder if the size is designed to keep different life forms well separated!
    I find huge pleasure in observing the totality of the cosmos and feel very privileged as a scientist to have studied the fascinating ways in which ‘God’ screwed it all together.
    Andrea, thanks for the inspiring Christmas post!

    Reply
  5. I love the night sky and sometimes try to glimpse galaxies other than the milky way. I think I can just see Andromeda with the naked eye … best to look to the side of where it is located and use peripheral vision. Andromeda is 2.5 million light years away and I can only wonder at the vastness of the universe …. if other civilizations are out there will we ever know? Was it created so huge for a reason? Looking at the conflicts among humanity on earth I wonder if the size is designed to keep different life forms well separated!
    I find huge pleasure in observing the totality of the cosmos and feel very privileged as a scientist to have studied the fascinating ways in which ‘God’ screwed it all together.
    Andrea, thanks for the inspiring Christmas post!

    Reply
  6. Quantum, I would love to take a nighttime walk with you and listen to you muse on the physics of the vastness we see in the heavens. I find it conceptually awe-inspiring—yet mind-boggling to try to truly comprehend the distance and time involved in describing what we think is out there. The expanding universe, dark matter, multiple dimensions, relativity—hard for us non-scientists to really grasp such ideas.
    But that doesn’t keep me from finding an elemental pleasure in looking at the wonder of Nature and knowing it’s far more complex and encompassing than most of us can comprehend.
    Love your comment that the universe must be so big in order than life forms don’t know about each other! Ha—probably very true. It’s not very heartening that we can’t even live peacefully with each other! It’s interesting to speculate what other Life is out there. It seems quite unlikely we are the only ones.

    Reply
  7. Quantum, I would love to take a nighttime walk with you and listen to you muse on the physics of the vastness we see in the heavens. I find it conceptually awe-inspiring—yet mind-boggling to try to truly comprehend the distance and time involved in describing what we think is out there. The expanding universe, dark matter, multiple dimensions, relativity—hard for us non-scientists to really grasp such ideas.
    But that doesn’t keep me from finding an elemental pleasure in looking at the wonder of Nature and knowing it’s far more complex and encompassing than most of us can comprehend.
    Love your comment that the universe must be so big in order than life forms don’t know about each other! Ha—probably very true. It’s not very heartening that we can’t even live peacefully with each other! It’s interesting to speculate what other Life is out there. It seems quite unlikely we are the only ones.

    Reply
  8. Quantum, I would love to take a nighttime walk with you and listen to you muse on the physics of the vastness we see in the heavens. I find it conceptually awe-inspiring—yet mind-boggling to try to truly comprehend the distance and time involved in describing what we think is out there. The expanding universe, dark matter, multiple dimensions, relativity—hard for us non-scientists to really grasp such ideas.
    But that doesn’t keep me from finding an elemental pleasure in looking at the wonder of Nature and knowing it’s far more complex and encompassing than most of us can comprehend.
    Love your comment that the universe must be so big in order than life forms don’t know about each other! Ha—probably very true. It’s not very heartening that we can’t even live peacefully with each other! It’s interesting to speculate what other Life is out there. It seems quite unlikely we are the only ones.

    Reply
  9. Quantum, I would love to take a nighttime walk with you and listen to you muse on the physics of the vastness we see in the heavens. I find it conceptually awe-inspiring—yet mind-boggling to try to truly comprehend the distance and time involved in describing what we think is out there. The expanding universe, dark matter, multiple dimensions, relativity—hard for us non-scientists to really grasp such ideas.
    But that doesn’t keep me from finding an elemental pleasure in looking at the wonder of Nature and knowing it’s far more complex and encompassing than most of us can comprehend.
    Love your comment that the universe must be so big in order than life forms don’t know about each other! Ha—probably very true. It’s not very heartening that we can’t even live peacefully with each other! It’s interesting to speculate what other Life is out there. It seems quite unlikely we are the only ones.

    Reply
  10. Quantum, I would love to take a nighttime walk with you and listen to you muse on the physics of the vastness we see in the heavens. I find it conceptually awe-inspiring—yet mind-boggling to try to truly comprehend the distance and time involved in describing what we think is out there. The expanding universe, dark matter, multiple dimensions, relativity—hard for us non-scientists to really grasp such ideas.
    But that doesn’t keep me from finding an elemental pleasure in looking at the wonder of Nature and knowing it’s far more complex and encompassing than most of us can comprehend.
    Love your comment that the universe must be so big in order than life forms don’t know about each other! Ha—probably very true. It’s not very heartening that we can’t even live peacefully with each other! It’s interesting to speculate what other Life is out there. It seems quite unlikely we are the only ones.

    Reply
  11. I love the changing of the day length. I dislike the dark of winter mornings, but, other than that, I like watching the days grow shorter and then longer.
    Winter is a great time for astronomy. The summer humidity is gone, giving us clear skys, and the nights are long–more time to see the stars.

    Reply
  12. I love the changing of the day length. I dislike the dark of winter mornings, but, other than that, I like watching the days grow shorter and then longer.
    Winter is a great time for astronomy. The summer humidity is gone, giving us clear skys, and the nights are long–more time to see the stars.

    Reply
  13. I love the changing of the day length. I dislike the dark of winter mornings, but, other than that, I like watching the days grow shorter and then longer.
    Winter is a great time for astronomy. The summer humidity is gone, giving us clear skys, and the nights are long–more time to see the stars.

    Reply
  14. I love the changing of the day length. I dislike the dark of winter mornings, but, other than that, I like watching the days grow shorter and then longer.
    Winter is a great time for astronomy. The summer humidity is gone, giving us clear skys, and the nights are long–more time to see the stars.

    Reply
  15. I love the changing of the day length. I dislike the dark of winter mornings, but, other than that, I like watching the days grow shorter and then longer.
    Winter is a great time for astronomy. The summer humidity is gone, giving us clear skys, and the nights are long–more time to see the stars.

    Reply
  16. You can definitely tell the summer solstice is upon us in Australia. I was up late reading, and it was broad daylight before I went to sleep (needless to say, I’m a little tired today!).
    I am very glad to have daylight saving in my part of the country, because I definitely appreciate the long summer evenings. However, I’ve been places in the world where the sun doesn’t *ever* set in summer, and that’s a bit much!
    The years I lived in London, people would complain about the long, dark winters, but I kind of liked it.

    Reply
  17. You can definitely tell the summer solstice is upon us in Australia. I was up late reading, and it was broad daylight before I went to sleep (needless to say, I’m a little tired today!).
    I am very glad to have daylight saving in my part of the country, because I definitely appreciate the long summer evenings. However, I’ve been places in the world where the sun doesn’t *ever* set in summer, and that’s a bit much!
    The years I lived in London, people would complain about the long, dark winters, but I kind of liked it.

    Reply
  18. You can definitely tell the summer solstice is upon us in Australia. I was up late reading, and it was broad daylight before I went to sleep (needless to say, I’m a little tired today!).
    I am very glad to have daylight saving in my part of the country, because I definitely appreciate the long summer evenings. However, I’ve been places in the world where the sun doesn’t *ever* set in summer, and that’s a bit much!
    The years I lived in London, people would complain about the long, dark winters, but I kind of liked it.

    Reply
  19. You can definitely tell the summer solstice is upon us in Australia. I was up late reading, and it was broad daylight before I went to sleep (needless to say, I’m a little tired today!).
    I am very glad to have daylight saving in my part of the country, because I definitely appreciate the long summer evenings. However, I’ve been places in the world where the sun doesn’t *ever* set in summer, and that’s a bit much!
    The years I lived in London, people would complain about the long, dark winters, but I kind of liked it.

    Reply
  20. You can definitely tell the summer solstice is upon us in Australia. I was up late reading, and it was broad daylight before I went to sleep (needless to say, I’m a little tired today!).
    I am very glad to have daylight saving in my part of the country, because I definitely appreciate the long summer evenings. However, I’ve been places in the world where the sun doesn’t *ever* set in summer, and that’s a bit much!
    The years I lived in London, people would complain about the long, dark winters, but I kind of liked it.

    Reply
  21. I love the long Summer days but the Winter nights don’t bother me. I feel like I can stay in and read or watch tv without feeling guilty! It’s also nice sitting in front of a blazing fire. Ah bliss!!

    Reply
  22. I love the long Summer days but the Winter nights don’t bother me. I feel like I can stay in and read or watch tv without feeling guilty! It’s also nice sitting in front of a blazing fire. Ah bliss!!

    Reply
  23. I love the long Summer days but the Winter nights don’t bother me. I feel like I can stay in and read or watch tv without feeling guilty! It’s also nice sitting in front of a blazing fire. Ah bliss!!

    Reply
  24. I love the long Summer days but the Winter nights don’t bother me. I feel like I can stay in and read or watch tv without feeling guilty! It’s also nice sitting in front of a blazing fire. Ah bliss!!

    Reply
  25. I love the long Summer days but the Winter nights don’t bother me. I feel like I can stay in and read or watch tv without feeling guilty! It’s also nice sitting in front of a blazing fire. Ah bliss!!

    Reply

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