Halfway Out of the Dark

“On every world, wherever people are, in the deepest part of the winter, at the exact mid-point, everybody stops and turns and hugs. As if to say, ‘Well done. Well done, everyone! We’re halfway out of the dark.’”

Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol

Today is the Winter Solstice. In years past, you might have found me at a Secular Solstice celebration this past weekend. On its surface, a Solstice celebration looks like a church’s Christmas service; we light candles, sing songs, and tell a story. But the story we tell isn’t the birth of a savior. It’s a story of human progress.

Once upon a time, the coming of winter meant cold and darkness and death. Lives were snuffed out before their time because we weren’t strong enough to save them. And so we created light and warmth and medicine, to make the night a little less dark and a little less cold. Now winter is a time of celebration rather than misery, and that fact alone makes me marvel at how far we’ve come.

Today, life feels a little more fragile than it did a year ago. Someone I loved missed the ship. As of this writing, 1.7 million of our loved ones have missed the ship just as a result of Covid-19. 2020 has been a grim reminder that the universe is still a dangerous place, that we still have much to learn, that we must still work faster.

But it’s not for nothing that in only 8 months, we created a vaccine or three that (with a little luck) can neutralize Covid-19 for good. And that is enough to make me hope. Hope that we are halfway out of the dark of this pandemic. Hope that our collective will and ingenuity can take us the rest of the way. And hope that we will prevail against the challenges to come.

I did not attend a Solstice celebration this year, although I know of at least one that was held virtually. Nonetheless, I will almost certainly attend next year. If this idea interests you, I invite you to join me in New York.

In any case, happy winter to all, however you celebrate. We’re halfway out of the dark.

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