How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Sun
The sun is the primary source of life as we know it. When scientists look throughout the Universe for other planets that may have the right conditions for life, proximity to a star is a criterion, along with appropriate planetary size (not too big, not too small). Planets also need to have things like atmospheres and water, but these are somewhat dependent on size and star-proximity. But, in my opinion, the Earth is actually too close to the sun, because the thing has been freaking killing me lately.
I know we have the sun to thank for photosynthesis and beach volleyball (not to mention water parks). But I guess I’m just not cut out for summer, because sunlight completely drains all of the life, vigor, and strength from my body. It caught me unaware just yesterday, as it began its incremental descent over Manhattan and the outlying boroughs. “Must… stay… awake,” I thought as I rode the train home from work, shielding my eyes from the glare. “Must… complete… crossword… puzzle.” But it was no use — the heat overpowered me, lulled me into a compromised state. I began to feel like an ant under a magnifying glass held by a delinquent 10-year-old. The only difference was that instead of burning to death, I was simply and painlessly vanishing.
Could it have just been my tired eyes, or did the sun really burn brighter as I grew weaker?
Skin cancer runs in my family.
Cancer is rapid, uncontrollable cell growth, so I suppose that it is a form of creation. But I think this should still blemish the sun’s reputation, at least as far as the whole “source of all life” thing goes.
And, might I add, one day the Earth is going to get too close to the sun, and it’s going to burn away all of our moisture and oceans and methodically-filled and re-filled Britas and kill us all, like in that episode of The Twilight Zone. Eventually the sun will just engulf the Earth into its molten surface like a bug zapper torching a curious mosquito.
No wonder people reject science for the comforts of religion – at least God doesn’t eat us all at the end of the Bible, right?
(That wasn’t a rhetorical question. I haven’t read the Bible in a while.)
You also can’t stare at the sun. Not because the sun has intimacy issues, but because it will blind you.
So there’s that, too.
I can’t but help but feel that I am nocturnal. I’m not the only one — you yourself may be a “night owl,” someone whose internal clock tends to favor late night hours, one of the many unable to organize themselves around society’s daytime schedule, one of the kids who always came into class yawning and with dark rings around your eyes.
That was me. I always wanted to stay up late, to catch a glimpse of what the adults were doing after my bedtime, to see what TV shows aired, to experience everything that is usually and tantalizingly just out of reach for children. I also slept later than most other kids, catching only the Saturday morning cartoons that aired after 10. As I got older, I found myself taking naps day after dispiriting day of high school and then staying up until two or three in the morning, watching movies and exploring the internet (for purposes both enlightening and nefarious).
Can you blame a kid? Daylight means school. It means dad and/or mom heading off to work. It was the nighttime that brought me home. That brought my dad home. The nighttime put dinner on the table and the WPIX 11 o’clock movie on the TV. Yet, for all its routine, it was also mysterious, exciting, even thrilling….
Years of school and work have beaten the night owl out of me to some extent. But it still exists, still reveals itself during any stretch of free time longer than a weekend. Like clockwork, my hours will slowly shift, each day starting and ending later. It seems there is some part of me that is either drawn to the night, or that seeks to avoid the day. I’m more comfortable at night, more creative, more relaxed. More awake.
I’m that annoying guy that hates the beach. This is particularly distressing to my friends and family because I live on Long Island, home of inexplicably popular beaches. Where I live, on the North Shore, which abuts the Long Island Sound, the beaches are rocky, with timid, anemic waves. The South Shore, on the Atlantic Ocean, has the good beaches. Well, supposedly.
During the summer, South Shore beaches are packed with overwhelmingly large crowds, jostling for parking spots and prime locations for sunbathing.
Sunbathing is an absolutely foreign concept to me. I hate lying in the sun. I hate sweating, especially when I’m sweating greasy, sunblock sweat. On the other hand, I do love to swim. The water is one of the only places where I feel even vaguely athletic. Unlike the courts and fields of land-based sports, I feel like I can hold my own in the water. I’m no Michael Phelps, but I’m no Snoop Dogg, either.
(That wasn’t casual racism, by the way. Snoop Dogg has a song on his album The Last Meal called “I Can’t Swim.” The song ends with what sounds like an alien or an autotuned Gilbert Godfried wailing, “Oh no! You did it again! Put me down! I hate water, I can’t swim! I never learned to swim! I shouldn’t have trusted you! I put all my trust in you! And you took me to the water… oh no!” It’s [obviously] pretty awesome.)
And I really hate sand. God, do I hate sand. I hate how it gets into any food you eat at the beach, how it sticks to your wet feet, how hot it gets. Goddamn it. If there were beaches with grass instead of sand, I’d definitely be more inclined to spend a day at the beach.
So, in summation: f—ck sand, f—ck beaches, f—ck the sun.
Only children tend to have imaginary friends. I was an only child, who lived on a street with no other children my age, who had few relatives my own age, who was painfully shy: My imaginary friends had imaginary friends.
One of my imaginary friends was the moon (I’m implying that the moon was not actually my friend, not that the moon is imaginary). I would talk to the moon, and I pretended it could hear me and answer back. Sometimes I would look up at the nighttime sky and remember that, even if no one else could, the moon could see what I was doing; this wasn’t a frightening sensation, but a reassuring one. Someone was watching.
You can talk to the moon; it’s ethereal and dreamy, it looks ready to listen. It’s seen all of our darkest secrets before, and yet it keeps coming back, cycle after cycle. The moon can be your friend.
The sun? You can’t even look at the sun. You have to buy products called “sunblock” to even go outside when it’s at its strongest. The sun will melt your ice cream and burn your skin.
I wasn’t scared of the dark as a kid — I was scared of the light.
Okay, so I obviously have some unresolved issues re: the sun, daytime, loneliness, isolation, mortality, etc., which the title of this piece probably did not indicate to you. “This is not getting me excited for the summer,” you’re thinking. So here’s a compliment for the sun and, by extension, summer: it humbles us. The sun reminds us that we are not, literally or figuratively, the center of the Universe.
Of course, that’s what people used to think, that everything revolved around the Earth and humanity. Various people insinuated otherwise, and eventually Copernicus famously theorized as such. What a sobering thought — we are mere cogs in a vast series of outwardly reaching spirals.
The sun is several hundred thousand times the mass of the Earth, and accounts for a whopping 98.86% of the total mass in the solar system. So even if you are the biggest asshole in the world, you’re still relatively minor in the grand scheme of things.
I used to have a sociology professor who taught his classes to remind themselves of their infinitesimal place in the Universe, as well as of their fleeting existences (he must have been a hit at academic mixers). His advice for stress was to remind oneself, “One day, I will die, and none of this will matter.” For some people, this is a cowardly, passive, or disengaged line of thought. But many who have experienced true depression or anxiety could care less whether their thinking is cowardly or meek. They’re just looking for some relief in this great big clusterf-ck.
The sun is awesome in its size, sustenance, and responsibilities. But even the sun’s existence is, in a vast, universal sense, fleeting; eventually, even stars die. And, for me, that fact is strangely comforting. The other thing I like about the sun is that it’s going to die.
When a star has used up all the hydrogen inside its core, said core begins to collapse and, in a series of reactions that twists an unscientific mind like mine into a boy scout-quality knot, the star itself balloons in size and cools off. Stars that are bigger than our sun may face more fantastic fates, such as completely exploding into a supernova or turning into a mysterious black hole.
Is it really possible that stars, large and consequential past any scope of rational human perception, simply cease to exist? Burn out and fade away like drugged-out 80s hair metal singers? I don’t think so. There must be… something else….
Even something as indisputably tremendous as the sun will one day experience something beyond this corporeal existence. An afterlife for stars — take solace in that thought.
A | A | A
If you’ve been looking for a chance to say something then this very well could be it.
I wish to God I’d had a list like this when I was 23.
Answer phones better than anyone else has answered phones before. Relay messages so brilliant, they bring people to tears. Turn the coffee run into the choreography of Swan Lake. Become best friends with every intern and every underling and every taxi driver you encounter.
I remember taking the pen and notebook from that woman outside the courtroom, flipping to a clean page in the book, and writing, JESSICA IS SAD in big, bold, uncoordinated letters. “My sister is going to be a good writer someday! Look at how nice her lines are!”