Monday, August 21, 2017
The Earth hurtles through space circling the Sun which also hurtles through space. Whizzing around the Earth is the Moon and everything is flying so damn fast you can only see it if you're racing right along with some of it. Stand still and everything's probably a blur. Luckily, in the scheme of the Universe there may be no such thing as standing still. It may be impossible.
Every rare once in awhile, if you are the Earth, or moving at just its speed and trajectory while nearby (easiest by standing on it), the Moon, swirling around you, will soar across that Sun that you are yourself hurtling around. And though the Moon is tiny compared to the Sun, it will, for a brief moment, block it.
Today is one of those days.
The Moon is way smaller than the Sun. How can it possibly block it all? The same way if you hold your thumb up in front of your face you can block out a distant skyscraper, though your thumb is closer in size to that skyscraper than the Moon is to the Sun. The same way a moth, flying at night, can briefly blot out a star, bigger than the Sun in the same proportion the Sun is to the Moon.
I like to think of all of us as our own planets, mingling and circling each other on the Earth. Separate bodies, standing on Earth, sitting on Earth, circling the Sun. And every 24 hours or so the Earth, from our vantage points, eclipses the Sun. Every night is an eclipse to us. It goes for about 12 hours. During these roughly 12 hours of occlusion, called "night", it is safe to look directly at the sun. Stare at the ground.
There is always something in front of something else. Screen in front of shelf with books, in front of wall, in front of tree, in front of cloud in front of sky. Look at you, reading this. I have hidden the whole world behind it.
Today is the solar eclipse. But as far as eclipses go, all around you, everywhere, is full of eclipse. A million things in eclipse. There is always something in front of something else. We are mostly in shadows. And when the eclipse is full, which, right now, in some way or another, it is for everything you have ever known or ever been, it is safe to look. So go ahead and open your eyes.