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The Approaching Solar Eclipse – The Drumbeats Begin

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Before I write what I sat down to write, honor is due.  The original Godzilla actor has passed away.  Godzilla is the King of Monsters and Haruo Nakajima was the king of all things nerdily trivial.  In an age of CGI, the charm of a rubber (and concrete) suit Godzilla movie stands out.  As a youth it seemed so cheesy in comparison to the “sophistication” of Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion animation, but now that banks of computers can visualize any monster the mind can imagine these films are a tribute to human ingenuity.  I raise my glass to the man that defined a genre!  He will be missed….

Now, on to the thing at hand…

Last night in Europe there was a lunar eclipse, and it seems to have served as a “kick-off” for what is sure to be massive press coverage of the approaching total solar eclipse due to cross the lower 48 just a couple of weeks hence.  Astronomy aficionados have been following the news and planning for years now.  As this article testifies there have been people preparing and wondering about this relatively common astronomical event with serious intensity.  While as relatively common as a solar eclipse is, this particular event is highly uncommon in its accessibility.  Most of the time they happen in the middle of nowhere or the ocean, but this time it is marching across the United States like a ticker tape parade.

Because of this accessibility, this is a world wide event.  My own interest began to intensify at the beginning of this year – a full 8 months before the event itself – and I quickly discovered that lodging within the zone of totality was already long booked up and foreign visitors comprised a good deal of the bookings.  Undeterred I will be travelling to Denver, CO, just a few hours drive south of the totality path and joining a group on a bus onto rented land in Wyoming to view the event.  The last couple of weeks have seen me practicing solar photographic techniques and learning capabilities I had no idea my DSLR camera actually contained.  But until this week press coverage of the event was limited to specialty outlets.

In normal times, as the press coverage has now begun to emerge in the MSM, one would expect an event of this sort to overwhelm all media – bigger than Howard Stern, Rush Limbaugh, Oprah and professional wrestling combined.  This expectation would only intensify in a month when Washington DC is shut down.  But in the age of president-bashing which we currently inhabit, I have to wonder.  But even if the event does not supplant Donald Trump as the leading headline draw in the news, it’s going to be huge.  And social media will be full and full again of information, disinformation, cynicism and golly-geeness.  I find it fascinating that in our sophisticated scientific age this event will draw more reaction than it did in days of yore when it was thought to be a portent of the end of life as we know it.

Equally fascinating is what that reaction will consist of.  I think three broad categories – 1) “Too Cool For The Room;” 2) “That’s nice dear, but I have more important things to tend to;” 3) “I can geek out on this more than you.”  These categories say far more about us than they do the event itself, which is why the reactions are so interesting.  Response 1) is the modern day equivalent of the “end of life” reaction.  These will people that do not understand the event on any significant level save for the fact that it is a “natural occurrence” and will cover their ignorance with faux-sophistication.  I’ll admit, the math of eclipses is difficult, but a basic understanding of the event can be gained with some simple balls, rods and a flashlight if people were but willing.  Response 2) is people who are just self-absorbed and genuinely disinterested.  Response 3) is people who are equally self-absorbed, but interested and therefore turning an observation into a competition to bolster their view of themselves.  All three reaction categories describe people that are trying desperately to make themselves more important than an event literally of astronomical proportions.

But consider this, sizes of the sun and the moon and their positions relative to each other and the earth are such that the moon is capable of blocking out the sun with circumferential precision.  That means the moon blocks out the sun itself, but not its corona.  Honestly, if that is not a miracle, I don’t know what is.  I lack the language skill to describe the balance of mass, diameter and gravity without resorting to mathematics, but the event is so finely tuned that it defies mere coincidence, even in an infinite universe.  It is only our self-absorption that prevents us from seeing the event for what it really is – a revelation of a designer.

I am not a big fan of traditional apologetics, that is to say arguing for God from observational evidence and logic, becasue of the aforementioned self-absorption.  No matter how sophisticated the argument, no matter how carefully honed the reasoning, no matter how high the evidence pile, people will still disagree simply becasue they do not want to admit to something bigger and more important than themselves.  It is tempting to try and write at length about the wonders of this approaching event to convince all that read of the nature and wonder of God, but I think it would be in vain.

Rather, as the drumbeat concerning the eclipse approaches I am going to pray simply that people’s eyes can be opened to the wonder of the event – that they can step out of their circumstance and their own mind enough to appreciate the event for what it really is — revelation.

Hughniverse

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