Winter solstice has been celebrated by cultures all over the world for thousands of years and is of course the main reason that Christmas is celebrated at this time of year. The main motivation was the need for light at the darkest time of the year; the need to affirm life in the presence of nature's cyclical death. The main means was to party 'til you drop; dissipation was the order of the day and the season (see: Roman saturnalia). Still is, in a way: We need to party to keep the dark at bay and to forget all the money we're spending at this time of year. At least I do. And part of the reason we party and spend money is that we want to do anything we can to forget what this time of year represents: death.
We don't like to think about that and look for reasons that death exists by first of all wishing it didn't. But it does, and my long-time friend Larry Meredith has come up with a handle on it that moved me profoundly when I read it in his Christmas letter. That handle was hard to grasp at first reading; I thought he was paraphrasing the old 'life wouldn't mean as much if it went on forever' theme. He wasn't, though. It is much more than that. Here it is:
On Sunday morning, [we] gathered to remember those who had passed into the final adventure. It was a profound moment as we lifted up those who were no more. In gratitude and sadness we touched the inevitable dis-union. We faced death as the moral equivalent of the speed of light. We celebrated life, but we all sensed that death is the insistent measure of that life, its container, the marker of the edge of our universe, the quiet auditor of our precious gift of time.
I am utterly incapable of coming up with something like that and stand in awe of those who can. I thought it needed to go beyond Larry's friends and to a few of mine, however few there may be who read these digital pages.
Happy Solstice, Merry Christmas to all of you.