Bright Lights, Dark Days: Joys of the Winter Solstice

Northern Hemisphere of Earth (Lambert Azimutha...

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While the science of genetics proves we all (yes, we all) originated in and around the Great Lakes region of Sub-Saharan Africa, time and migration have scattered humankind around the globe and somewhat given us a northern hemisphere outlook.

Along with the evolution of a common darker skin to a broader spectrum from jet black to pale opaque, our human migration patterns gave us a north of the equator, Northern Hemisphere bias. Older great/ big cities of the world? Mostly northern; Mumbai, Beijing, Rome, London, New York City, Tokyo, Shanghai, Mexico City, Cairo, Istanbul – you get the picture. Mostly northern.

And with the northern living bias comes colder November – February weather that accompanies it. Unless your forefathers and foremothers were fortunate to migrate to someplace like the Mediterranean or the southern coast of India, winter was cold. Average high temperature for Beijing in January? 28F. London? 44F. Rome? 54F. Tokyo? 48F. Cold.

Combined with the earth’s seasonal change in its axis, the November-February period has shorter periods of daylight, with the darkest day in the northern hemisphere occurring around December 22nd. People in the colder northern climates  did what all of us would have done; they stayed indoors more, slept and rested. They also partied to mark the darkest period of the year.

While Christians co-opted the date and season to form Christmas, this time around the Winter Solstice was more than just a Yule celebration. It was time to take things easy (since there wasn’t much else to do in the daylight shortened days), and take downtime. Summer, with longer daylight hours and lots to do would eventually arrive. For the generations who lived in the northern climates it was time of rest.

The experience, the lesson of taking things easy and slow, has been lost for many of us today.

The bright lights, instant information access, and a life shaped by all that electricity can give us has obviated our need to hunker down in abundant dark.

The need to take downtime has not changed; it was important for many humans of the northern hemisphere eons ago as a respite against the burden of  climate and cold. It’s important today to let the dizzying pace of the world that many of us live to slow down, to take it easy, and give us a chance to replenish our heart, head and soul.

So Merry Christmas, Happy Yule, or just plain Good Tidings for the Winter Solstice. It’s the season to be jolly, and to also to get some rest.

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.

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