Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Shortest Day of the Year

The defining characteristic of Canadians at this time of year is survival. Never mind the bright Christmas lights and tinselled trees; this is an undisguised hostile environment. Everything currently conspires against us, the snow, the darkness, the cold, the damp air, the slush and the general mess of the surroundings. It is only the most enthusiastic of our number who contemplate doing anything out-of-doors. The prospect is forbidding, best reserved for those who insist upon taking their constitutional whatever the circumstances “on Christmas Day or Doomsday”. The rest of us keep an eye upon the calendar and measure the days with greater acuity than an alienated J. Alfred Prufrock with his coffee spoons. We know only too well that today marks the Winter Solstice, and that means that things can only get better.

During the Christmas and New Year celebrations there is a conglomeration of high-points and demarcations, some of which send different and conflicting signals – peace and festivity; sacred and profane; lightness and darkness; beginning and end. But whatever the message the thread is the same; namely transition, which means change, evolution and conversion. This certainly captures the essence of the Christian experience as well as the naturalist’s view of the world even without the theistic hypothesis. I have never been one to discredit the basis for one’s personal revolutions or the symbols of rejuvenation. Pointedly each of us can capitalize upon the same event for different reasons, leading nonetheless to similar progression.

As a subset of seasonal change, the position of the sun relative to the celestial equator is for me as good as any excuse for new direction and anticipation. I don’t know about you, but I need to be refreshed otherwise I become tedious to both myself and others. While it is impracticable to avoid the feature of continuity in life, the possibility for alteration is attractive, though we need a point in time from which to launch the changeover. Knowing that the hours of sunlight will henceforth increase appeals to my primeval instincts and it feeds the fires of life.

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