(Not much has changed since I first published this two years ago in a lot of ways. Old age continues to creep up on me, but I give myself a push and go outside to plant some garlic, or otherwise plant seeds. But I must confess to feeling somewhat less hopeful about the state of the world, driven downward by an increasing level of anger and hatred on social media and other forms of public discourse, and made worse by unprincipled, political opportunism pandering to the worst in human nature. It is, I confess, discouraging, even depressing. I find myself having to turn it all off for a while and increasingly find solace in solitude. And yet I am a social creature, and fundamentally believe each of us in our own way has a responsibility to pay attention, think carefully about what’s happening, and do what we can in a loving way, to help make it better. And then I think it can begin in a modest way, with a simple, personal expression of appreciation for the gift of life, and what the moment we’re in now — the only one we’ve truly got — may bring us: wonder and surprise in so many forms, including an unexpected visitor from nearby or the other side of the world who has a story, their story, to tell. Open your heart to them, I tell myself, and your eyes.)
Another cloudy day in late October with the front field to cultivate before it starts to rain, as forecast. I’m out beside Mr. Massey Too, checking his fluid levels before connecting the cultivator, when I get that feeling, you know, like somebody’s looking at me. So, I look up right where that feeling is coming from, just above the treetops of some tall spruce, and there it is, the sun – a faint light in the clouds, so faint that I can look right at it, face to face, as it were.
I get the sense the son wants to tell me something; so, I say, “What? What’s up? What’s on your mind?”
There is no reply, of course. It’s just me playing games with my imagination. Why would the sun want to say anything to me, out of all the many millions, billions he might choose, most of whom are far more worthy of being the recipient of a message from . . . I notice a literal “typo” there in the previous, brief paragraph where I typed in “son” instead of “sun.” A mistake any old man like me might easily make. But, you know what, I think I’ll leave it uncorrected. Anything is possible.
I get a notion the sun is saying good-bye. Each day it draws closer to the southern horizon, darkness comes a little bit earlier in the evening, and longer in the pre-dawn morning. I’ve seen the sun in just this position near the treetops in mid-April when it’s heading back north and there’s hope in the air, the return of a new growing season.
“Look,” I say to the sun, “I know it’s going to be another long, hard winter – I can feel it in my bones, and yes, in my heart of hearts. Yes, age has finally caught up to me. Yes, I nap a couple of times a day, yet have trouble getting a good night’s sleep. I have to push myself to get started sometimes. I can read the signs. Yes, I know every moment of this life is a gift, a sacred gift, and I must keep reminding myself to give thanks more often – indeed, all the time – for that, and do everything I can in my way to keep the spirit of light and life shining through the clouds. I’m not going anywhere just yet, except to the morning, to rise again.
A moment later the sun is gone again behind the clouds, but its presence is everywhere, of course, lighting the day, and the night.
The next morning I take the dogs and myself for our regular walk to the touchstone, and, as usual, random thoughts fill my head. This time it’s about the sun, just risen. It hasn’t moved in untold billions of Earth-years; at least not in the context of its being the centre of our solar system. It holds us all, every planet, and all things, living or not on them, in its gravitational embrace. I take it as an act of Cosmic love.
But what if that stopped, if something happened to disturb the stability of that connection: our sun’s place in the Milky Way galaxy, one of uncountable, similar gatherings of a plethora of stars, solar systems, planets, and other things, big and small?
A meandering black hole, come too close, an immense gravitational pull drawing everything into it, absolutely everything, in no time at all?
Or — and stay with me for just a moment longer, if you will — suppose, just suppose the Creative Power, the Great Mystery that controls the universe has finally had enough with the apparent failure — despite all its divine efforts to the contrary — of this wonderful, little life-experiment in this distant corner of the universe: this little blue-green jewel of a planet, this gift, given to us in trust to take care of and cherish.
If so, surely we have betrayed that trust.
So, I say to the sun behind the clouds, or brilliant in a blue sky, risen again, thanks for not leaving us.
As Shakespeare said through Hamlet, “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
I’ve always believed that; and I increasingly leave my spiritual door wide open to the idea that there is a Great Mystery in the universe, a creative energy that is essentially the power of love. And that’s all I will say about that.
So, I ask the sun to thank the Great Mystery on our behalf, for not giving up on us, and thinking — yes thinking, yet again — that we may not be hopeless after all.