There is something that I think everybody loves, at least a little bit, and that is a sunset. Some of us purposely take time out of our days to watch it. Others are lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. Sunsets are cherished images in love songs and puzzles and travel photos and maybe even pictures taken in the city you grew up in.
‘Let’s catch the sunset tonight’, people say. And then they go – waiting on beaches, or climbing mountains, or trudging up the stairs to the rooftop in their apartment. When I was in Rome, everybody gathered on Gianicolo Hill to watch it. Yesterday, in Edinburgh, everybody gathered on Calton Hill. People brought their tripods, setting them up neatly in a row. Even the policeman wandering about said, “I’m gonna go for a fancy panorama.” Nobody left early, even though it was cold. We can’t help but be drawn to sunsets the same way we are drawn to things that glisten, and drama, and rooms with bright walls.
I read a quote once that said that sunsets are proof that endings can be beautiful too. I never really believed that before because I never wanted things to end. Even when I was excited about the future, I didn’t want to let go of the past, constantly torn, stuck, or generally dissatisfied. I guess I was pretty greedy back then.
When I was twenty one or maybe twenty two, I wrote a book called Chasing Sunsets where sunsets were a metaphor for everything in life that we want but don’t ever really belong to us. Like love and excitement and maybe even perfection. Sunsets are impossible to own but we chase them anyway. What we want is maybe always just out of reach, dipping behind the mountains or disappearing behind skyscrapers.
There was a time when sunsets didn’t make any sense to me. It seemed ridiculous and stupid that beautiful things should exist when people were dying or lying to each other. I wondered if people looked at sunsets during the wars. I wondered what they thought about, if they stopped believing in beautiful things, if sunsets meant nothing to them. Beautiful things in ugly spaces don’t make sense.
Sometimes sunsets make me want to cry because I feel like if I am lucky enough to see something as beautiful as a sunset I should feel perfectly happy and most of the time, I don’t. But sometimes sunsets make me want to cry because nature is pure and perfect without even trying, like a little kid singing, and it reminds me that in spite of everything bad in it, the world isn’t so bad after all.