Chasing the Sun

Richard Cohen
Random House, 2010

Every religious and spiritual tradition incorporates within it the experience of being overwhelmed by the mystery and wonder of nature. Richard Cohen dedicates his book to “the love that moves the sun and the other stars” and, we at Tikkun might add that this love is what some people call God. Cohen takes us on a wild adventure of free associations to the Sun (capitalized by him) in global cultures: worshipping the sun, seeking to be tanned by the sun, getting “nearest to the Sun” in the color of our hair (Cohen sees the extraordinary history of privileging blonds as connected to the sun and fire worship of Proto-Indo-Europeans), and more. He notes along the way that by mid–twentieth century “the Sun could serve almost any literary purpose: symbol, metaphor, inspiration, dramatic force, intimate companion, intransigent adversary, comic butt, tragic endgame, source of redemption or of philosophical belief.” Cohen ends his explorations with a provocative chapter on what human beings will do billions of years hence (or whatever being we’ve evolved into by then) as the sun eventually loses its energy. Yet for us, the living, the sun remains our central encounter with the miraculous, no matter how much our consciousness is tamed into narrow utilitarian grooves — and so every morning many of us still wake to bless the sun and to marvel in the mysteries of the universe as we contemplate this life-nourishing force, a mere 333,000 times the mass of the earth!

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