Saturday, August 19, 2017
.On Monday, August 21, after classes, we are inviting our students (who started school three weeks ago) to attend our school “eclipse party,” where we will share the experience of a 74% eclipse of the sun. Protective sun-watching eyeglasses will be provided, along with snacks.
I love reading about the excitement of people all across the country, of fully-booked hotels along the path of “totality,” of celebrations like ours, and so forth.
I can understand the excitement of the scientists who hope to gather an unprecedented amount of valuable information about the sun’s corona, and therefore about the nature of the sun and its effects on our ionosphere and countless other bits of new data. The have recruited thousands of citizens to help in gathering data through photographs and, interestingly, through recording the noises made -- or not made -- by birds in the wild during the eclipse. But for us non-scientists, where does the excitement come from? Here are just two of the many possible reasons.
First, I’ve heard that the most primitive part of the human brain, the “reptilian brain,” is extremely sensitive to the cycles of sunlight and darkness; when that part of the brain detects that the sunlight is suddenly disappearing, it sends out all sorts of warnings: things are not the way they’re supposed to be! Well, we share the reptilian brain with all other animals, including birds and alligators. So maybe part of the thrill of watching an eclipse comes from the part of our brain that we share with all the other vertebrates, uniting us all as “creatures of our God and King.” (See last week’s post about St. Francis’ Canticle of the Sun.)
And, secondly, there’s the sense of unity with the millions of people who are all seeing this wonder of nature at the same time that I am. I think that’s the more important one for me.
By happy coincidence, the Sunday readings assigned for August 20, the eve of the eclipse, concern the theme of “universalism.” The first reading from the end of Isaiah, presents a vision of the temple in Jerusalem becoming “a house of prayer for all peoples.” Every nation on earth will be joined with the Chosen People to praise and adore the one God. In the gospel passage, Jesus discovers that his mission is not only to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” when he grants the request of a pagan woman who begs a cure for her daughter. We can see the human side of Jesus slowly realizing that his mission of preaching the Kingdom extends beyond the bounds of Judaism to all the peoples of the earth.
By happy coincidence, the Sunday readings assigned for August 20, the eve of the eclipse,
So, on Monday afternoon, as I stand with my students and gaze at the eclipse through my special glasses, I’ll be very aware that I’m sharing the experience with all God’s creature (at least the ones with reptilian brains) as well as with millions and and millions of brothers and sisters.
During these days when people are mowing down crowds of innocent pedestrians with cars and trucks, or celebrating racial supremacy and division, we certainly need as many eclipses as possible, so that we can experience firsthand that, whether some people like it or not, we are all brothers and sisters of the on Father, the Creator of heaven and earth -- and of solar eclipses.