Solstice. Time to get dark.

Sunset, Fryman, Los Angeles

Sunset, Fryman, Los Angeles

The underlying message of the season

We are speeding toward the year's end. As the available sunlight wanes, we are evolutionarily programmed to seek the light of each other's company, to nest, to huddle with family and loved ones. Unfortunately we live in a consumerist culture where this natural cyclical instinct is diverted to a sense of lack. Perhaps we don't have access to the loved ones society says we should have. Maybe our families are less of an ideal "safe haven" and more of a showcase for frustration and dysfunction.

Advertising images feed on this sense of lack and promise an answer in exchange for money. With the right BMW as a gift, surely she will love me. If I just drink Canard-Duchêne with my friends, we can't fail to have fun. If I have a simple, frugal, and modest holiday season, it points to my failure as a human being.

We can ignore such self-defeating messages, and get down to the fundamental actions that increase happiness: giving. To give of the fulfillment that nature has already given me, but I have ignored. This does not mean a BMW, it means a smile. Rather than the spirits in a champagne bottle, I can share encouragement, comfort, and ease with my friends. Rather than spending five dollars on a peppermint latte, I can give a five dollar bill to the shivering homeless woman in the bank alcove next to Peet's Coffee.

I can ask the beleaguered checker at the market how his day is going. When he answers, I can listen. Then I can extend this generosity to my family, forgiving them their shortcomings, taking less, giving more. I can be more forgiving of myself, resolving to not beat myself up. We are all trying the best we can to evolve and be better humans, but some don't have resources to do so easily.

From this new vantage point, it becomes possible to enjoy the solstice, to revel in the temporary darkness, to become an ally of the returning light.

"The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us."
— Black Elk (1863-1950)