A Ritual Urge

I am keeping vigil for the sun. It is a simple act. Every year, on the solstice night, I stay up through the dark hours, and come daylight, I eat an orange that for a moment I hold to the sky.

Let’s not lie. Most years, not each year. Some years I get grouchy, and give up, “What use is this?” Some years I fall asleep, just before lighting the candle that will keep vigil in my stead. And some years are like this, when I work the first part of the night, and am alone deep into the wee hours, knowing I’ll make it.

Despite the fact that I have no literal belief in any deity, despite the fact that my religious leanings are purely poetic, I find power in this ritual. There is something that is for me correct in marking the seasons, in syncing with the dirtball on which I was born and live and toil and will die. I call it my ritual urge.

I am not alone in this. A few no-longer-Catholic friends tell me that even though they do not believe in god as such, do not believe in the dogmas of the church, that they find something peaceful and beautiful in the mass. I can see why. It is not true of everyone. But I do think humans have a general urge to mark off, to make special. Weddings. Graduations. Award ceremonies. The lighting of the effigy at Burning Man.

Perhaps it is not universal, but it is vast. People making events do a lot of work, standing in for other ideas. Taking on extra meanings. What does it mean when you don a black gown, and receive a piece of paper? What does it mean when the desert is awash with EL wire, and we dance with fire hurtling about our bodies? What does it mean?

Tonight is no different. I am keeping vigil for the sun. It is a simple act. Come morning, I will pull the light up from the bottom of a well, from the bottom of the night with a kiss and an orange. These mean many things.

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