At 12.01 a.m. on December 22, the Age of Pisces will end and the Age of Aquarius will begin, even though we’ve been singing about its “dawning” since the first off-Broadway production of Hair in 1967.
Is the moon in the 7th house? Jupiter aligned with Mars? Who knows? What’s irredeemably obvious is that this particular Solstice, which must shoulder the fractious weight of a transition that happens only once every 26,000 years, is revelatory. Not that it isn’t always, but this year the blinders are off.
The Midwinter Solstice, in its thirty-five or so still-extant guises of which Christmas and Hanukkah are only two, is a forced acknowledgement of darkness. Profound, complex darkness. A metaphoric darkness we can only understand in the terms, “death and madness.” The terms are sufficient to our capacity for understanding.
So every year since an unknowable first flame was held ritually against the deepest prehistoric winter night (long before there was “December”), we hold lights against the darkness during this season. We should. We must. And I know why.
Years ago, during this season, the unspeakable happened. My life as I’d known it for over forty years, every hope, dream and ordinary assumption, disintegrated. We function on autopilot at such times. We keep breathing and skate on the thin ice of a reality that is suddenly revealed to have been a myth, a lie of convenience and order. There is nothing else, so we keep skating even though it feels, and is, meaningless. (Twenty-eight families in Connecticut skate on that meaninglessness now, but everywhere are a thousand others of whom we are unaware.)
All that day those years ago I’d supervised hurriedly-called movers, made arrangements for the storage of furniture, terminated the lease on my apartment, packed a suitcase of winter clothes for an extended stay near a hospital in Vermont. By 3:00 a.m. I’d cleaned as much as I could, and left behind the vacuum-cleaner. A Hoover, I can still see it standing there in an empty room as I locked the door and then dropped the key through the mail slot. It was over. Everything was over.
I don’t remember driving to the friend’s house where I would stay until the next day, where I would leave my car, where I might never come back. I only remember the dark, groundless and engulfing. A dark so dimensionless that nothing makes any sense, you have no idea where your clothes came from or why you’re wearing glasses. You may know your own name but it sounds fake, the name of a character in a play that’s just closed. (Twenty-eight families in Connecticut now exist in that dark, but there are countless others of whom we will never hear.)
But ahead of me on that night, in a perfectly ordinary neighborhood of bumpy streets and old wooden siding, was something other than darkness. It was a spindly little bottle brush tree in somebody’s patchy front yard, covered in lights! 4:00 a.m. by then, they must have forgotten to turn them off. Just a single strand of colored lights haphazardly strung on a shrub, but to the broken traveler in the night, that sparkling bottle brush tree was a doorway, an elixir, a breath, a reassurance that something existed beyond the dark. The lights cracked the darkness, only slightly but just enough to permit the inrush of everything that could happen after, including a future in which I’d be sitting here writing this twenty-five years later. Lights in this season, especially this year, are essential to the survival of travelers lost and unseen.
So put a light somewhere visible from outside, and leave it on all night! A single little electric candle in a window will do, if only until after the 21st, but definitely on the 21st. You won’t know who sees your light; you’re not supposed to know. Your light is an anonymous gift of potentially more significance than any amount of money, any intention or action you might have or take.
Soon I’ll join groups advocating for mental health services and everybody else will join groups advocating for gun control. Some aspect of gun control will win because it’s vastly cheaper than mental health services, and everything will go on as it has for a time. Gradually new ideas that will characterize an Aquarian Age will emerge, and that will be interesting to watch.
But in the meantime there is the darkness of a millennial Solstice outside. It is our time and we’re in it even though we may try to ignore it or transform it into something that it’s not. Pointless. It’s darkness. Please, please… set a light out there!