Nature has a profound way of putting humanity into its proper perspective. One of the most impressive tools in nature’s vast toolkit has to be the solar eclipse. The eclipse of our star has the profound effect, if only temporarily, of deflating our sense of self-importance and our grandiose illusions of our place in the universe. The effect is awe-inspiring, sobering, exhilarating and humbling…..all at the same time. For those fleeting few minutes we are presented with profound evidence that, within the grand scheme of nature, humans are transitory and insignificant.
Sky-watching is always fascinating. If you are fortunate enough to reside in a location that is not completely overrun with light pollution the night sky never ceases to amaze. However, amazing as that view can be, it is flat. A two-dimensional view that limits our puny perspective. A solar eclipse provides us with a stunning visual reminder of our place within a complex three-dimensional space. That view is only presented to us a few times during our lifetimes and most of us would be able to count on a few fingers our witnessing of a significant eclipse. That is too bad. We humans could certainly use more frequent reminders that the wondrous workings of nature have no reliance on us.
Our Ancient Ancestors and an Eclipse
It is little wonder that our remote ancestors worshiped and feared the sun. An eclipse must have been a singularly terrifying event. The giver of life temporarily blocked out with no guarantee of return. A sudden plunge into darkness that must have been seen as punitive in its intent. What relief must have been expressed once the sun started to reappear from behind the vengeful dark blot that had obliterated it!
Those ancient peoples possessed many things that we have lost. One of those possessions was perspective. Unlike us, they fully understood their relative insignificance within the grand scheme. They did not need periodic reminders. They took nothing for granted. And, in spite of their limited knowledge and understanding they respected and revered the natural world in a much more honest way than most of us do today.
We in the United States are fortunate that we only have to wait 7 years for the next solar eclipse. That will occur on April 8, 2024. A gap of only 7 years between eclipses is rare. During that 7 year interval we will all quickly revert back to our normal misplaced view of our place within the cosmos. We will return to our view of the human race as the master shapers of nature and destiny. Then, for a few awesome moments on April 8, 2024 we will be temporarily jolted back to reality.
And so the cycle repeats…..