Under the sun

The sun, when at its highest, has this deeply misleading effect of having us believe that there are no shadows in the world, or even more than that, that no shadow is even possible. In a perfect world there is no shadow nor is it possible to have shadows, but our world is far from perfect and therefore is full of shadows. Some more extreme oriental philosophies would say that it consists of nothing but shadows. This is certainly not the case, because we have the sun. Nevertheless, to forget that shadows are part of our world is unfair.

But why think of shadows when the sun shines and the birds are singing? Probably the best ability human beings have is that of living exclusively in the present. Sure, now and then we dig into our memories and take short walks into our past. Equally rare as those walks into the past are our short projections into the future. But most of the time we are creatures of the present. It’s ike we don’t care about passing time, each of us living in his own eternity, like having a private island in time. Happily, in time you don’t have to be rich in order to have an island, as it is the case in space. What is even more remarkable about our ability to live in the present is that the present we live in is not a real present, but an idealized one in which the best of our past and our hopes for the future coexist.

There is, however, a class of people we usually call pessimists. After attaching this label, we discard them easily as anomalies. But pessimists are those of us who have lost the ability to live under the ever-shining sun. Their islands in time have been shattered. This may be because their lives have been hell or because they are born with a distrustful eye that sees the shining sun as the ephemeral thing that it is. The ultimate reality, for this eye, is not the shining sun, but death. The pessimist spends his life staring at death and death stares back at him every second of his life. Emil Cioran is probably the best representative of this kind of built-in pessimism which is  further qualified as nihilism.

Be that as it may, built-in or taken from life, pessimism is nevertheless the more brave and more lucid way of seeing, because it is not tricked by the shining sun into believing that there are no shadows in the world or, or even worse than that, that no shadows are possible.  For the lucid eye of the pessimist, instead of joyful rays of light, the sun radiates nothing but shadows.