William Edelen: Starting a New Day

The Contrary Minister

So much depends on the way we start each new day. I might say even that everything that follows during any given day will be directly related to the first few hours of that day. Whether the day unfolds on a high and noble plane, or turns out to be only a survival contest to be endured.

I have a friend who refuses to turn on the television or radio, or even read a newspaper until later in the afternoon. It is a valuable insight. It can make a remarkable difference in how the day progresses.

Many years ago I started reading biographies and autobiographies of great and noble men and women whose own lives were centered and balanced, and who had made contributions far beyond the normal. I was intrigued by the fact that practically all of them started each new day in similar fashion, in a calm, tranquil, quiet and meditative manner. Yes, even if you have to arise early ahead of the children.

It has been my routine for over 50 years to start the day before first light, between 4 and 4:30 a.m. the most glorious time of the day, especially in the spring, summer and early fall.

Thomas Jefferson wrote that he always arose at first light and walked to enjoy “the freshness of the new dawn.”

Erasmus wrote, “The muses love the early morning, as that is the perfect time for thought and study.”

J. Frank Dobie, the brilliant iconoclast of the University of Texas, wrote that he took his pre-dawn coffee with Montaigne or Plato and “would not wilt the freshest part of the day with the banalities of the news” but would “rather start with the rhythms of the natural day.”

Carl Jung writes of his living with some of the primal peoples of Africa and describes the manner in which they started each new day: “Sunrise was the most sacred hour of the day. The people would raise their arms to the sun, breaking over the horizon. The gesture means, ‘I offer the Universe my living soul.’ I too joined them, drinking in this dawn glory, with insatiable delight, in a timeless ecstasy.”

How well I remember the week that I spent with Buckminster Fuller. He stood silently, every morning in first light, facing east for about five minutes in meditation.

There is beauty, quiet, harmony, vision and tranquility at this magnificent time of the day. The natural world in this little part of the cosmos is preparing to receive the life-giving rays of the morning sun. The juices of life are flowing. Roosters are announcing their presence. You will never see any painting more spiritual than dawn breaking. No church hymn will ever lift your heart higher than the early morning chorus of the birds.

It is the time of day that can distinguish coarseness from a divine refinement. It is the time of day when a person can look deeply into himself, or herself, and see things and not be fooled. It is the time of day when your vision is clear and the direction of your energies comes into focus. Values and priorities become sharper, issues more clear, right decisions more obvious and the day begins on a high and noble plane. You are in harmony with yourself and the world.

A healing thought might be to re-examine the way you use the first few hours of each new day. The first hour of the morning is the rudder of the day. And Erasmus reminds us: “The dawn is always a friend of the muses.

One Comment

Bill Edelen! My parents, Ralph and Joy Reynolds, enjoyed your talks so much in Santa Rosa in the 90’s. You were very missed when you moved. I have a book my father gave me that he treasured dearly.