The solar eclipse of August 21, 2017, is a rarity. It’s exciting. If not exciting, it should at least be intriguing.
At least for a knowledge seeker like myself, I’m curious about the ways of the universe. I know very little about astronomy, physics, cosmology and string theory, but the whole idea of space—the hows and the wheres of it all. So much of it is beyond my comprehension.
There is so much going on out there, in which the earth is included: things spinning, things soaring, things pulling, things pushing, some things colliding, and some remote things left alone.
What we know about space—and even our own solar system—is still being discovered, and I believe that we will continue to learn about the universe (and those beyond ours) until human beings evolve into something different or simply die out completely.
As our universe expands, most planets, rocks and moons are where they are, on their axis and in their revolutions around stars. Sometimes a path of one planet or moon can block the light of its star from another moon or planet. Such will happen in our own solar system, when the sun’s light will be completely blocked out from earth’s moon. The earth, for a period of time—as does happen occasionally with other stars, planets and moons—will become dark.
The reason why the earth will become dark might be trivial now to us modern folks, but many religions had views, superstitions and fears about such events. Any time something out of the ordinary would happen, speculation about the gods occurred. Some believed doom was right around the corner.
The crucifixion of Jesus story in the Christian Bible says that the sun blacked out for a short period of time, an event that happens more than once in the canonized library of texts, and promises that it will happen in the future, in order to mark important events in the spiritual realm.
In 1628 and 1630, Pope Urban VIII had magical hexes performed to counter the eclipse. He felt it doomed his papacy. In 1652, Scotland and Ireland foresaw the eclipse that year as a sign of their god’s coming wrath. In 1715, London declared their rare eclipse to be sign that a day of doom was on the horizon.
Religious people have always thought of these varying eclipses as powerful manifestations of their deity or deities. Some even saw the sun and the moon themselves each as a god respectively and felt that these were nonverbal ways of communication between the gods and human beings.
Nevertheless, even as we have become generally more scientifically literate in these modern times, there still yet seems to be impending anxiety about eclipses. Religious people—even in America—are heralding the voice of doom. Or, at the very least, they’re exclaiming the awesomeness of their god and his or its abilities, or that it’s a perfect time to cast a spell.
You may hear from these people warnings of fiery places within the earth that bad people’s ghosts go when they die. You may hear some promising pardon for wrongdoings if you give them a financial gift. You may hear some declare that in a certain amount of time, people will ride out of space on horses and land on the earth to battle for or against you because of your religion.
There is nothing quite special about an eclipse. Every month, the earth blocks the sun from shining on the moon. The moon blocks the sun from shining somewhere on the earth every 18 months. This is a common event and isn’t a unique occurrence.
August 21, 2017 will bring only what any other day would bring, and may we all make use of it—not in fear—but in peace, kindness, productiveness, and awe. Awe not in an eclipse, but awe in that of this huge universe and the lengthy time it’s existed, you and I have the opportunity to breathe, think and reason.
Whatever your views are about the heavens and beyond, just know that what we will experience here in parts of the United States of America watching the eclipse will be profound.