Looking Skyward with the Ancients | JIM FURLONG

The total eclipse of the sun disappointed nobody. I watched it all mostly on television as it swept across North America. It was wonderful. People stood in awe across the continent. It was a moment that in many ways was surprising in that it was something that produced a reaction that was unexpected. It was deep emotion. Hard-nosed broadcasters felt it as did everyone who experienced it including myself. On several occasions broadcasters were lost for words and, at times, moved to tears. I hadn’t expected that. I felt it and I was far from a place of “totality.”

I was outdoors, though, and it was quiet, and it just seemed somehow to be “different” from our everyday world. There was real feeling to it, and it took a long time to understand. It might have to do with connection to something ancient. It was not a religious matter but rather a spiritual thing. It is not hard to come to some understanding of belonging to something much larger than our own lives. Watching the land grow dark is quite an eerie thing. One can only guess the impact of that phenomenon on those who have gone many thousands of years before us. Maybe it was even millions of years. At some point we humans emerged from caves and started looking to the sky. We still look there.

That deep connection with something like a total eclipse is easy to understand but is not easy to express. We look back at places like Stonehenge and others like it and we can only imagine the effect on people in those ancient times that lifted their eyes upwards and were seeking understanding of something greater than themselves. It is what we do. We try to understand and make sense of it, but we are not terribly good at that. As it turned out there was non-verbal knowledge in it all. Intuitive might be a better word. We know something without expressing it. I say that because the issue of emotion is something that was quite real at the eclipse. It wasn’t just me.

In the days since I have looked at coverage from various television stations and the gut emotional reaction was real. It is a kind of intuitive knowledge that we humans seemed to grasp for a few brief minutes. We understood that there is much more to the universe that we ever imagined. An eclipse teaches us a lesson in humility. We get a glimpse of time and space. We see it and words aren’t necessary at all.

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