Tonight is the longest night of the year in the northern hemisphere and the longest day in the southern hemisphere. Usually on the northern hemisphere’s winter solstice I write about my experience in Maine, where the darkest night also represents the turning of the year toward light.

This year, perhaps because I’ve been conversing regularly with a couple of people in Australia and New Zealand who read my blog, I’m struck by how limited my solstice message is each year. I’ve really just been writing for those in the North above a certain latitude. Not only are my musings not applicable to the temperate South, they also don’t mean much nearer the equator where most people in the world live. Their days are relatively stable, hovering around half night and half day. The metaphors of entering the darkness and bringing light don’t carry much power.

I’ve always been struck by the fact that the light immediately returns after the winter solstice and immediately ebbs after the summer solstice. Just as summer begins, with its promise of luxuriously long days and nights that go on and on, it is in fact growing darker; and just as winter begins, with its promise of cold and dark, it is in fact growing lighter.

And what this reminds me of, that I hope is applicable to everyone, everywhere on this solstice, is that things are far more intricate than they seem. Longest day/longest night – these are the extremes that mark the vastly larger, more complex, more nuanced life that lies between the poles. Yet it seems that we humans so often cling to those poles, defining ourselves, casting our vote, throwing our lot in with those who profess often simplistic either/ors. We are surrounded by these simplicities, whether they come in the form of partisan politics, diet fads and health regimens, religious dogmas, or economic absolutes. Too often they lead us away from wise solutions to our challenges.

And so my solstice wish for humanity is this: Let us remember that the extremes of longest day/longest night happen only twice every year and that the solutions to our myriad problems will be found in our muddy, complicated, daily world by those who are willing to listen, learn, explore and think deeply and creatively, rather than attach themselves to the loud and obvious absolutes that we humans are so prone to notice and cling to, to our great peril.

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
My TEDx talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach

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