Astronomer Chris Purton is hosting the Solstice Peace Talks at the Shatford Centre on Dec. 21.

Astronomer Chris Purton is hosting the Solstice Peace Talks at the Shatford Centre on Dec. 21.

Winter solstice and peace at Shatford Centre

What does the winter solstice have to do with world peace? Find out as the Western News chats with astronomer and host Christ Purton.

Around 150 million kilometres away, the Sun, despite its distance, has brought human beings together culturally for thousands of years.

The winter solstice comes at a time when peace on Earth and goodwill are a focus, but the connection runs deeper for the Solstice Peace Talks at the Shatford Centre Dec. 21.

The peace talks evolved from the yearly Penhenge celebration of the winter solstice, which the Shatford Centre has been a part of since 2010.

Retired astronomer Chris Purton, who came to the White Lake Observatory in 1981, has been a proponent  of the celebration for years. He is set to host the upcoming peace talks.

Astronomy and peace have a fundamental, scientific connection to Purton.

Read more: Peace talks celebrate solstice at Shatford

“One of the things that appealed to me about these solstice celebrations that we were having was that we were just one of a very large group around the world who was doing the same thing,” Purton said. “The winter solstice is very important in large amount of cultures, huge, essentially any culture you can think of.”

Whether it is the physical freezing and thawing of nature, Canada Geese signalling the change of seasons with their return or the various human celebrations from ancient Rome to Sylix Nation’s observance of the winter solstice which translates to “the day the sun stops moving away,” all cultures are celebrating the same thing, the return of the Sun after months of withdrawal.

“The Sun pauses, it stops and it’s going to come back. This is very significant, of course, to people. We’re just one small culture out of very many that were celebrating this thing,” Purton said.

Last year’s solstice event explored the different cultural celebrations which evolved this year into the Solstice Peace Talks.

“Humans are by nature a warring species. No more than other animals, but they’re better at it. The quest for peace has been around for a very long time and the question is, do we have the brains to work our way out of these instincts we’ve inherited?” Purton asked.

From an astronomy perspective, peace is inherent in our undeniable physical connection to each other for Purton.

“My take on it is we’re connected physically. We all evolved from the same material,” Purton said, nodding to the famed Carl Sagan quote “we are made of star-stuff.”

Humans all share the same origins, made up from the same material, Purton said.

“It’s more immediate than that because we’re continually replenishing that material. Every time you breath in, you’re taking in material from the atmosphere and you’re actually building it in to your body and it’s the same material somebody else was using, or something else was using, just a short while ago,” Purton said. “We’re all just different lumps of the material around us.”

Purton is set to host peace talk participants Randy Janzen, Selkirk College peace studies instructor; JJ Verigin, executive director of the Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ; Paul Crawford, Penticton Art Gallery curator who will speak to the recent exhibitions featuring artists from Syria and Afghanistan and Norberto Rodriguez, a lifetime political and social artist focusing on themes of human suffering, violence and the destruction of the Earth. Speakers come to the Shatford Centre Dec. 21, with a suggested donation of $10 per person and $20 per family.



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