"I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder." — G.K. Chesterton
Monday there will be a total solar eclipse of the
heart sun. (Get that terrible song out of your head.) This means the moon will completely cover the sun, revealing the sun's atmosphere. It's supposed to be visible across most of the United States, although NASA has warned the public not to look directly into the sun. The last one happened nearly 100 years ago and the next one will not be visible until April 2024.
To put it in perspective, by then, it will have been 23 years since the U.S. declared war on the Islamic state, 20 years since the tsunami in the Indian Ocean that killed roughly 250,000 people -- and my oldest child will nearly be off to college. In other words: Now is the time to shut your computer, go outside, and marvel.
Of course, on the one hand, this hasn't happened in a long time. On the other hand, it's just a total solar eclipse right? Not so. There are more implications to this than just a chance to see something you've only read about in a textbook.
Being the annoying parent I am, I will drag my four kids outside (all under age 10), stick those dorky glasses on their faces, and show them the marvel that is this glorious universe. I plan on milking this experience for my children and will encourage them to learn about their world and think deeply about the existential and spiritual issues the eclipse demonstrates. I will ask my younger children what they see and how it makes them feel, and I will prod my older children about the prevailing notion that the sun, moon, and stars are the product of a big bang that happened long ago.
I hope even a total solar eclipse challenges all kinds of theories about origins: Look at your iPhone -- could that have formed by accident? Furthermore, look at something 1,000 times more miraculous (a total solar eclipse) and tell me how this happens without a designer? As President Abraham Lincoln famously said, "I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon the earth and be an atheist, but I cannot conceive how a man could look up into the heavens and say there is no God."
In addition, a total solar eclipse should bring another kind of perspective. It's easy during times like this -- in the wake of events such as the Charlottesville, Va., riots, or a tumultuous, confusing presidency -- to feel like social challenges are insurmountable or political upheaval is imminent. It's hard not to get caught up in the drama of things that matter, like federal court appointments, and Russia's role in our country, or even things that don't matter as much, such as what someone said about you on the Internet. Humans like to feel in control, especially because so much seems to be spinning out of control.
But then something with the marvel and awe of a total solar eclipse happens. And the sheer awe and wonder and sight of the thing should make every person with big dreams or small, detailed plans or none, realize there is something greater at work in this physical world, something beyond our control, and that's okay. Even the New York Times looks at the event similarly: "This weekend is a good opportunity to hold your family members close and maybe make some special snacks to prep for something that's bigger than all of us and out of our control: the solar eclipse on Aug. 21."
Christians believe "the heavens declare the glory of God; the sky above proclaims His handiwork" (Psalm 19:1). What else, if not a total solar eclipse, epitomizes this? But we're human too. We get upset, confused, angry, and sad when a loved one dies, our children get sick, or a city attempts to burn itself to the ground because of various political factions (or just plain hate).
No government will solve some of these issues, though it should try. No group of people, however altruistic, can make another love selflessly.
But maybe in America, once in awhile, it's okay to put down our iPhones and our big plans, to put aside elections and riots, and realize there is something else, something bigger, at work. Sometimes I think we're all so busy making plans that we haven't realized they don't always go according to plan. Or maybe we're all caught up in trying to control our social media image, or our children's lives, or the way our boss treats us, that we forget to stop and marvel at the wonders in front of our faces.
As G.K. Chesterton said, "We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders." Even a total solar eclipse of the sun.
Nicole Russell is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. She is a journalist in Washington, D.C., who previously worked in Republican politics in Minnesota. She was the 2010 recipient of the American Spectator's Young Journalist Award.
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