During a small online music and poetry event yesterday, we were asked to reflect on the past year. Funny thing is, despite all the emotional art, writing and creative work I do, I'm actually not the sentimental type. I live quite firmly in the present and don't feel much need to reflect on a past year. Yet, when the question was asked, a very clear image immediately popped into my mind: the moon, two stars and the planet Venus in the night sky over the Amsterdam canals. It opened my eyes to everything.
I'm a bit of stoic. I don't feel much of a need to celebrate my birthday, go all-out on Christmas 'happiness', share my feelings after a meditation session or cry on New Years Eve because 'this terrible year' is finally over. Don't get me wrong, I totally understand why people do the stuff they do and feel the way they feel around those special moments in the year! It's just that I'm dealing with lots of feelings in my day job already. I process them as I go. So, with those emotional landmark moments, I don't have much to contribute anymore. Usually, I just want to get those predetermined emotional moments over with, so I can go back to creating surprising ones.
This year that is of course a little harder to do. But my emotional take on 2020 is actually very different than that of most people: I have not experienced this year as a bad year.
Actually, mine was very good. And from Earth's perspective, it was simply phenomenal. As I write this, I am of course knocking on wood. Quite literally. I'm acutely aware of what an incredibly rough year many of us have had, and I wish and hope and pray that my loved ones, and also myself, will stay safe and healthy. And if I were in the shoes of many of my friends, especially those working in health care, I'd be crying a waterfall when the bells strike twelve times and we've landed in 2021. And just so we're clear, when those bells toll, I will be thinking of two loved ones I've lost this year.
Yet I've experienced a paradox. This whole year seems stooped in darkness to me. But not all of it was a bad kind of darkness. Yes, there was a icy cold gloom. But in many ways, there was also a warm kind of dark. I have witnessed beauty in a profound and utterly divine way, that had alluded me for a very long time. And it taught me a lesson so great and so bright, it was chiseled into my memory. It's this:
In March, during the first hushed weeks of lock down here in The Netherlands, at the edge of night and morning, I saw a big bright full moon on the left, standing closely next to an exceptionally clear Venus to the right, complemented by two super light stars above and below it, outside of my window overlooking the deserted Amsterdam canals, whose waters were so silent and flat, it allowed the celestial image to be reflected on it, as if conjured up by magic.
In that period, there were no airplanes in the sky. For the first time ever living in Amsterdam, the sky was truly clear. No extra dust particles, no pollution. Just sky. This meant we could see the stars and other celestial bodies as clear as you would on the salt flats of South America, barring a good deal of light pollution of course. In short, it was nothing short of incredible.
The reason I saw it was my irregular sleeping pattern at the time. Of course, all of our normal life rhythms had been thrown in complete disarray. And I experienced the sort of existential anxiety that comes with large scale threats to human life, that are so overwhelming you need a good deal of time to process them and make sense of them in your mind. In other words; I couldn't sleep.
And that's when the lesson came in: only in the deepest darkness, can you truly appreciate the brightness of the light. And I don't just mean that in a more sentimental, more spiritual, or poetic way. I mean it very literally: because we weren't polluting the sky, I was mesmerized by nature's beauty in my own city.
And it makes you think doesn't it. Why wouldn't I be mesmerized by nature's beauty in my own city every night? It reminds me of how far away we've moved from real jungles by building concrete ones, and how damaging that can be for both our planet and ourselves. Just seeing that image of moon, planet and stars made me instantly, in a fraction of a microsecond, reconnect to my emotional animal inside.
And it felt good. Real good. And it moved me to create. Including this very website you are on right now.
So, that's the thought I wanted to leave you with: the darker things get, the clearer the brightness becomes. That's the whole story. It seems to me that humankind desperately needed a moment of deep, deep darkness to reconnect with the light. Or even being able to see the light in the first place. We've been moving away from nature for such a long time... something had to give.
I sincerely, from the very bottom of my heart, hope that for you my dear reader, it did not take too much this past year. And if it did, I wish you peace. So now yes, for once, I'll break tradition and I'll be sentimental around New Years Eve. Be warned though, when I go sentimental... I go all out into waterfall territory. So, here goes nothing... this is my wish:
I wish for you to see light.
Happy New Year. Love, as always. And for the love of God, plant those trees people. Plant those trees and check out my book The Whole Story - The Ultimate Guide to Storytelling here !!!