MAY DAY, in medieval and modern Europe, holiday (May 1) is the celebration of the return of spring, an ancient Nature Festival.
Because the Puritans of New England considered the celebrations of May Day to be licentious and pagan, they forbade its observance, and the holiday never became an important part of American culture.
Thankfully, time and tide wait for no man according to Geoffrey Chaucer, nor do such Nature’s supreme powers submit to the dictates of modern despots, gods or saviors, or religious bigots.
The Laws of Karma rule always. No one is so all-powerful they can stop the march of time or turn back the ocean waves, as King Canute unsuccessfully tried. Or the relentless march of time and seasons.
Yet what he learned from the experience is that the best each of us can do is attempt to discover and live in harmony with nature’s immutable laws. Shakespeare dramatized karma as a force that ebbs and flows cyclically, and that one must go with the flow. As Brutus notoriously exclaims in Julius Caesar:
There’s a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.
Procrastinating and obstruction waste precious moments allowing beneficial waves or tides to begin to recede. If a moral or environmental opportunity is neglected, individuals and humanity as a whole may suffer dire consequences.
“All the passing shows of life, whether fraught with disaster or full of fame and glory, are teachers; he who neglects them, neglects opportunities which seldom the gods repeat,” W. Q. Judge wrote in his Essay on Chapter 2 of the Bhagavad-Gita. “And the only way to learn from them is through the heart’s resignation;
for when we become in heart completely poor, we at once are the treasurers and disbursers of enormous riches. Krishna then insists on the scrupulous performance of natural duty.
Ancient Atlantis, our former habitat, was destroyed by natural and human-caused climate change thousands of years before its time, and we are heading down a very similar, dangerous path — the result of pervasive collective selfishness. Just as Walt Kelly’s Pogo warned, as he stared at a trash filled swamp on Earth Day 1970:
“We have met the enemy,
and he is us.”
Sickness occurs when “a group of individual cells refuses to cooperate, and wherein is set up discordant action, using less or claiming more than their due share of food or energy,” wrote W. Q. Judge in The Synthesis of Occult Science, concluding:
Disease is nothing more or less than ‘the sin of separateness.’
So long as there is separateness and selfishness, Theosophy says, there will be suffering. And this is why we need to practice Divine Compassion, “the law of laws” as described in The Voice of the Silence.
“Compassion is something really worthwhile. It is not just a religious or spiritual subject, not a matter of ideology,” says the Dalai Lama: “It is not a luxury. It is a necessity.”
“It is an absolute fact that without good works the spirit of brotherhood would die in the world—and this can never be,” Blavatsky wrote in her article Let Every Man Prove His Own Work:
Therefore is the double activity of learning and doing most necessary; we have to do good, and we have to do it rightly, with knowledge.
The proverb about time and tide illustrates the complex interplay between fate and free will in human life. It has karmic beauty as well, suggesting that while we do not have total control over our lives, we do have a responsibility to take what few measures we can to live ethically and honorably.