The Incomparable Power of Mornings
When I was in college, I slept in as much as I could. I stayed up late, and tried to savor the night, as if something or someone was going to take them away from me at some point — and I had to savor every last morsel on the plate of my life. Someone did eventually take the nights away. It was me. I took them away because nothing worthwhile happened for me late at night. What I had been missing was the mornings.
You see, when I would stay up late, and walk around that college town, I would get this feeling like I was the world’s benevolent father — patting it on the head compassionately, as I put it to bed for the night. I was the wise one. Those who slept were missing out on something magical.
But what I failed to realize is that it’s just not true. The world wasn’t really going to sleep. And if I was the benevolent father, quietly closing the door after a kiss on the head, the world was a mischievous child, waiting until I wasn’t looking, so it could wake up and quietly sneak out for all sorts of unsavory business. I thought I was wise and reflective at night. Really, I was tired and foolish.
The thing about the night is that people stay up. It’s easy to stay up. You simply don’t go to sleep. It’s maintaining the status quo. There’s no struggle; there’s no declaration; there’s no redemption. Aided by momentum, you just continue what you have been doing for many preceding hours. And you do it until you give in to sleep. Sure, there can be something to that. I won’t deny it. It’s endurance — you’re running a marathon, you’re outlasting others, and you might just be doing something worthwhile during that time. But in the end, you’re running with the wind at your back. And the end of the race ends with you collapsed and unconscious.
Mornings, on the other hand — mornings are different. The thing about mornings is that you have to get up for them. You have to open your eyes and make a decision. You make a decision to assert yourself, to include yourself in the commotion of the day. You make the choice to join into what others have already begun, and start something of your own.
I don’t just wake up, I wake up before dawn. At first I did it because I had to, in order to get other things done that I had committed to. But it has become a necessity. I feel as if I would do it even if I didn’t have to work for a living. I would still get up before the sun, before the world, and just sit and exist.
When I wake before the sun does, during the shift change of the animals — nocturnal ones heading back home, and diurnal ones shaking off the shackles of sleep — I truly do get a jump on things. I feel like I gain momentum. I don’t even have to do anything in the sense of being productive.
Come to think of it, waking up early in the morning — it’s not about being productive. It’s about existing. It’s about making the choice, and displaying that choice in the dim light of the receding moon and the still-drowsy sun.
I hold my tired body up by two wobbly arms as I wait for my coffee to brew, and I breath in the most meaningful air of the day. That air goes deep down into my lungs. The oxygen molecules from that breath get embedded deeply within me. They stay with me until the day’s end, and can only be coaxed out by the impact of my body going horizontal.
The world is a bit slower in the morning. It’s like a steam engine, just beginning to chug along — slow, but deliberate, and powerful. And like a locomotive, once it gets going, it’s impossible for anything smaller than it to stop it. And my friends, we are all smaller than the world. We are all smaller than the day. The best we we can do is to hop on while the train is moving more slowly, so that we can move along toward wherever we’re going.
That is why the morning — in a totally different way than the night — is a more spiritual time. It’s a deeper time. Things closed are just now opening back up. Things once fast yesterday are still slow. Things so looming and frightful yesterday afternoon are now — bathed in the stillness and emerging light of dawn — are less daunting.
This morning — like every other morning — we begin again. We have so much in front of us. What will it be? What will we be? Hope springs eternal — in the steam pillowing off of a fresh cup of coffee. And into what image, dear friends, will you sculpt that hope?