You know you’re getting a little long in the tooth when you describe your life in decades. “I did such and such in the 80s, the 90s were a blur and the noughties were all diapers and Hop on Pop.” A decade feels like a long time. But when you think about time from an evolutionary perspective, a decade is a blink of an eye. As Richard Dawkins said,
“After sleeping through a hundred million centuries we have finally opened our eyes on a sumptuous planet, sparkling with color, bountiful with life. Within decades we must close our eyes again. Isn't it a noble, an enlightened way of spending our brief time in the sun, to work at understanding the universe and how we have come to wake up in it?”
We have only brief decades in the sun. How do we make them meaningful? Is there a meaning in life or is there only the meaning that we make?
The cranky Old Testament book Ecclesiastes uses the phrase “under the sun”. “There is nothing new under the sun. All is meaningless and vain under the sun.” What does this mean? The usual interpretation is that everything worldly is under the sun, and everything heavenly is above the sun. Many of us were taught in religious classes that without eternal salvation everything on earth is pointless. This worldview was trapped in its own three tiered universe. Heaven was literally above the sun. We know more about cosmology now. There is a spiritual perspective that honors evolution, deep time and infinite fields of connected possibility without needing supernatural causes and effects. As above so below is an ancient intuition of an evolutionary truth. Everything is connected, including the mysteries of time and space.
I wonder about a new interpretation of “under the sun”. The sun was seen as heaven’s porch light in the ancient world. It was also a tool for measuring time. Maybe Ecclesiastes was saying something profound about time. If you take a narrow view of time, there is nothing new or meaningful. If you expect time to stand still, you can expect suffering and frustration. If you are held captive by time, you can become paralyzed by interpretations of the past or anxieties about the future. If you think you can conquer time, time will make a fool of you. As Pink Floyd sang, “You run and you run to catch up with the sun, but it’s sinking, and racing around to come up behind you again.”
A deep time perspective adds life to decades and meaning to life. When you make peace with time, it warms your life like our middle aged sun’s rays. When you expand your consciousness to include the millions of suns that circle millions of planets that circle millions of galaxies that dwarf the pale dot of earth and see your decades old life as a “mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam” then life falls into clearer perspective.
When you see yourself as created out of stardust and our sun as earth’s closest star but still 90 million miles away, light bulbs go off in your mind. It’s all related. We are part of an immense symphony. Every breath you take, every move you make, every meal you eat, every song you sing, every decade you live, is a result of our sun’s ancient drama.
The timely lessons of the sun are both mind blowing, consciousness expanding, and also ordinary and practical. No matter what scars the decades have left in your life, you can always, always start over again. There is no end. Everything is becoming, including you. Do your best in each moment. Change or stay the same. Either way, life will continue to move forward. If you need to miss a step, just pick up with the next beat. Get in tune with your past, but don’t be held captive to the past. Plan your future, but don’t be held prisoner by your plans.
No matter how it feels, you are not alone. The nighttime coliseum of stars is your family tree. Join the dots on your awesome connections all the way back. Look again and you will see something new and beautiful. They look closer than they are, reminding you that the inner light that shines your path is nearer and more accessible than you imagine.
If this all feels a little “out there” take the advice of Vincent Van Goth who said, "If one feels the need of something grand, something infinite, something that makes one feel aware of God, one need not go far to find it. I think that I see something deeper, more infinite, more eternal than the ocean in the expression of the eyes of a little baby when it wakes in the morning and coos or laughs because it sees the sun shining on its cradle."
Either way, pay attention. Whether in the radiance of a beaming sun or the glint in a baby’s eyes, hear in this moment the wise silence, see the immense beauty, the universal intelligence, the awesome grandeur to which everyone and everything is related. You are Life becoming more alive, God becoming more divine, Spirit itself in action. Tippy toe from moment to wonder filled moment, stride from discovery to breathtaking discovery, leap from realization to earth shattering realization. Life evolves from cell to organism, question to deeper mystery, ever more complex, connected and conscious, sourced by a great unknown, and bound by the elastic string called time.