UP FOR DISCUSSION … Did you happen to notice that there was an amazing solar eclipse visible across much of North America this past week? Did it bring you awe, wonder, sadness, or perhaps even loneliness as you saw the amazing photos and watched news stories of the event?

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Being from the Midwest, this week’s solar eclipse was not only a news event for me, but one experienced by many of my family members and friends who recounted the experience of seeing it firsthand.  Even if you don’t have loved ones in the many states where the eclipse was most visible, you could not have missed some of the news coverage and the amazing pictures captured during the event.  This picture, credited to Shannon Michelle, has to be my favorite!

While our last eclipse in the United States does not seem that long ago, this one was big because of the millions of people living in the “path of totality” and the promise that another total eclipse would not be visible in the US until 2044.  Major cities within the path planned special viewing events and those not already living there traveled to this swath of America in hopes of seeing the sun’s corona … its outer atmosphere and only visible to us in a total eclipse situation.  Actual viewing of the full eclipse varied depending on where you were but lasted anywhere from one minute to 4 minutes and 27 seconds, and with special glasses you too could view it in all its splendor!  “The sun’s corona …  hanging in a darkened sky … a total eclipse of the sun.”

Here in Florida the only visible difference if not looking directly at the sky was this eerie quality the sunlight of the day took on … an orangish and dusty hue that came and then went with little fanfare.  I did not have a pair of the ISO-certified-safe glasses known as “SUNoculars”, and for me the two hours or so of our partial viewing here was mostly spent indoors at a meeting.  But for millions of others, it was a mass travel event to witness the phenomenon.  Pictures captured were posted on social media, traffic jams were documented with accompanying maps of the areas to avoid, news channels had cameras capturing the event in the lower screen corner of their broadcasts.  Many people across the country joined together to witness and celebrate this amazing show of nature in all its wonderful glory.  And as I watched some of the coverage taking place from Indianapolis, Indiana later that evening I realized that given different circumstances we would likely have been there – or perhaps in Cincinnati, or maybe St. Louis sharing this event with family.  It saddened me to think about it as a missed opportunity.

A very loose translation of a quote attributed to Albert Einstein was made popular at the time of the 2017 eclipse: “We are part of the whole which we call the Universe, but it is an optical delusion of our mind that we are separate.”  Einstein was often in awe of the laws of nature and was pretty clear on how he felt about the intersection of faith and science.  His observations certainly suggested we have much more in common with each other than we often realize, and at least last Monday our commonality across this country was to share in an event that was not of our own making.  It was truly something that brought strangers together in a similar quest to participate in something universally separate from our lives as we know them.

And the good news is, there are guide books giving us their predictions about how we can continue to do so for the next twenty years!  These Field Guides come with two sets of glasses, the start and stop times to watch solar eclipses in near and far-off places for many years to come and even provide vacation alternatives where we can travel to get the best viewing.  A new advocation … eclipse chasing!

In one of the news stories I watched, the background music playing was the 1983 hit by Bonnie Tyler entitled A Total Eclipse of the Heart.  I was fascinated that the lyrics came right back to me, and I felt a heaviness as these words came through: ‘your love is like a shadow on me all of the time … once upon a time there was light in my life, but now there is only love in the dark …”.  No doubt those lyrics meant something entirely different to me over forty years ago, but I was still moved by the idea that something as awesome and wonderful as a solar eclipse can also elicit sadness and loneliness along with all its splendor.  We are all children of the same amazing Universe!




UP FOR DISCUSSION:  Did you witness the solar eclipse this week?  Was it special?  How?  Please, share your comments below.

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