It’s Sunday, and I woke up at 6:00am for fun.
Actually, I’m trying to add some intention to my daily life. So I did wake up early. I woke up to watch the sunrise, and it was awesome.
At 6:00am, I pulled on a sweater and shoes, made a latte in the kitchen, and headed out in the dark to my front porch, to sit, observe, and contemplate the sunrise. I was apprehensive at first. Since I had decided last night to do this, I thought, Am I crazy for waking up early on the weekend? This is my last day to sleep in, since work starts again tomorrow. But as soon as I stepped out the door into the darkness, I was immersed in the cool air and a sea of crickets and robins singing. That’s when I got excited.
I put in headphones and listened to the “View from Above” meditation from Stoicism Today. I imagined observing myself, little old me, with my cozy sweater and boots, and messed up hair, sitting on the porch with a cup of coffee in hand. I looked to the neighbor houses, most of which were dark and sleepy, but one or two houses had a light on inside. Signs of stirring in other homes? Other people live in those homes, and they are living human lives just like me. I imagined observing what might be going on in their homes (not creepily; more like an Ebeneezer Scrooge kind of way). Is someone else enjoying an early morning coffee and a book in solitude, before the kids wake up? I saw birds fluttering about from tree to tree, to street light, to the yard. A perfect spiderweb hooked from the hanging plant to the porch railing, with the spider in the glow of the streetlight, awaiting any insect who might make a mistake. I share this earth with so much other life.
Suddenly, in an instant, the sun rose. The street light went out and the sky was aglow. What is time? We measure time in hours, days, years. We stress about time, but, objectively, time is really just us counting our movement around the sun. Why, no, how can it be possible to stress about something that is as natural and indifferent as grass growing, or a cricket chirping? Wow, the human mind really attaches connotations to everything; even natural events that have no inherent meaning.
By that time, the guided meditation had finished, so I locked the front door and walked a block east to a small neighborhood park near my house, one block closer to the sunrise. The street was silent. All around me was silence, except for the sounds of nature. The park was empty except for robins which were comfortably flying down from the large tree to pick juicy worms from the earth. No children played on the playground. But there was evidence that a spectacle of life is going on all around—gum stuck to the top of the trash can. A tiny stuffed toy dog left strewn on the park bench. I sat down next to it.
Above me, clouds—blocking the rest of that sunrise! Is it just one cloud? No, the whole sky is covered. So much for watching the rest of the sunrise. But you know, it’s not cloudy everywhere. I’m trying to watch a sunrise, but somewhere on earth, there’s a sunset, and it’s probably so brilliant that someone is wearing sunglasses to look at it. Imagine, if my whole city can be under cloud cover, how big is the earth, that billions of people aren’t hidden under a cloud at this moment? And beyond the cloud, the sun is still shining; it still rose, whether I can see it or not.
One thing that struck me from the guided meditation is that my human body is so small and insignificant. It’s only capable of being in one place—like sitting with bedhead on my front porch. But the human mind, the imagination, is capable of stretching as big as the cosmos! Just ponder that for a second. What does that imply about the human mind? About our purpose? Goals? Virtue?
I walked back to my house, looked around at the yard, the street, and neighboring houses, took a couple of deep breaths of the sweet morning air, and went back inside the quiet house, ready to sit down with Epictetus.