“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake
― Pema Chödrön
Calling that moment "sunrise" is, of course, a classic case of our human propensity to conceptualize things from a limited perspective. That isn't really a problem. The problem is that we then tend to grasp onto the words that describe those relative positions as the absolute truth. This leads to a whole lot of delusion and suffering.
I imagine any number of Zen students over the years have been whacked by their teachers along the way for being so sloppy in their use of language as to appear to be claiming that they really know what is going on -- while missing the point entirely.
If I choose to believe what I learned back in science class in elementary school -- and in this case I do because it seems that we have actually had some folks brave enough (or crazy enough, perhaps) to place themselves on top of a huge tin can full of explosive chemicals to be then catapulted high enough into the sky to look over their shoulders and take snapshots of our situation from a different perspective -- the sun isn't actually rising at all. It's got a different set of motions through space. We could just as readily call that magic moment of cosmic peek a boo "earth-fall" -- although that doesn't seem nearly as positive and promising.
So, if I can believe those pictures, what I learned in school was right. Even before the advent of space travel (on the material plane), some guys with gizmos like telescopes and slide rules, and minds that could create mathematical models out of thin air had figured it out without being shot out of a cannon. The earth is, indeed, a rather round object spinning like a top at 1000 mph as it races along at about 67,000 mph along its orbit around the sun in an incredibly vast sea of space and other stuff.
If that isn't enough to spin your head around, the sun itself is traveling through space at half a million miles per hour -- dragging the whole solar system along with it!
That being the case, although it makes me a bit queasy to think about it, the "solid ground" under my feet is actually moving really really fast, spinning around and racing through space around the sun -- and moving in other directions and dimensions that they are still trying to figure out. Yet, if I head outside and hike up a hill nearby, I may be able to see one edge of that ground (called the horizon) move out of the way to expose the sun as the other edge sneaks up behind me to eventually cover it back up.
I guess we could call that Earthrise, no?
Duh. I missed it.
I was sitting here thinking that I knew what was going on out there rather than Being with it while it was going on!
Yet, it's a beautiful, sunny morning out there now. The birds are still singing. I should just go Sit and Gaze at the Sky for awhile.*
It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it, right?
*Sky Gazing Meditation is a practice in the Dzogchen tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. I actually stumbled across a form of this years ago when I committed to sit and watch the sunset and passing of the twilight into darkness most every night for a period of a month or so. At a very turbulent time in my life, it connected me to an expansive sense of peace and wonder amidst the many moments of struggle.
One formal instruction involves focusing on each outbreath while allowing the sky to fill your visual field. While paying no particular attention to the in-breath, each thought, tension, feeling, sensation that may arise is then allowed to dissolve into the sky with the outbreath. I wish I would have had that instruction years ago. The vast infinite space of the blue sky is a wonderful meditation object.
Nowadays, as a Practice of decades continue to deepen, I'm grateful that a palpable sense of clear expansiveness is more readily accessible no matter what fills my visual field.