To Critique the Sunset???


One of the highlights of life on earth for me is sunsets. For me it is to gaze upon the presence of God within nature. The beauty and stillness of this moment awakens my awareness of the presence of God within my heart. For me the presence of God is the unfathomable peace, abiding love, and cause-less joy that is the underpinning of all creation! But what is, is subject to our perception and interpretation. What we are not aware of seems not to exist. That is why I am thankful to sunsets, for slowing me down from time to time so that I can see what I often miss. And to become aware that what is out there also exists within me.

But the last thing I want to be caught doing is critiquing the sunset!

This reminds me of my days as a hiking guide for an elite spa in southern Arizona. I led the guests on a “Sunset Hike.” Arizona is famous for its spectacular sunsets. This “Sunset Hike” was no doubt an elaborate marketing scheme from a polished executive in the Sales Department. On this particular day there were no clouds in the sky. This made me nervous as we approached the lookout point. You see like all service industries we were trained to make the guests happy. We all knew that when the guests weren’t happy, they would take it out on the nearest “trained to be passive employee.” Sure enough we got to the spot, got out our little snacks, and waited for the grand event. Then the sun had the nerve to just go down, nothing spectacular about it. One bright orange ball just descended behind the horizon. And then it was done.

Now I actually thought it was beautiful in a very minimalist Zen kind of way. But I heard the low tones of the guests as they began to grumble. They started sending hate filled darts sporadically towards me from their eyes. Their tones grew louder and their piercing stares less sporadic. Until a group of them approached me to complain. This sunset was unacceptable and sub-par for a five star facility. It had been advertised as a journey to a beautiful southwest vista point to witness the poetic dance of colors, like the soft strokes of a Monet painting on the evening sky.

On any other evening this promise probably would have been delivered, but of course not on the night I was assigned to the “Sunset Hike” duty. The group of disgruntled guests now had a leader. “We want to talk to a manager.” the leader demanded. This was followed by a smattering of “YEAHS!” from this newly formed flock. I couldn’t help myself “Do you mean the manager of the sunset or my hiking manager?” Unbelievably, none of these guests could see the humor in my response nor in our collective situation. I quickly changed tactics. “On behalf of the management and the hiking department, our staff and I apologize for this unacceptable experience. When we get back to the main grounds I will get a manager for you so you can lodge a formal complaint.” This response appeased them and we set out on our return hike in disappointed silence. Now the humor and lesson of this incident has stayed with me and led me to this philosophical conclusion. “Don’t critique the sunset, or you’re in for a long hard life!”

Peace Si Gong

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