GAZING AT THE MOON

7 Sing to our God with thanksgiving;
sing praise with the harp to our God –
8 who covers the heavens with clouds,
who provides rain for the earth,
who makes grass sprout on the mountains
and herbs for the service of the people,
9 who gives food to the cattle,
and to the young ravens when they cry.
- Psalm 147:7-9

The fourteenth day of each lunar month brings the darkest of nights upon our earth. The old moon has fully waned, making way for the waxing of a new moon. Our sisters and brothers of the Hindu tradition pay close attention to this evening, known as Shivaratri, and to this enduring rhythm. People of the faith will often wait to begin new projects until the moon turns over, believing in the cyclical energy and power of our natural world. On a broader scale, the 14th day highlights the epic battle of light versus darkness; good versus evil. As with other religious traditions, this struggle is believed to be ongoing within the span of a life, but also will one day be resolved for good.
 
This lunar transition is most significant during the late winter of each year, when Hindus pay homage to Lord Shiva, the one who destroys darkness and protects the faithful. Some in the tradition will even keep vigil through this longest of nights, known as Maha Shivaratri, staying up to hasten a victory over darkness. Ardent devotees accompany this pivotal juncture with a fast, meditating on self-restraint, honesty, and forgiveness.
 
Truth be told, the moon has very little impact on my daily life. I may catch a glimpse of her on a long night ride, but often pass by without notice. On the rare occasion she does come into focus, the moon receives little more than a nod.
 
Which makes me wonder – what do my friends in the Hindu tradition have to teach me about life and my spiritual pilgrimage?
 
For one, my privileged assumptions steer me from the darkness. I may not be looking upward at night because I have gotten too accustomed to the light. Darkness has a way of alluding a person until light is suddenly, and often tragically, snatched away. I know that for my rather charmed life, keeping vigil to overcome a pervading evil has not seemed necessary. Oh, to be so vain in my own existence!
 
A second notion stimulated by this religious observance is my lack of real connection with the natural world. When heading out for a run, I too often pop in my earbuds, favoring podcasts and music over the gift of the outdoors. Socks and shoes don my feet on most open-air adventures – stripping me of physical contact with the dirt beneath my toes. I undoubtedly seek shelter from the rain, which keeps me from a deep appreciation of its cleansing properties.
 
While engaging this Hindu tradition, I have also come to realize how often I pay attention to my own rhythm of life. This, of course, is needed to a certain degree. But, I must admit that my inward focus is a distraction from the marvelous rhythms beyond. The cosmos, the animal and plant kingdoms, and the chemistry of land and water have much to teach. Will I look outward enough to listen?
 
On the eve of February 13th, may we join our Hindu sisters and brothers in looking upward. Gaze upon the beauty that surrounds this gift of life. Feel the dirt beneath your feet. On occasion, let the rains get you wet on purpose.
 
In doing so, we just might come to understand how goodness does prevail over evil.
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Founded in 1960, Berkeley is an independent, Episcopal, college-preparatory day school located in Tampa, FL, for boys and girls in grades Pre-Kindergarten through 12. Approximately 1,380 students gather here from the greater Tampa Bay area to form ONE Berkeley.