What a day. It was magnificent. Beginning with the first beam of sunlight.
The sun came up at 6:21 A.M. here in Northwest Florida. It happened the same as it does every day.
The sun woke before everyone else, got itself showered, combed its hair, ate some Corn Flakes, and made its ascent above the Gulf of Mexico.
I watched the sunrise. I was in my truck, parked near the beach, eating a breakfast sandwich.
The ball of light made the Gulf look like emeralds. I had to cover my eyes to look at the water.
Not many people talk about the sun, but they ought to. Because the sun will eventually burn this earth into a Pop Tart.
I hate to get all sciency on you—you’re looking at a 2.3 grade point average here—but scientists tell us that the sun keeps getting bigger. And one day, it will engulf the world as though it were my Uncle Tommy Lee engulfing dozens of innocent devilled eggs.
And when this colossal event happens, everything will be gone. Even devilled eggs. There will be no more trees, no grass, no skies, no more Lawrence Welk reruns. It will be lights out.
Well, actually, it will be lights ON.
You know what else? We are pretty small in the big scheme of things. The sun contains 99.86 percent of the “mass” found in the solar system. What does that mean?
Okay: imagine objects in the solar system were shrunken into miniatures. Imagine the earth were the size of a basketball. That would make the sun about the size of Bryant-Denny stadium.
The sun also makes its own gravity. Meaning: every dadgum thing in this universe sort of hovers around it—like folks at a potluck table.
In fact, if it weren’t for the sun’s gravity, the earth would shoot forward in a straight line through space. We would all float into nothingness, and be sad, and dark, and frozen, and become a civilization who listens almost exclusively to Neil Diamond.
But Neil Diamond aside, the human body is arranged around the sun. Every piece of us needs the sun. Our eyes, skin, hair, organs, mind. In short: to be human is to love the sun.
Our great-great granddaddies based their societies on the sun—since there were no iPhones around. They woke with the sunrise, they went to sleep at sunset.
Then, in Gregorian times some clever schmuck figured out that it takes 365 days for the earth to circle the sun. So, he invented the first calendar. Then he printed millions of them, with refrigerator magnets on the backs and RE/MAX Realtor advertisements on the fronts, and he gave them away at various real estate conventions.
Our weeks are based on the movement of the sun—the word “Sunday” comes to mind. Our days, hours, minutes, seconds, milliseconds, nanoseconds are based on a sundial. This means, in a manner of speaking, all human TIME is measured by the sun.
If you want to get a little more poetic: the sun is responsible for all earthly ambition, for romance, for art, for color, for birth, and for love.
You cannot live without it.
The sun makes photosynthesis possible. And photosynthetic organisms are what we mammals eat. So, no sun; no food. And even MORE importantly: photosynthesis is the only five-syllable world I know.
But getting back to being poetic. The sun is everything. It’s everything you see. It’s responsible for taste, touch, and eyesight. It feeds man, bathes him in warmth, makes life verdant.
The birds, crickets, locusts, frogs, and cicadas all announce its arrival each morning. And when it arrives, it makes the Gulf of Mexico look magic.
And it’s kind.
Even though we humans can’t understand the big light, it doesn’t make it any less generous. It is the humble center of the Milky Way, a compass to the sailor, a friend to the dirt farmer.
It is so bright, none can look at it without going blind. So majestic, it consumes things too close to it.
And one final day, science says it will swallow Earth. Pure white light will burn the whole world into soot.
On that day, our pain, and suffering, and sadness, and injustice, and sorrow, and hatred, and anger, and bitterness, and intolerance, and disappointment, and disharmony will go up in flames. And time will be no more. Only sunlight will exist. Forever. And ever.
Ben Leary passed away this morning. He was a sixteen-year-old. Brain cancer took him from us. He had a beautiful face. A good family. A happy life.
I wrote this for him.
Because his smile always reminded me of sunlight.