Today marks the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. Last night marked the longest night of the year. It is an astronomical fact that the moment darkness is greatest is also the moment light is starting its return home. Each year the winter solstice is our hope that tomorrow will be brighter than today.
This year we have all faced significant personal and collective challenges. We have all had our share of darkness. In spite of all the hardship, heartaches, and suffering we can also find hope in that same darkness. An excerpt of my upcoming book, “Floating in Darkness” illustrates this point.
“I was floating in darkness, but most growth occurs in darkness. Our bodies and minds are rejuvenated during the darkness of sleep. A seed grows in the darkness of the earth to become a bountiful fruit-bearing tree. A fetus grows in the darkness of the womb to become a beautiful sentient creature capable of pondering infinity and the meaning of life. So too the dark times of our lives have a sacred purpose—to bring us closer to the truth, closer to freedom, closer to true potential.
Another way to put this is that growth can come from discomfort and suffering, which can be transmuted into wisdom and awareness that replaces the darkness and illuminates the real world. We tend to get comfortable in our understanding of our world and our universe. We’ve worked hard to identify and classify the shadows on the cave wall, and anything that upsets that comfortable balance can be seen as a threat. We have become entrenched in our perceived starting conditions. But all growth comes with some discomfort, from a willingness to step outside of our comfort zones and open ourselves up for what comes next. It comes from a willingness to step outside of the self-induced darkness of our own ignorance.”
To quote my friend Brother Guy Consolmagno, the Director of the Vatican Observatory, “It is an interesting metaphysical as well as astronomical truth, that it is only when you have good darkness that you can see the faint lights, whether it is faint stars, or the little points of light, the thousand points of light that bring us hope even in darkness.”
The Winter Solstice is just one of the many hopeful signs pointing to the coming light illuminating the return of the generative and creative powers of our world. At a dark moment in history, darker than most can remember, we can take solace tonight, as we look to the night sky. Tonight, Jupiter and Saturn will come within 0.1 degrees of each other, forming the first visible “double planet” in 800 years.
The 2020 Great Conjunction is especially rare — the planets haven’t been this close together in nearly 400 years and haven’t been observable this close together at night since medieval times, in 1226.
With the Winter Solstice comes the promise that darkness will not last. When you look to the 2020 Great Conjunction tonight take hopeful comfort in another great conjunction:
The day the death toll in the United States passed 300,000 was also the day the country began its distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.