I mean, they’re all dark, kind of by definition.
For most of my adult life, especially since I understood the profound effects of seasonal affective disorder on me, the winter solstice has always been one of the biggest milestones of the year. While the day is indeed the shortest, there is an iron-clad guarantee that tomorrow will be a few seconds longer. And in the days to come, those extra seconds will stretch into minutes. By my birthday next month, we’ll have gained 30 minutes of precious daytime at this latitude, and that’s almost enough to offset any misery at however many degrees Fahrenheit we’ll lose over that same period.
The seasonal daylight cycle is something I can always count on, and presumably I always will be able to. Despite humanity’s best efforts, it seems unlikely we’ll be able to alter the planet’s declination, and the astronomical calendar will likely continue as it has for a couple billion years, give or take the occasional catastrophic meteor impact.
But on this solstice, my annual joy at the prospect of More Photons is eclipsed by three other trends, none of which are seasonal or cyclic. In fact, they all appear to be pointing only one way, and it’s the wrong one, and they’re accelerating on their trajectories. In short: the climate is fucked and getting worse, American democracy is circling the drain, and the pandemic is never gonna end. I slide from frustrated to despairing because we understand the causes of all three of these calamities, and are in theory capable of reversing them, but we just…won’t. Not a priority. Yes, they’re all complicated issues, and there’s no simple solution to any of them. The metaproblem is that some of our planetmates don’t think they’re problems at all. When the world ends at your own nose, problems requiring collective action, aren’t.
In fact, the Venn diagram of the three sets of people who are fine with or in denial of all of that would have a large intersecting area, but that’s another topic.
Compounding my distress is that I broke my foot last month, denying me the only real escape I find from these torments: running like the cops are chasing me. Nothing clears my mind quite like near-hypoxic cardiovascular activity. And I wonder, too, if surgery should be indicated to repair the break—we don’t know yet—if I’ll even be able to schedule it, given what’s about to happen to our hospital system, all thanks to people who “did their own research.” Don’t get me wrong, I understand that my personal problems pale in comparison. I’m just putting it out there as an unhelpful contributor to my mental state through the rest of all this.
So, yeah. I am normally a pessimist to my very core. But in every other year, I’m usually able on this night at least to cowboy up and find some small flicker of optimism for the months or year ahead. Sorry, team. Not now. Not this solstice, and likely not next, when it’s all going to be just as bad, or worse, because too few people get it, or care.
OTOH, maybe my foot will stop hurting by then. And since we don’t have snow anymore, I can safely run on the sidewalks next winter. See? Who says I can’t find the bright side!
(p.s. I should add: I love getting responses to these posts! But if you feel like arguing with me about my statement of the Three Problems, or the severity of them, or whatever, please just spare us both. I love you and still think you’re a lovely person, even if you’re wrong.)
If you’re celebrating, please be careful this weekend. Take a test. Stay home if you’re sick. And I’ll drink any egg nog you don’t want, because you’re wrong about that, too.