Dedicated readers of this blog will recall that last year I wrote a post about my worries around going a bit nuts in the darkest part of the year. Well, I thought I should write a bit about how I am getting on.
You see, this year I haven’t suffered nearly as much from the chronic sleepiness or craziness that I have in previous years. And I think the reason why is straight out of my day job as an Alexander Technique teacher. I had a change in my point of view, and that has shifted everything for the better.
Like millions of others, for Christmas 2010 I watched the Doctor Who Christmas Special, that year entitled A Christmas Carol. It starred Michael Gambon as a Scrooge-like figure called Kazran Sardick, and began with a shot panning over a snowy Victorian-style streetscape covered by Kazran’s words in voiceover from Gambon:
“On every world, wherever people are, in the deepest part of winter, at the exact mid-point, everybody stops and turns and hugs. As if to say, ‘Well done, everyone! We’re halfway out of the dark.’ “
This simple line of dialogue caught my attention. I had never thought about the Winter Solstice like that before. I knew all about it, of course. I knew on a scientific level that it was the date when the sun’s maximum elevation in the sky is at its lowest, and therefore the hours of daylight are at their shortest. I knew that many cultures and religions celebrated this day. But it had never occurred to me that they were celebrating being halfway out of the dark.
Put simply, I had not linked together my scientific knowledge of solstices and my cultural knowledge. Nor had I linked in my personal experience of days getting shorter before the solstice, and then longer afterwards.
FM Alexander believed that the linking up of knowledge was vitally important. He said, “Knowledge is of little use in itself; it is the linking up of what we know with that which comes to us daily in the shape of new ideas and new experiences which is of value.”
Doctor Who script writer Steven Moffat gave me a new experience of the solstice, and it was the spur to me to link up all my bits of knowledge. On the day of the solstice, I had a little private celebration.
My experience of this winter is profoundly different to previous years. I have not gone crazy. Though I’m still struggling a bit to get up in the mornings, it isn’t as draining to my energy or my mood as in previous years. More interestingly, since the solstice I have been acutely conscious of the days getting longer. Every few days I rejoice in how much more daylight there is. I feel more in contact with nature.
The lesson to take from this? If you have a problem that feels intractable:
FM was right. Linking up knowledge is a good thing.