Well, this was the big week of the eclipse. We weren’t in the path of totality (we got about 93% coverage), but it was fun nonetheless. Especially cool to see the shadows of the leaves turn crescent-shaped.
But what really struck me was, in the press coverage of the event, how many people said it was an emotional experience for them. “It reminded me that I’m part of something bigger,” was a common sentiment.
Oddly, that never occurred to me. I just enjoyed it because I’ve always enjoyed space and science things. Maybe because of that, I have plenty of experience at being “awed.” I know I’m an insignificant speck in the universe and I don’t need an eclipse to point that out. But, apparently, plenty of people do.
It’s good to remember that we’re part of a larger machine, but these moments of wonder are available to you every day. You don’t have to wait for a once every generation event to understand and appreciate your unique place in the cosmos. Some ideas:
- Go out and look at the stars. Even if you live in an area with a lot of light pollution, the stars you can see will remind you just how much more is beyond us.
- Look at art. Take in the magnificence of the Sistine Chapel, or Michelangelo’s David (even if only in a book or video). Or look closer to home at some of the classics in your own art museum. Art that lasts through the ages serves to remind us that many have come before, many will come after, and some things endure the test of time.
- Read the classics. They’ll do pretty much the same for you as art.
- Listen to music. Ditto. Great composers and songs can awe you completely with their genius that endures even today.
- Look at ruins. The Pyramids, Stonehenge, and other mysteries will remind you that there are things we still haven’t figured out and that, yes, the world is still full of mystery. Even places like the Colosseum and the Greek temples, which we understand, serve as monuments to enduring human achievement.
- Religion/Philosophy. For some, religion is the ultimate “bigger than me,” moment. If you’re at all inclined in that direction, perhaps increasing your practice will give you those moments. For others, perhaps the great philosophers can offer some insight.
- Get out in nature. Go for a hike in your local state park. Look at the trees that were here before you and might very well be here after. Look at the miracle of an entire ecosystem going on around you, operating efficiently without any input from us. If you need proof that life endures and operates on a scale we’ve only begun to understand, nature is there for you.
Finally, if you really want to feel tiny, listen to Carl Sagan talk about the Pale Blue Dot (which is Earth). The “Dot” was photographed by Voyager 1 as it left the solar system and turned to take one last picture of Earth. If this doesn’t make most of your day to day concerns seem ridiculous, then I can’t help you.
The Reading List
Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. This is the only book that the late Terry Pratchett had a hand in that I’ve never read. This is a sad day for me because once this is finished, I’ll have nothing of his to look forward to except to reread the old books. Sigh… It sucks when your heroes die. Anyway, I encourage you to go to Goodreads or Amazon and read the description of this book because it sounds so absolutely mad that I could never explain it.
All I know is there are angels and demons and someone misplaced the Antichrist.