So we’ve turned the corner on Thanksgiving, and now we’re going full-throttle into “the holiday season.”
Here in the Northeast, that means the dwindling hours of daylight are aggressively bolstered with burgeoning strings of Christmas lights, endless shopping trips to the mall and so many holiday parties that they all begin to blur into one long month of compulsive merrymaking, carefully manufactured to cancel out the intrinsic darkness of the shortest days of the year.
I suggest that we consider actually focusing on that quiet solstice darkness, instead of working so hard to hold it at bay with our artificial lights and nonstop motion.
It worries me to see the way kids today, including my own two sons, have a hard time relaxing enough to simply space out and enjoy the quiet of a long winter evening.
They hardly even notice the festive lights that are twinkling all around us, much less the cold, distant glitter of the stars, because their eyes are so consistently trained on the soul-less white light of their smart phone screens.
My younger son, age 15, never leaves home without his i-phone gripped in his hand. When we drive together I have to prompt him to look up and take in the lovely sunset, or the crescent moon hanging low on the horizon.
If I weren’t there to nag him about looking up and taking a break from his phone, it’s possible to imagine that he might literally be glued to it all day, playing shoot-em-up games or sports games, watching mainstream TV shows and movies, or texting with his friends.
When he does take a break, he often bounces around restlessly, not sure how to amuse himself.
Just sitting and staring into space—allowing oneself the luxury of quiet unfocused space-out time—doesn’t even occur to him, so accustomed is he to constantly consuming the pre-packaged ideas of others.
I know for myself that my most creative ideas come when my brain is most relaxed and open…when I am walking in the woods, or staring aimlessly into a fire, or curled up in bed with my purring cat on my chest.
If I didn’t allow myself those unfocused moments—if I was incessantly plugged into the collective internet brain that was constantly feeding me pre-packaged stimulation—I might never have an original thought.
How sad would that be! And multiplied out across millions of others like me, how impoverishing for humanity! Do we really want to turn into a kind of collective species like ants, bees or termites, where the creativity of the individual is completely irrelevant?
This solstice season, I suggest you detach yourself from the busy-ness and the artificial lights for a bit, take your loved ones by the hand and see if you can all slow down for a good long while. A whole weekend would be good, or at least a long winter’s night.
Find a fire to stare at. Bundle up well and find a dark hillside from which to watch the constellations wheeling overhead. Banish those smart phones and tablets, at least for a night, and try making some music together. Try telling some stories, or reading a good book out loud.
Everything great that human beings have achieved has come out of the freedom of our creative dreams. We can’t afford to let that precious dreamtime be taken away from us by our own addiction to the constant stimulation of virtual reality.
Give your overworked, over-stimulated computer brain a break this solstice and enjoy the season of darkness. Go to bed early! Dream!