My friends and I were talking recently about Life, lived life, the personal life that each of us uniquely experiences. One wise woman in the group offered the insight that we seem to have spiritual tasks, life tasks, she called them, that define our work at various ages. Pursuing well each task in its due time is a secret to life’s fulfillment.
Over the past two weeks, I found this conversation weaving in and out of my thoughts, ultimately latching onto my musings about the moon. The moon’s passages and ours seem to reflect and reinforce each other.
In its first phase, the moon is new, diffident, gazing to the east from which it comes, backing into this world with its curved, closed edge leading the way, unsure of what it will find. Alone, on its own, it has to feel its way, all the while working on bulking up and filling out, gaining confidence and becoming itself as it cruises through the night sky.
(for a view of the moon’s phases, check out http://ganymede.nmsu.edu/tharriso/ast110/class05.html)
So too for us. Early childhood is when we separate from a source beyond our view. It is a time when we must most tend to our personal growth. It is when we are and should be the main characters of our personal narrative. We must concentrate on putting ourselves together, filling that space that is waiting for us to claim it, minding and crafting the “me” that will form the foundation of all we become. Being self-absorbed, to a reasonable degree, is our task. First with diffidence and then with growing confidence, we constantly probe for who we are, what we like, what we believe, testing and probing our edges.
In its second phase, the moon fills out, the concave expanding to convex, the maturing moon struggling to feel more confident, puffing up with a sense of self, strutting its stuff to attract attention, wondering what the others are thinking of it. A bit pock-marked, a bit awkward, the moon nonetheless begins to show signs of the beauty and quiet power it already possesses but still needs the confidence to fully own.
So too for us. This second phase of life is when we begin to fill out, come into our own, posture for place, work on a public face. We increasingly desire to be not alone but within the constellation of others. We become aware of others’ simultaneous strivings for place. We are not yet fully-formed but have enough of an idea of self that we can begin to imagine what we will ultimately look like, be like. We begin to shine with enough light to illuminate others as well as ourselves.
In its third phase, the moon is full, robust, confidently gathering others around it, hosting the now chattering stars in heaven’s timeless nocturnal confabulation. The moon is in its prime. Its markings, a source of embarrassment when young, now afford it distinguished identity. The magnificent, radiant, southern starburst is visible in its full glory, highlighted by the darker patches above.
So too for us. In the prime of our lives, we are full, robust. Our confidence and influence are at their peak. It is just now that we can accept our markings and scars, our limitations and weaknesses without the embarrassment of youth but rather as truths of a life fully explored and honestly engaged. We have done what we could, our faces brightened by our successes, such as they are. And in our light, made more radiant by the struggles we encountered along the way, we lead the way for others, and begin to plan the legacy we want to leave behind.
In its fourth phase, the moon dims. Though its energies diminish, it offers the promise of brightness in the coming dark times, reminding us that even a glimmer is enough to set our compass by. It teaches lessons of softness in a tough and harsh world. It travels toward its destiny face forward, carrying its dignity even as it weakens and wanes, giving off as much light as its thinning edge can manage.
So too for us. Our old age is not always as kind as we would like it to be. But if we have lived well, we can still carry ourselves with dignity; we can still give off light and wisdom deep into our fading days. But as our place in the heavens diminishes, we release our hold on the sky and give way to the pale brilliance of emerging stars.
And when our time is done, the night is dark. The world mourns the passing of a great, tender light. We do not pass unnoticed. Yet the loss does not hold; the world turns once more and the heavens reveal the birth of a new moon.
The next new moon is Monday night, March 15. It marks the beginning of the month of Nissan, the month of Passover, freedom and renewal. May the drama, the lessons, the glory begin again.more lessons from the moon