What do you feel in a sunset?

What do you feel in the moments of watching a sunset, in those moments as the sun disappears, when the sky seems to build with light, slowly blooming with vivid, radiant colors? The sun already below the horizon, the sky lights up with ever brighter hues, every second that passes more beautiful than the one before. Moment after moment passes, consumes you. How could it be any more beautiful?

And then slowly… slowly… it begins to fade. You don’t notice it at first. You’re just watching the beauty of the heavens, bathed in an incredible display of color. And then… something changes… and you see it, you feel it, you can almost hear it. You notice that from one moment to the next it doesn’t get any brighter, doesn’t get deeper. Everything just seems to hang there as a moment passes, and another, and another, and you hold your breath, not wanting to be the one to bring this moment of awe crashing down.

And then it all begins to fall away.

Slowly at first. Hardly changing at all. But now it is changing. It’s all changing and failing, falling away, faster and faster, falling towards evening’s dull blue-grey, until finally—it’s gone. Vanished. Slipped beyond the reach of the horizon. Nothing could ever stop it.

What do you feel in those moments, as you watch a sunset?

I feel alone. I feel utterly and completely alone as I sit and watch those colors fade, grasping at their final threads, trying to hold on to them for one more moment, as they slip mercilessly away. Because I… I wanted to keep them here with me. Or, more truthfully, I wanted to go with them, to feel a part of them in some way. I wanted once, just once, to not be left behind, to be allowed inside, just once. To touch that beauty, to be a part of the beauty. And in that moment, I know, again, that it can never be.

C.S. Lewis describes it like this:

We usually notice it just as the moment of vision dies away, as the music ends or as the landscape loses the celestial light. […] You know what I mean. For a few minutes we have had the illusion of belonging to that world. Now we wake to find that it is no such thing. We have been mere spectators. Beauty has smiled, but not to welcome us; her face was turned in our direction, but not to see us. We have not been accepted, welcomed, or taken into the dance. We may go when we please, we may stay if we can.

Those are horrible, painful, desperate moments. Moments I would experience every day if I could. Because in those moments I’m allowed to see something, to touch something within myself that otherwise stays hidden, inaccessible. I see what it is to be human and to be here, and to yearn for beauty that is so far away, just beyond our grasp.

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