Take a moment and look up

Published 9:29 pm Tuesday, August 22, 2017

For a couple of hours on Monday, nearly everyone across the United States was looking at the same thing. A solar eclipse, which presented all of the nation with at least some level of wonder, while giving a strip from Oregon to South Carolina the special treat of total darkness in the middle of the afternoon, put Americans of every stripe on exactly the same page.

Republicans and Democrats, alike, were donning their solar viewing glasses to see the moon cross in front of the sun. Wealthy Americans and poor ones were making pinhole projectors. Christians and atheists were struck with a sense of wonder over the rare natural event.

For a little while, at least, it didn’t matter whether we agreed about Confederate monuments, the health care system, immigration or the national debt. What mattered to us was the shared experience of feeling awed by the clockwork movements of our celestial neighbors.

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Christians could be awestruck by the God who set all things into motion, who reigns even over the physical laws of nature. Atheists could be awestruck by the literally astronomical chances of such an event being possible.

For a few hours on Monday, we were one nation, undivided in our attention to the sky and the wonder that appeared before us.

One wonders why it might take an eclipse to draw our attention to the heavens. Starry nights are not uncommon in much of the nation, and Suffolk is blessed with plenty of places where light pollution is minimal.

But looking up requires that we stop looking at Facebook or Snapchat on our cellphones for a few minutes. Looking up requires us to take a break from the great national pastime of looking within and, perhaps, give a few moments’ thought to greater questions than those that occupy so much of our time.

Take a moment and look up. That might be the biggest lesson of the Great American Eclipse.