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A Winter Solstice GreetingBy Druid Michael R. Gorman for Salem-News.com
Modern western culture has set itself a drift from our natural moorings in our crazy belief that we are somehow above our own ecosystem...
(SACRAMENTO, CA) - The Winter Solstice arrived in Sacramento at 3:12 am this morning. This darkness outside my window was the longest night of the year. Western scholars often misinterpret the fires and lights that marked this night among our ancestors, claiming that they were so primitive as to fear that the sun might not come back, and so they lit fires to try to force the sun to return.
In reality, our ancestors were so much more connected to the natural world than we are, so they understood intimately the cycles of the year and the relationship between the sun and the earth. Without the air and light pollution that we live beneath, they saw the heavens clearly every night and day of their lives. They lit their fires and candles and hearth fires and Yule logs as a way of acknowledging the turn of the year and the slow return of longer days.
In doing so, they reminded themselves that we are not above or apart from the natural world, but an integral and beloved part of it, as all creatures are. It is only in that connection, acknowledged ritually this time of year with lights we light, that we can ever be truly healthy, prosperous, and wise. Any hope in the future must be built, will be built, upon this simple and ancient truth.
Modern western culture has set itself a drift from our natural moorings in our crazy belief that we are somehow above our own ecosystem, outside of its natural functioning, its parameters, and its natural laws. (How exactly does one step outside the very thing that every step must land upon?) Since industrialization we have so dirtied our surroundings that we can hardly see the natural world through our car windows and sealed office windows.
In our vain attempts to live apart from natural forces, we have wrought such a dangerous warming of the planet that the storms grow more infused with energy every year, creating devastation unrivaled by anything during those recently past ages when more carbon wassafely locked away in the trees, the oil deposits, the ice, the soil, the rocks, and the quietude of the deep ocean. Each day we thwart nature’s balance by releasing ridiculous amounts of the formerly stored carbon into the air.
What took millions of years to store in the plants and soil and ice and water in order to create the balanced world in which we thrived for so long, we have released in an historic blink of an eye. We have burned in moments what took millennia to lock away. But be assured, the earth will not die. She will act according to the natural laws that say more heat, more energy bouncing about, increases the intensity of all molecular movement, which translates into extremes in all the processes of the earth, including weather.
That environmental peril we increasingly face is heightened by our own way of interacting with every other species on the planet, especially our own. Every day we refuse to acknowledge our inability to see our destructive obsession with creating cultural dualities at war with each other. We madly insist, against all reason, on seeing all life as an ongoing battle between the good guys and the bad guys.
We stubbornly avoid responsibility for the state of our lives by facing the world with a pathological us-versus-them mentality that is creating the same kind of heightened cultural and human storms as our love affair with burning carbon based materials has created in the weather.
We approach every problem by trying to delineate who is US and who is THEM, blaming THEM for all of our problems, and then fighting to vanquish THEM in order to protect US. Unfortunately, but expectedly, no one can agree on who the bad guys are, so there is no possible end to the fighting since everyone is someone else’s bad guy.
In the aftermath of the nightmare Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, (ironically in the area of the state that gave birth to modern gun manufacturing and was once called “The Arsenal of America.”) how have we responded to the tragedy? The finger pointing was immediate. THEY were to blame: the gun manufacturers, the pro-gun politicians, the rich, the poor, the elites, the uneducated, the soft on crime liberals, the parents, the mental health system, Adam Lanza, Adam Lanza’s mother, Adam Lanza’s parent’s divorce, the schools, the Republicans, the Democrats, the gun control advocates, the Congress, the White House......!
There are bitter arguments still ongoing tonight over how many victims there were that day. The roll calls of the deaths usually do not include Adam or his mother. Only OUR deaths matter, not THEIRS. Thus do we begin our desperate search for the bad guys to vanquish and so make everything okay again! Them! If we can just stop THEM!
Is it any wonder that the innate self preservation of this hierarchical, patriarchal, anthropocentric, dualistic, elitist, unequal, war-based, money-worshiping system controls us to such a degree? The system doesn’t have to enslave us, they just have to encourage us to fight.........whomever........
Here’s a thought. Perhaps each of us who refuses to see our culture clearly and thus perpetuates a failed cultural paradigm is to blame. And perhaps at the same time each of us so brainwashed by this system that we can rejoice over some deaths and mourn others is a victim in our inability to see beyond the cultural box in which we live. But what is the system? Who is the system? It is them. And it is us. The 100%. Who is a victim and who is a perpetrator is not an either/or proposition in this mess. It is a both/and reality. But how do you fight a war when everyone is a perpetrator and everyone is a victim? How do you determine who is us and who is them if we all share the blame and the pain at the same time?
This new millennium, with all of its former promise, has been born in war after war, death after death, incurable diseases and “superbugs”, genocides, oppressive regimes, and the diminishment of personal freedom and social justice. We are indeed in the longest night of the cycle that is this generation’s life. We were promised the Age of Aquarius, and instead we have a world with so many wars and revolutions that it is hard to keep track, and an ecosystem that is itself becoming seemingly inhospitable to our continued existence on the planet.
So do I despair?
Because I remember what my ancestors understood each year when they lit the candles and fires of Winter Solstice. The moment the longest night arrives, it succumbs to the lengthening of the days. The moment the night is darkest, the wheel of the year turns toward yet another season of warmth and growth and fertility. That too is how this ecosystem, this planet, operates. I believe that we are on the cusp of the greatest change in human culture in two thousand years. Yes the world will end this Winter Solstice. And because, in a circle, every ending is also a beginning, the world will also be born this Winter Solstice.
We have yet another chance to make the coming season better than the last. I believe the age of the Warrior and the King is drawing to a close. How can I be so sure, so optimistic? Simple. We wish to survive as a species. Our sense of self preservation is one thing every being on the planet can depend upon and expect from us. Our current cultural paradigm will signal the end of us on the planet if it continues. Our cultural system will be our death. We must change or die, whether in a hurricane or at the end of the barrel of a gun. Our only hope is to reintegrate ourselves into the ecosystem upon which we depend for our lives.
That is not a pipe dream or an esoteric philosophy. That is simple science, simple reality. It is those who insanely think we can continue to defy our own membership in the planetary tribe who are living an unrealistic pipe dream that is fast becoming our ultimate nightmare. Change is coming because change must come. We must rediscover how to live in the balance we have shunned for far too long.
The earth will allow us to survive only if we step outside of this insane cultural paradigm that no longer serves us, that actually now threatens our very survival. We will find a new way. If we light our candles to the ancestors this Winter Solstice and rediscover what they did right, and then marry it to what is right and good in modern culture, we will create a future more bright with sun and growth than has been seen on this planet for a very long time.
We will weave the old wisdom with the new wisdom and create something better than either former age was alone. How do I know this? It is Winter Solstice. It is the time of the turning of the wheel. New growth out of old decay is simply, scientifically, concretely how the world works.
We can no more change that hopeful reality than we can order the earth to stay tilted away from the sun. If you have any doubts, talk to one of our brothers or sisters on the other side of the equator. The sun is high there as it will be again here.
The summer is ripening toward the harvest there as it always has done, as it will do here in our hemisphere in time. And we can continue to be a part of that cycle of miracles if when we light our candles or Christmas tree lights or menorahs or bon fires and as we do so, acknowledge the wisdom of the great cycles of our natural home and simply make a vow to pay attention and find our harmony with the inevitable, dependable, unfailing turning of the Great Wheel.
To my brothers and sisters in South America and Australia and Africa and the other lands to the Sacred South, I wish you a happy, warm, playful, bountiful Summer Solstice. Keep the sun-hope a reality for we who are in the darkness and the cold.
To my brothers and sisters here in the Blessed North --- that would be, well, all of you, all of us --- I wish you, us, a hopeful Winter Solstice, a warm hearth, a hearty meal, a good story, thick blankets, hot chocolate, and loved ones cuddling close. May your candles burn long and celebrate the enlightenment that is to come even now when it seems so far away. The Wheel is turning. Be of good cheer.
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