Solstice means “sun standing still;” the sun stopping amidst the growing darkness and against the rapid pulse of relentless time. The sun stands still in the tracks of darkness before beginning to grow the days back to light. The essence of the solstice involves stopping, even if only for a moment. The sense of solstice for us So, we stop as the sun stops, the way one’s heart can stop at a crucial moment, then begin life in a new way.
All the history of holidays, the songs of “silent night, holy night,” the pleas for peace on earth as well as the instinct to celebrate in the face of winter refer to the hidden, cosmic moment when the sun stops in time, just before the darkness becomes too great to recover from. Holidays come from “holy days” that once represented a time separate from the daily march of time. Holy days stopped the rule of secular time in order to allow timelessness to enter the human realm and make things whole and holy again. Only timelessness can renew the daily world where time ever marches on and waits for no man. Only timelessness can renew the world from its own darkness and allow the light to return again.
Most ancient cultures imagined that the sun needed some conscious help from humans in order to avoid being swallowed by the great darkness that ever nips at the edges of life. So, people fashioned festivals of light in the very depths of winter and sang and danced in order to assist the turning over of the world. In the instinctive, intuitive sense of sympathetic magic, everything from a single candle to a huge fire could be offered to assist in the effort to bring the light of spirit and soul back from the far reaches of eternal darkness.
Even now, albeit mostly unwittingly; people wrap their houses in displays of electric light. Many bring trees inside and brighten them with decorations that include stars as if to bring the ever restorative energy of Nature close and join in the essential renewal of the world. Even the repetitious drama of “bowl games” unconsciously reflects the old battle between the forces of light and of darkness. The old year cannot die off or the new year officially begin unless the opposition/correlation between darkness and light be enacted in culture at the same time that it replays in the greater fields of Nature.
The solstice presents an archetypal condition of the world that also reflects a capacity within the human soul to assist in the renewal of life. Even in the midst of the highly commercialized exchange of gifts, people enact a remembrance of the gift of life which itself is a light secretly burning within each soul. Rituals of gift-giving once carried the intent of encouraging the finding and giving of the inner gifts that each soul brings to the world. For, each soul harbors an “inner sun,” a deep and giving self that is also a light found inside the darkness.
There may be no better time than the “dark times” we find ourselves in to rekindle the instinct for uniting together and expressing love and generosity. At the close of a tragic and troubling year the soul’s capacity to stop in time and touch the holiness and stillness of life waits to be found. Solstice presents the time to stand still with the hidden sun, Christmas presents the hidden light as the divine child, New Year’s offers renewal through “out with the old, in with the new. The darkest time is the exact time to share the gift of life and add some warmth and love to the soul of the world as it pivots again towards the light. May the darkness season us and make us ready for the light trying to grow from with our own souls and from the Soul of the World.
FINDING GENIUS IN YOUR LIFE - On this inspiring recording Michael Meade introduces the idea of a “resident spirit of the soul” that tries to awaken and reveal our calling in life and the mythic story trying to enter the world through each of us.
We live in extreme times when tragedies abound and even a comic movie can provoke terrorist threats. On one hand, everyone is interconnected through the world-wide-web; on the other hand, the fault lines that divide people keep growing wider. While people are aggressively hacking the web and “fracking” the earth the ice of the protective polar caps keeps breaking apart and melting. It is hard not to notice that the cracks in the world keep getting bigger as everything seems to be either threatened or threatening.
The cracks in the human heart also grow deeper as children are mercilessly massacred in schools by deranged individuals and by those claiming to serve a higher purpose. Schoolgirls are kidnapped and enslaved by armies and college students slain by drug cartels. Unarmed youth are shot down by those sworn to protect and serve others, while some claiming to uphold the ideals of freedom defend the tactics of torture. People protest and plead with lawmakers and leaders to do something to bring even a momentary sense of justice to a world falling apart at the seams.
While anguishing over reports of both cultural and natural tragedies I keep thinking of the old Japanese practice of kintsugi or “golden repair.” The idea behind this ancient ceramic art includes the sense that when something valuable cracks or breaks it should be repaired carefully and lovingly in a way that adds to its value. Thus, the cracks and fault lines in a valuable bowl would be filled with a lacquer made of resin containing powdered gold. Such a golden repair does not try to cover up the cracks in the vessel or deny the facts of the matter. Rather, the cracks and splits and broken places become filled with gold. Beauty appears exactly where the worst faults previously existed and the golden scars add to the living story and to the value of the container.
As a piece of “living philosophy,” golden repair suggests redemptive practices through which the damages of history and the tragic mistakes we make with the fragile vessels of both nature and culture might be repaired. Like any genuine process of healing and making whole again, golden repair requires that we first acknowledge and carefully study the exact faults and divisions that damage the shared vessels of our lives. If we see the globe of the earth as a living, sacred vessel that needs artful repairs we might imagine ways of helping it heal. If we could admit more readily to the tragic injuries that divide one group from another we could replace the bloody damages with golden lines that serve to remind us of the fragility of life as well as the possibilities of repairing shattered dreams and redeeming broken lives.
The bowl of the earth is large and the deep fractures left by the weight of history are too great for any single idea or practice to repair it all. The wounds to the heart of humanity are too extensive and grievous for any single belief or ideology to heal it all. Yet, the mythical sense that the darkest times can produce a golden light of renewal permeates most religious visions and gives us countless practices and traditions that include Hannukah and Christmas, Solstice and Festivals of Light and New Year celebrations of all kinds. The instinct to gather together in the season of darkness and in the times of tragedy is ultimately deeper and greater than the fault lines that form on the surface of the bowl of life.
Gold is hidden in dark places and that which is golden inside people is more valuable and ultimately more enduring than all the surface differences and divisions that cause the cracks in culture and the biting divisions of life. Everyone gets wounded in this world and everyone has within them some golden qualities that can serve to heal the wounds of time and the traumatic effects of human tragedy.
Golden repair depends upon a realization that there is something valuable and essentially beautiful that is worth preserving and sharing. It requires an understanding that beauty and truth are golden lines that can appear in the cracks of this world, in places where culture and nature collide and where people tragically divide. It is easier to adopt the tactics of terrorists than to stand for beauty and truth and the possibility of freedom here on earth. It is easier to vote out of fear and confusion to further arm all elements of society and pretend that safety and trust will somehow be preserved.
Because each person has some golden qualities and a unique genius to bring to the world, each has the capacity to do some golden repair. Because the troubles of the world have grown so great and encompass both culture and nature, each person can find a crack nearby that can be turned into a golden seam. Golden repair is needed in all the communities where tragedy has torn people apart, in all the places where trust has been shattered, where justice has been denied, where the earth has been ripped open and blindly exploited, where the healing presence of great forests have been turned into broad, unholy scars.
As the world around us seems to grow darker and more threatening we can either hide in terror or turn to the work at hand and find a crack that needs tending or a gap that needs healing. The practice of golden repair can begin wherever old wounds divide people; but also where the increasing tragedies of violence and suicide leave people broken in spirit and at odds with the underlying beauty of life. What we now call “holidays” were once holy days intended to bring a sense of wholeness and light in the times of greatest darkness. Like golden repair, the effort to make the world beautiful and holy was not based upon covering up the wounds of life or denying the damage done to the world. There may be no better time to turn towards each other and to face the cracks in the world than the present moment when the world needs so much healing and repair.
The aim of Mosaic’s Genius Project is to bring deeply encouraging ideas of the unique genius seeded in each person into mainstream culture. We seek to awaken and inspire the great diversity of human genius and resiliency at all levels of education and in a variety of creative endeavors. The sense that each person, regardless of social status, ethnic background or sexual orientation has “inner genius” and something significant to contribute to the world has practical benefits at both the individual and cultural levels.
As the troubles of the world intensify it is useful to know that the greatest gifts often dwell near the deepest harm and that genius hides behind the wound. As the philosopher Horace put it over two thousand years ago, “Adversity reveals genius, prosperity conceals it.” Awakening the genius within each individual opens surprising paths to personal fulfillment; but also leads to innovative ways to solve the increasing number of problems we face as a global society.
Genius has the root meaning of “the spirit that is already there.” As such it points to the inner uniqueness and natural giftedness that enters the world with each person born. When seen as a cohering thread in each life, inner genius serves to weave together a person’s innate talents and abilities while also revealing one’s purpose in life. If people are to find creative ways of living together and healing both culture and nature, the awakening of individual genius may be the deepest and most imaginative way to approach the seemingly impossible tasks that face contemporary cultures.
NEW DIMENSIONS RADIO - Listen as Michael Meade explores the importance of inner genius as a source of purpose and resiliency for both youth and elders facing a rapidly changing world.
Listen to the complete interview at New Dimensions Radio
The Nature of Genius brings the power of mythic imagination to the issue of the uniqueness of the human soul and the natural giftedness of each person. It redefines genius, challenges common ideas of education and places the issues of human meaning and purpose in the middle of the debates over the condition and of the world.
You can also watch the complete Stanford University video (1 hour 22 minutes).
Mosaic’s Genius Project aims at re-imagining education as a process that goes beyond basic instruction and socialization to a deeper effort that helps to reveal the inner genius in each child and every student. Genius-based education naturally leads to life-long learning and practices that develop “olders” into elders. Rather than retiring from life, awakened elders become the guardians of meaningful education as well as the protectors of cultural wisdom.
Our intention is to Invite – Inspire – Instruct and serve an ever-growing network of individuals and groups that are applying, teaching and living from the idea that each person is gifted in some way and that each of us has something to offer their community in this critical time of radical change and global unrest.
©2014 Mosaic Multicultural Foundation