Summer Solstice. The longest day of the year. A full day’s work, an enjoyable meal with the Lovely Lady and our son, and a longish bicycle trek to close out the elongated daylight hours–all of these seemed to be an eminently satisfactory way to spend the first day of Summer.
But, a chance comment by my son as we ate together threw cold water on the enthusiasm I was feeling for the day. It was not his intent to discourage me; it was just a chance observation. As I spoke about the longest day of the year, he said quietly, “It’s still twenty-four hours long, you know.” I threw back a retort about my words meaning that the daylight hours were stretched out, to which he chuckled and responded, “I knew exactly what you meant, Dad.”
It strikes me that the young man is a lot like me. A lifelong stickler for saying what I mean, it seems that I taught him well the intricacies of using the language effectively, perhaps too well. I am not unhappy about it. While he is definitely his own man, I enjoy seeing the ways in which he mirrors his upbringing. That said, he has burst my balloon about this day, which has the longest period of daylight in the year.
I need to think about this.
Twenty-four hours. The number of hours in every day. The time it takes for this huge sphere on which we reside to rotate one time on its axis. Day. Night. It has always been the same. Twenty-four hours, over and over, one day following another. Never more; never less. I’m sure that some of the more scientifically minded among us will argue that there are minute variations, but essentially, twenty-four hours is the period of time we accept as the limit for a full day.
I sit here, and my mind boggles as I attempt to do the mental arithmetic. No, I’m not trying to work out the number of days I’ve lived on this ball of earth and water. I could quickly calculate that number with an easily available computer program. I’m thinking about the time I have wasted in all of those days, the hours lost to me forever. To come up with a number would be more than I could manage. Most of the days are altogether lost to my memory; how could I even begin to enumerate the worthwhile minutes and hours, or the squandered ones? It is a lost cause.
Ah well. It is for the best, perhaps. Seldom is it a profitable exercise to keep score of the past. If the results are such that we revel in them, we become proud and boast in our accomplishments, losing sight of the present in which we walk today or the future into which we must assay to step tomorrow. At the same time, if the sum of our past endeavors reveals a disastrous result, we may tumble to the depths of guilt and be eaten up with self-reproach. The practical effect is nearly the same; paralyzed by the weight of the guilt, we will be unable to move productively into the future which lies directly ahead.
No. Such mental gymnastics will lead me to no good end. I stop my attempts to cipher out the past and consider what comes next.
Yes. There it is. Again. Twenty-four hours. A new day stretches out, untouched, before me. True, it won’t be the longest day of the year. That too is gone now, beyond recall. I refuse to waste another minute of the present or of the future weeping about the past. That, at the least, is a poor use of the time still remaining. One step after another, I resolve to use the minutes, the hours, indeed the days, to good purpose.
Perhaps we all need to leave the past behind and step in the unsullied future, determining to utilize every smidgen of the time we are granted by a good and loving Creator. He hasn’t left us alone to figure out how to walk, either. His words leave no doubt that there is always a guide and a light for the path ahead.
I’m just now realizing the full import of our conversation at supper, now many hours past. Having longer daylight hours also means that the hours of this night will be fewer, doesn’t it? Sleep is calling. I’ll answer soon.
Twenty-four hours are still ahead. I’ll be ready.
“He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.”
“Swift as a shadow, short as any dream; Brief as the lightning in the collied night…”
(From “A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream” by William Shakespeare~English poet~1564-1616)
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© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2013. All Rights Reserved.