I was more excited than perhaps was justifiable about the eclipse yesterday, but apparently, I wasn’t alone. When I read this story today in The New York Times somehow it just made me so happy–and I felt vindicated. [Find it here: Unity and Enlightenment in Solar Show] Thousands and thousands of people all over the country hit pause on their usual daily activities, put down their phones, walked away from their computers, rescheduled lunch breaks, called in sick, and went outside and looked up. They were giddy. They were speechless. They were hugging strangers and shouting right out loud in amazement. Clearly, I was not the only one who was excited, and the enthusiasm was infectious.
For my viewing, I went down to the college, where a large crowd had gathered at the planetarium. I didn’t want to be by myself–I wanted to be with others. There were several physicists, a couple “Sun Spotters” [one is pictured above] and a whole bunch of eclipse glasses that everyone was generously passing around. Parents had brought their children, the new Gettysburg College international students were there, and we all had a great time. Everyone was in such good spirits.
What I loved about that day so much was reflected perfectly in the article, which described how, finally, so many people were united over something that was bigger than ourselves, bigger than our differences; something that reminded us of our small, cherished, shared home on this big blue marble, in our one big solar system, in our one big galaxy, in our one big universe.
So, here are a few lessons from the eclipse that I hope stay with us at least as long as the memory of what we all saw–whether you saw a total eclipse or a little sliver. Either way, it was magnificent.
Number one: the universe is a wondrous, awe-inspiring place. Full stop. Wondrous, awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping, miraculous, amazing. It’s a shame the sun and moon have to knock us in the head to get us to pay attention.
Number two: we gain a very helpful perspective on our own lives when we look up from the daily grind and see the vastness that surrounds us. We are not insignificant, but we are just one very small piece of a huge intricate puzzle, the edges of which we cannot see. There is more to us all and to our world than conflict, struggle and disorder. There is also miracle; there is also beauty; there is also an underlying thread of relationship and unity that abides–even when we fail to notice. We are connected not just to each other, but to the moon, and to the sun, and to the stars.
Finally, number three: in spite of our cynicism, frustration, and even despair, we still retain the capacity to be inspired, to be moved, to be struck speechless at the wonders of the universe. We retain the capacity for reverence and astonishment in spite of it all; and somehow we can understand the feelings of our foremothers and forefathers who thought perhaps that a dragon was eating the sun.
These things fill me with hope, and joy; and sometimes, that’s enough.