Monday, October 14, 2013

Seek light

For those of us who live north of the equator, the days are growing shorter. Here in the American midatlantic, the rate of change at this time of year is alarming, at least to the brainstem. Light is necessary for our survival. "Our" includes all living beings on this beautiful, ever wobbling (hence seasonal) planet.

We humans have pathologized our need for light, of course. We love to pathologize everything in my society. Our name for the lethargy, depression and hopelessness that some people feel keenly during winter is Seasonal Affective Disorder. SAD. Someone clever made up that name.

I have a quarrel with the idea that this is a disorder. My belief is that almost everyone reacts to the shift of the seasons. Having no reaction at all to the change in light is more of a disorder than the other way around. I've never met anyone who was completely oblivious to the change, though I've known many who practice ignoring how they're feeling - about the change of season and other things as well.

Some react powerfully enough to need help getting through the long, dark winter. Here is a link to a page on the Mayo Clinic site about light boxes. The people I know who use them say they really help.

The need for light extends beyond mere survival, you know. Light is also necessary for joy, hope and inspiration. Those who live in darkness don't have access to these things. I'm thinking about bats. I adore them, they are noble animals, but do they radiate joy? Do they seem inspired? If so, I have never been able to connect with the light in them. Have you? I sense calmness, focus, determination, and vivaciousness, but not joy.

But light comes in many forms, visible and invisible. Bats might tune in to a type of light I know nothing about. I hope that's true.

What I do know is that people who live in darkness become dull and lifeless after awhile. Their eyes become dull, their hair and teeth, too. Their moods flatten. Their spirits get droopy. It's a sad thing to see. 

Here in Washington DC, there's daylight all year round, just less of it in the winter. Many people rise before Brother Sun, arrive at the office just as it's getting light, then spend the entire day indoors. Brother Sun sets before they go home. Other people work nights, spend their days sleeping. In summer they will still encounter daylight at some point, but maybe not in winter. Some among us dislike the cold weather, hence stay indoors a lot in winter. Through no fault of their own, in winter many people are deprived of the life giving, inspiring, joyous wonders of daylight. Even an overcast sky provides plenty of healthy light. 

Please make sure to spend time outdoors every day, no matter the weather or season. Plain daylight is as important for your health and well being as good food, good sleep and exercise. In winter it might be more complicated to include daylight in your agenda, but it is well worth it. Daylight in winter should be a priority.

In addition to daylight, you'll fare better over the winter if you allow yourself the beauty and inspiration of candlelight and - if possible - the light of a briskly burning fire. Glowing jack-o-lanterns, Christmas lights and the like are also ways we bring ourselves cheer during fall and winter. I'm all for whatever kinds of light help us remember that spring will come again.

We are creatures of flesh and blood who do not fare well without light. We need light! Over winter, make it a priority to seek light, yes? I say yes. Daylight, candle light, holiday lights, firelight. 

Let there be light. Shalom.

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