Today, June 21, 2017, is the summer solstice–the traditional (and astronomical) beginning of summer in the northern hemisphere, and the longest day of the year above the equator and shortest below. I’ve always been amazed at the degree to which this simple astronomical event is hard-wired into human culture and the human past. The photo at the top of this article was taken this morning at Stonehenge in England, and though it depicts a modern man who lives in the 21st century, the link to our ancient ancestors–who greeted the summer sun on June 21 thousands of years ago just as this man did today–is very clear. From the people of the ancient British isles who built Stonehenge, to Egyptians, Mayans, Greeks, Romans and the people of urban and rural walks of life today, the solstice has been a cause for reflection, celebration, ritual and meaning since the very first humans began to notice the motions of the sun, moon and stars. And, as a species, that was one of the very first things we ever noticed.
There are many things that trouble us, the human species, at the beginning of this new summer of 2017, most of them human-caused problems: climate change is undoubtedly the biggest, but we continue to face age-old problems of war, poverty, income inequality, disease and racism. But through all these human problems and how they play out, the Earth and the stars continue their primeval rhythms, and the eternal nature of those rhythms speaks to the eternal in all of us. So whether you’re lighting a bonfire and dancing around it naked tonight, or doing the whole “Netflix and chill” thing, spend a few moments thinking about those ancient motions of the cosmos that make today a special one, if only a little. Happy summer solstice!