It’s Just An Eclipse. Not An Apocalypse

It’s Sunday, so I suppose a confession would be in order.  Yes, I made an impulse purchase.  I bought a pair of these.

I probably will never wear them again after tomorrow, and if my schedule is off by even a few minutes I may not even use them tomorrow.  But tomorrow, so I’ve read, is a unique day.  Perhaps not as special as it for others.  But I feel like I’m far more aware of it than in the past.

There seems to be an awful lot of extra hype about the total eclipse that will take place tomorrow afternoon. USA TODAY, or at least what’s left of it, has really gone to town with a special section of their weekend edition and numerous articles online.  Kayla Jimenez is the architect of all of this and authored a couple of her own, including one with the five Ws:

The path of totality, where the sun is fully blocked, in the U.S. begins in Texas and the eclipse starts around 1:27 p.m. local time.  Cities on the centerline of the April 8 eclipse include Dallas, Cleveland and Buffalo, New York, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

And one that adds a bit more context as to why the anticipation for this one is greater than many of recent past:

The total solar eclipse on April 8 is causing such a stir because the rare event — where the shadow of the moon will plunge a narrow strip of land into darkness in the middle of the day — is an astronomical experience like no other that will be unusually accessible to millions of people. 

April’s total solar eclipse will fall over more places in the U.S. than the total eclipse before and after it. And the broad length of the path of totality – where Americans have the best shot of getting a clear view – is “much wider” than it was for the eclipse in 2017, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

A total solar eclipse is also far more impressive than a lunar or an annular solar eclipse. During an annular eclipse, the moon covers the Sun but leaves an outside ring some call a “ring of fire” — it darkens the sky instead of plunging Earth into a night-like darkness, which is what happens during a total solar eclipse. And a lunar eclipse – the appearance of a red moon – happens when the moon passes into the Earth’s shadow, according to NASA.

And she also supported an opinion piece by Nicole Russell that addresses some of the more fear-mongering attention that is accompanying all of this:

The eclipse has also fueled the ideas of conspiracy theorists, theologians’ theories of eschatology and climate-change fanatics.

“Far-right conspiracy theorists are claiming that ‘elites’ will use the eclipse to control humanity, sway the presidential election, and everything else under the sun,” a WIRED headline reads.  Only in America could a total solar eclipse usher in the apocalypse and simultaneously influence an election.  

And it’s no surprise that the current poster child for that kind of rhetoric has doubled down, especially in light of what happened in the New York City metropolitan area on Friday.  As NEWSWEEK’s Nick Mordowanec obligatorially reported yesterday:

GOP Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene says she believes Monday’s total solar eclipse will be a sign from God, according to a viral tweet that’s received 1.8 million page views.

“God is sending America strong signs to tell us to repent,” Greene wrote on X (formerly Twitter) on Friday. “Earthquakes and eclipses and many more things to come. I pray that our country listens.”

Well, like most sane Americans, I’m not listening.  But I am looking.  And not just at the event, such as I will be able to see it partially where I live.  But inside myself, for why something this may indeed matter more than it should.  I find myself in line with the kind of thoughts that Russell posits:

It’s a good thing for us as a species to remember how small and powerless we are against nature and the divine.

In an era where Elon Musk has internet satellites in space and we have so many advanced technologies to help us take advantage of time and resources, there is also one thing we do not have control over – time and nature.  

If you, like me, just share the view that God created the world because a world created ex nihilo sounds even more implausible than the Big Bang, a total solar eclipse happening once in your vapor of a lifetime is just a stunning, incredible experience.  

A gift of common grace to be alive for and to enjoy and marvel.

And it’s easier for me to understand why so many more passionate and privilaged people are going to far greater extents to bear witness more opportunistically, as TIME’s Solcyre Burga reported:

Among ancient civilizations who regarded solar eclipses as an evil omen, the sight of the cosmic phenomenon would have been cause for despair. But for many enthusiasts traveling thousands of miles to see the upcoming solar eclipse on April 8, the opposite is true.

I’m not in any way religious at all. But [the eclipse is] almost as close to a religious moment as I think you can get,” says Sarah Marwick, a 51-year-old doctor based in the U.K. “It makes you feel enormous and tiny at the same time.” 

“If it’s 10 seconds or several minutes, it doesn’t matter. It’s always too short for you,” says Tunç Tezel, a 46-year-old civil engineer from Turkey who has seen 13 solar eclipses and three lunar eclipses since 1999. He is traveling more than 6,000 miles from Istanbul to Houston this April. “The light comes back, and then you start to think, ‘When’s the next one? Where’s the next one? I think I need to see another one.’” .

And as THE WASHINGTON POST’s  penned last month:

The scene is mind-boggling: day turns to night, stars and planets appear, the sun’s atmosphere shimmers and a 360-degree sunrise surrounds you.

Although a partial eclipse will happen outside this path throughout the Lower 48 states, it’s just not the same. The magic of the total eclipse will occur only within the narrow path of totality. It’s a scene so dramatic that it moves some to tears. Others find it spiritual, altering their perspective on the universe. Many can’t even describe it. 

The scene is mind-boggling: day turns to night, stars and planets appear, the sun’s atmosphere shimmers and a 360-degree sunrise surrounds you.

Although a partial eclipse will happen outside this path throughout the Lower 48 states, it’s just not the same. The magic of the total eclipse will occur only within the narrow path of totality. It’s a scene so dramatic that it moves some to tears. Others find it spiritual, altering their perspective on the universe. Many can’t even describe it.

Considering what I’ve been through; indeed, what I continue to experience even now, when I often fail to take time to even smell the roses, taking a minute out to even experience some of what Cappucci evangelizes about is worthwhile.  If anything, I see this as a sign that there’s a reset, a sign of hope, a sign things might actually be improving.  At a time when we REALLY need that.  Not yet another unintelligible sound bite from the likes of MTG.

But I will consent that there is something supernatural about this.  The weather forecast for early April in upstate New York tomorrow afternoon is sunny and in the mid-60s.  Two days prior, it was rainy and in the 40s, and it will plummet to similar conditions by mid-week.  That’s the climate that I remember most common to springtime in that neck of the woods.

So if the sun can shine for even part of the day in that part of the world, then perhaps there’s light capable of shining on all of us?

Well, most.

Until next time…

 

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