Hail to You, o people of the internet. The DA journal was stale, so I just blatantly copy-pasted here my latest blog entry.
Saturday, 20 February 2010
It´s been a while since the last post. I started the blog with the best intentions, then life happened and here we are, a solid month and a half from our first acquaintance. Now that you are all rant-starved it is time for a new dose, although a mild one.
I am not that moody today, for some reason. It could be the massive viral infection that got me back to bed on Friday, just after I thought I had recovered from a cold. Bad season for health, I guess, which fits nicely in what you will read below, come to think of it.
Thoughts on the Sun and paganism
This place got me thinking. I know this might come as a surprise to those of you that have known me for a while, but it is exactly what happened. I have been recovering from a damn virus all week, and I am still feeling weak and mushy. This, and the weather outside, have turned into a sick joke which is not funny anymore. Not a hint of the sun, if not for the occasional flash that darts through the low clouds ceiling. Wait, why the plural? It is not clouds we are talking here. It "A" cloud. It is one, and it seamlessly stretches over the whole town. A huge blanket, several kilometers wide, low and heavy. It must be quite a sight from the upper atmosphere, this one cloud over Berlin, a tiny blotch of grey water hovering just a few inches off the surface (more like a thousand meters, but if you look at it from afar, it really is just a skin tight film of moisture, snowflakes and thunders....).
However, occasionally the sun showed us his face again (or her face, if you are a hard-core Tolkien fan) over the last week and a half. Now, when you live in a place kissed by the sun most of the year, you almost welcome a bit of shade. Winters become but a short intermission, when you can reflect, kick back a little bit, stay at home if you wish, enjoy the comfort of a warm house and the presence of the loved ones, snug up in blankets and all the cozy stuff that an average CocaCola commercial will throw at you between November and February (also, I believe I am going to gag just by re-reading the line above).
If it snows a bit, like it happened in Porto Torres last week after 24 years of no snow, it becomes in fact the stuff of wonders, with people rushing out to take shots of the snow capped shore and the crisp blue sky just before the snow melts without annoying anyone. A quick visit, to pay her respects to a long lost friend, and she is gone. So, all in all, you never really lose hope, that spring may come and bring the sun again, and eventually summer. In a place like the Mediterranean, eventually, you give some thought to what the sun can actually be.
Well, after 2500 years of calculations, philosophy and the occasional nose dives into barbarity (ironically coinciding with when the Roman Catholic church held sway over Europe) we have all come to the agreement that the following is the truth, at least until disproved, and only on the material side of things.
Awesome though the figures might sound, the sun is a ball (well, sort of, kinda flat at the top, a bit like a clay vase on a lathe) made of Hydrogen and a splash of Helium, with smidgens of a bunch of other elements (though in the sun's 0,0030 % Iron there is probably enough ore to coat the whole Earth in full plates, ten meters thick). Yes, it is big, but only relatively. It takes about 1.3 million Earths to fill it. Puny, compared to other stars. Hot? 15 million Kelvin... I am sure there is hotter stuff out there. You put the sun into proportion, and it becomes just a star, one of the billions of stars that shed light, give off heat and radiation, projects a gravity well and stuff. It was born, when the a cloud of gas and dust collapsed under its own gravity some 4,5 billion years ago, sparking a fusion reaction that still kicks it, and it will eventually die, in just about the same time, becoming a cold shapeless rock in the immensity of vacuum.
...if you happen to be so lucky as to spend the winter in Berlin, you might see things under a different light. All your science, and all your numbers are always there, one wiki away, to comfort you, but they can go only so far against what your senses tell you when you look out of the window or when you leave your flat. It is not just a matter of cold. It is a matter of light. In other places it gets just as cold as here, but you do get the crisp blue skies. It is in fact even colder, because the lack of clouds makes what little heat there is happily leave the ground, so it is all right in direct sunlight but deadly freezing in the shade. But the sun is there, up in the sky, yellow and bright, bringing up the happiness chemicals through your very skin.
So it is no wonder that so many people imagined the end of the world to happen at the end of a long, enchanted, bewitched winter. Fimbulwiter, they called it, and it would last the length of three years, at the end of which Ragnarok, the Gotterdamerung, the Twilight of the Gods would happen, and everything would have to be trashed and incinerated before starting over with a new cycle.
I am trying to stretch my imagination back in time, and as I am feeling increasingly happy about the return of the sun, I remember distinctly how its lack was gradually turning my soul into a dull shade of gray. Now, what must have been before all the numbers and all the science, before the compasses and the telescopes and the algebra and the understanding that came with time, for those who faced winter here? Who would assure them that sun would eventually return? Would you feel lucky and take chances, or would you go out of your way, doing everything you could think of, to increase the chances of seeing spring again? Back then, with no safety net whatsoever, when everything depended on a timely cycle of winter and spring, a week´s delay could mark the difference between life and death by starvation. There would be no sick leave, or HR department to tell you that according to law XYZ you can excuse yourself from ploughing the land, fever or not. No heating in the apartment, no surplus food.
Now, in the secularized XXI century, I found myself asking "when will it end?". I found myself craving for the light, for the radiation, for the feeling of warmed skin, for the blue of the sky, for a glimpse of waters that flow unhindered by ice. Well past the stage of "nature is resting before it can blossom again", I just wanted it all to end, and end soon.
I wonder what it must have been to see the light again, to wait for hope and relief from beyond that vast cloud, come March, after endless weeks of uncertainty. I wonder how could one not greet the returning Sun as a full blown Deity, mercifully bathing the lands of men with its healing light, the heat fending off for a few months the demons of Winter.
Now, as I am recovering from the flu and other nasty ailments, I peek out of the window and see that on February 20, 2010, the sky is blue again. Just a few arc-seconds off the skyline, I cannot help but asking myself "should I offer a sacrifice to that"? Well, never mind that, I am just glad it´s finally over...
Listening to: humdrum
Reading: Snorri´s Prose Edda
Watching: A clotheshorse
Eating: white rice :(