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“As you dispel the dark,As you cast your rays,The Two Lands are in festivity.Awake they stand on their feet,You have roused them.” The sun is kind of a big deal. Without it life cannot exist; indeed it is the first and most important ingredient. And while most organisms relish the sun’s nourishing presence, few appreciated it quite as much as early agricultural societies (particularly Egypt, who didn’t have stormy skies to challenge the Sun god’s supremacy). Hymns and prayers were constructed to thank and flatter this powerful deity so he may continue to rise every morning and bring light to the Two Lands. This worship reached its height around the 14th century BCE with Pharaoh Akhenaton, who attempted to force monotheism on the Egyptian empire, albeit unsuccessfully. He was, however, successful at endorsing the greatest artistic upheaval Egypt had ever seen, with particular improvements in sculpture and literature. One great piece from this era is “Hymn to the Sun,” a short poem celebrating Aten the Sun god, and the good he brings to Earth.My favorite aspect of the hymn is how palpable the feelings of awe and terror are. It draws close attention to the darkness that engulfs the world every night at dusk. All creation fears the blackness, and prays for light to return in the morning. So far, it always has, but the day may come when Aten denies us his rays of mercy and all life will end. We must worship him to ensure that never happens. And the hymn is very clear about the reward: with daybreak birds sing, men plow the land, fruit grows in abundance, the crocodile escapes his egg, the wind blows our sails favorably, and much more. “Risen, radiant, distant, near.” Of the whole universe our personal star, devoted to our cause yet strangely remote, is most responsible for our happiness. We owe it many thanks.It’s this profound appreciation for the enigmatic cosmos that powers religion. Akhenaton hated the superfluous worship of many deities; he knew which one was important. As Pharaoh he felt an affinity with the Sun. He too must shine benevolently on his people, he too must nourish them. And at dusk, when he dies, he must be reborn to escort Egypt through the next day. Such is the endless cycle of leadership—without guidance, all is dark. It’s unfortunate this insightful monotheism was torn asunder after Akhenaton’s death, replaced with the tedious proliferation of gods. But the feelings of gratitude would never leave the people. Why does the sun rise in our favor, everyday without end? Why are we given this opportunity? How can we reciprocate the gift? One way to start is by acknowledging, and appreciating, the deity behind it all.

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