As the sun sets in the west, casting a beautiful golden glow across the hills and clouds, I can’t help but think of what it means. Symbolically, a setting sun means death, destruction, the coming of the darkness that is night and terror. It means an end. An end of what, though? Poverty? Sadness? Happiness? It’s a very versatile metaphor. By using the west, the setting sun, as a symbol, an author can convey a breadth of meanings. Then, couple the setting sun with the promise of dawn and an entirely new set of meanings emerge.
In reality, what is a sunset? Merely the sun passing beyond the currently visible horizon. The sun isn’t actually falling below the earth, or dying, or fading into the underworld to be reborn the next morning.
The picture above is full of its own meaning and symbolism, apart from the sun. But let’s just focus on the sun for now. Is it setting or rising? It would appear to be setting, but can we know that for sure? Maybe the camera is looking to the east on a particularly foggy morning? Are those mountains continuously cloaked in mist, thus obscuring the rising sun? Maybe, maybe not.
So, is a sunset really focused on an end, on death? Some would argue that it is necessary for the sun to set, so that night can be born. So perhaps it can also symbolize birth? Ah, but the birth of what? Night is not frequently held in high regard for “good feelings.”
My conclusion on the sunset is this: It is an end to one day, the beginning of night, and the promise of a new dawn. Everything must come to an end, both good things and bad. This is neither a curse, nor necessarily a blessing. It simply is. So it is with our lives. Each human on this planet goes through a sunset, an end. A death. A darker time when the good things are cloaked in shadow and the bad things seem all the larger. Night will come, in its inevitability, but also will the dawn.