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Years ago, my mom and her friends held a summer solstice party, where my twelve year old self danced until the very tardy moon arrived, loving every minute of the nature-inspired celebration. The summer solstice occurred (for my area) last month, and I still delight in the fact that people all over the world take a moment to recognize what is truly an occurrence outside of ourselves.
We can call it “the first day of summer” or “the longest day of the year” (or the shortest, depending on what hemisphere you live in!), we can mark the time that the sun hits its northernmost point in our skies, but the earth spins in its orbit around the sun whether we are tracking it with minutes, days and years or not.
There is something about our collective acknowledgement of these seasonal occurrences that moves something in me. It’s not just the recognition of something larger than ourselves, it is the connection that, no matter who we are or where we live, we all share relationships with things like nature, the seasons, the skies.
Our environments may not be the same, our seasons, like the divide between the hemispheres, may be polar opposites, but we all experience together the effects on our lives of these things that, unlike calendars or clocks, are not of human construction. This in turn reminds me of our greater human connections, the basic qualities that transcend culture and speak to what is the same in all of us.
It is an important thing to be reminded of, one that I work at trying to be conscious of on all the days of the year, not just the ones with the minimum or maximum (or equal) amounts of sunlight. When we recognize what is human in all of us, we recognize people as just that, people, not necessarily enemies or adversaries.
It can be hard to do, especially because fear and mistrust are among the human characteristics we all share. There is so much more that we share though, and it is the forgetting of this common human core that leads to the things like fear and apathy.
We have a beautiful picture book in our house about people all over the world. It begins with the author naming all the differences the reader might find when traveling over our globe and encountering all of its different cultures. Then it offers the reader these words,
“Joys are the same and love is the same, pain is the same and blood is the same, smiles are the same and hearts are just the same, wherever they are, wherever you are, wherever we are, all over the world.”
I have not yet been able to read those words out loud without choking up; they are a succinct and perfect way of summing up the essential truth of our humanity. When we look at a stranger and are able to see a reflection of ourselves, we do more than share understanding and empathy with another. We remind ourselves of the connection, as well, that we all have to one another, the connection that allows us, spinning through space on a lonely little chunk of rock, to feel less alone.