Zoe Weil wrote this post for Psychology Today, which we’re sharing with you today. We hope that you are safe and healthy and wish you happy holidays.
I am writing from my home in the northeasternmost state in the U.S. as Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, approaches. There sure is a lot of darkness right now, both the literal darkness of long nights, and the metaphorical darkness of the raging COVID-19 pandemic and all its awful impacts. Light cannot come soon enough.
If you live in the southern hemisphere, however, it’s Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. In Australia and New Zealand, COVID cases are few, the air is warm, and life may be bright. If you live at or around the equator, however, where days and nights are of equal length year-round, the solstices have little meaning at all. Which is to say: so much depends upon one’s perspective.
For the vast majority of human history, we were unaware of the lives and realities of others outside of our group and region. We knew the people, animals, plants, and landscapes of the areas we personally inhabited, and that’s it. We had no idea that our longest day was someone else’s longest night; that our light was someone else’s darkness.
Today, we have the power to learn about virtually anything, and we can strive to understand the perspectives of others across the globe, even without actually meeting them. But while we can become aware of so many things – whether the wondrous lives of other species in the depths of the Pacific ocean or the garbage patch the size of Alaska floating on that same ocean – we may remain surprisingly ignorant of many of the essential things in our own lives.