Midsummer's Lust for Life


Image Source: Fides via Gnawing Bones.

Today marks the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, at 5:04 a.m. UT, the longest day of the year. In the planet's northernmost cities, the sun sets around 10 p.m. locally today (in Helsinki, sunset occurs at 10:50 p.m.), while in the southernmost cities, sunset is around 4 p.m. (Ushuaia's sunset occurs at 5:12 p.m. today) and Antarctica is shrouded in darkness.

Midsummer celebrations once culminated with the Christian feast day on June 24 (six months before Christmas) of the Nativity of John the Baptist. Before that, the solstice featured pre-Christian and pagan bonfire celebrations, which still occur and stretch back to Neolithic times.

Traditionally in northern climes, Midsummer is a season of dreams, illusions and enchantment, the pleasant side of delusion. Astrologer Rob Brezsny recently made a comment that suits the spirit of Shakespeare's famous comedy from the 1590s. Appearances are deceiving when it comes to love and magic. But part of the charm of this time of year is believing in those illusions, however briefly:
"I was often in love with something or someone," wrote Polish poet Czesław Miłosz. "I would fall in love with a monkey made of rags. With a plywood squirrel. With a botanical atlas. With an oriole. With a ferret. With the forest one sees to the right when riding in a cart. With human beings whose names still move me." Your task ... is to [s]ee how often you can feel adoration for unexpected characters and creatures. Be infatuated with curious objects . . . with snarky Internet memes . . . with fleeting phenomena like storms and swirling flocks of birds and candy spilled on the floor. Your mission is to supercharge your lust for life.
William Shakespeare's play involves love, discord and magic around the marriage of the Duke of Athens, Theseus, and the Queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta; the plot is described here.
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