Surprised by The Solar Eclipse
I decided I would forgo the event of the century. I did not want to risk damaging my aging eyes. I contented myself, knowing I could see photos taken by photographers more skillful than me, with the aid of cameras better than my iPhone. Besides, I didn’t live in the “totality” path, so I figured it wouldn’t dazzle all that much.
But a friend offered to share his magic eyeglasses with me so I traded peeks with him for over an hour. I’m so glad he took the initiative.
The event turned doxological on me. The visual beauty of the sun surprised and engulfed me. I understood the science of what was happening but it was the beauty that prompted praise. I’m not sure which of the following reflections takes pride of place for the explanation of the profundity of my experience. Maybe it’s a five-way tie.
- Taking the time to stare at the sun is something I never do. (And my ophthalmologist tells me that’s wise). As a result, I take the sun for granted. That’s different than noticing whether it’s sunny of not. I do notice when it’s sunny or cloudy or overcast, etc. But, ironically, sunny-ness and the sun can actually become disconnected in my experience. But with the protective lenses, I was able to do more than just glance and squint. I could observe and appreciate and marvel and enjoy.
- I had been reading about beauty, so these thoughts had been filling my mind. Author Greg Ganssle reflects, “…beauty meets us in a manner unlike almost anything else in the world. Beauty startles us. It stops us in our tracks. It moves us to change directions. We do not glance at beautiful things or skim beautiful verses. To glance or to skim is to hold an object or text at a distance. And to hold something at a distance is to fail to encounter it. When it comes to beauty, to glance is to fail to see.” (Ganssle’s book is excellent, by the way. I’ll share a full review in an upcoming blog).
- I’ve been meditating on Psalm 19. Verse 5 reminds us of the sun’s course in the sky and the scope of its heat. “In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.” The LORD provides cosmic display of this truth every single day. But I rarely think about it. The gradual progress of the eclipse provided visual prompting for deeper meditation.
- At the risk of sounding corny or sentimental, I seemed to experience a sense of unity with the whole planet for a few moments. I saw people I’ve never met standing near me to stare at the same thing I was staring at. I extrapolated that mentally across the map of the eclipse’s path. I considered that we were all standing on the same orb, casting the same shadow, receiving warmth from the same sphere. For a few fleeting moments, the divisions in our world (especially in our country in recent days) seemed to take a back seat.
- The contrast between my experience of the eclipse and all the scientific explanations about it reinforced my delight that this world is more than matter, life is more than days, and we are more than cells. I love science and I especially like astronomy. But I want to do more than stare. I want to praise because, as this eclipse reminded me, “The heavens declare the glory of God; The skies proclaim the work of his hands.”