It lifted my heart to see the wonder expressed by my fellow hominids over the Great American Eclipse on August 21, 2017. Of course, there were way too many panicky bipeds who threw up frantic warnings on YouTube of the Coming of the End, quoting scriptures and devising intricate numerological theories, all zinging with the negative energy of primordial anxiety as they hid in their modern day “caves,” warning the rest of us that this eclipse was a sign of the END. It was the same with our early ancestors at the dawn of time when they saw lightning or heard thunder and believed that their little tribe had ticked off some god or other. But even today, when a person is living in that kind of a bubble, he thinks everyone outside it is the enemy, is ignorant of the truth, or is trying to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes. He will not listen to anyone who tries to speak reason to him.
ZEUS IS ANGRY
It’s nothing new. Clay cuneiform tablets from 2300 and 1800 B.C. found in Mesopotamia document the trepidation of solar eclipses that the people of that time suffered.* The poet Archilochus (c. 680-645 BC), following the total solar eclipse over the Greek isle of Paros, wrote, “Nothing in the world can surprise me now. For Zeus, the Father of the Olympian, has turned midday into black night by shielding light from the blossoming Sun, and now dark terror hangs over mankind. Anything can happen.”
PAT ROBERTSON’S GOD IS ANGRY
CBN founder Pat Robertson is famous for teaming up with his late pal, Jerry Falwell Sr., to declare that the catastrophe of 9/11 was a direct result of America allowing homosexuals, feminists, and the ACLU to walk freely among us. Robertson, who has made his fortune pretending to hear directly from the Almighty, predicted the world would end in October or November of 1982, then September 2007, and then, when the Earth continued to spin, stated in 2015, “I think things are getting ready to wrap up…the earth is hurtling towards some final conclusion, we all feel that.” At 86 years old, Robertson himself is hurtling towards a final conclusion of his own; maybe that’s what he’s been feeling. Anyway, in 2016, he decided that an asteroid will destroy the Earth and the Sun’s light will be blotted out for three days. He didn’t say when.
Do you recall that scene from the original Ghost Busters film when Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson, and Harold Ramis tell the Mayor of New York that the end of the world might be near: “Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes and volcanoes…the dead rising from the grave!” Bill Murray’s character, who believed none of this nonsense, got caught up in the excitement anyway: “Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria!” It was a great scene.
Sadly, there are actually some people today, in the 21st Century, who do not believe that earthquakes are the unhappy result of shifting tectonic plates. These people hear of an earthquake in Papua New Guinea or a tsunami in Indonesia, and they say that the catastrophe occurred due to their god’s righteous anger against the people who live in those lands and who embrace “false religions.” Nice god you have there. I think I’ll pass on you telling me more about him.
You see, in 2017, we know that the number of Buddhists, Hindus, Catholics, Atheists, Protestants, or Confucians in a culture have no bearing on the number or intensity of tsunamis, earthquakes, or tornados which ravage their communities. No bearing at all. Also, the number of feminists in our world do not predict hurricanes, typhoons, or the outbreak of malaria, and we’re pretty sure that feminists had nothing to do with the attack on the Twin Towers in New York City in 2001–my apologies to Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell for contradicting their diety on that one. Principles of geology and cosmology are not informed by our opinions, prejudices, or religious beliefs.
WHERE DO WE HOMO SAPIENS FIT IN
The Virgo Supercluster, just ONE OF 10 MILLION SUPERCLUSTERS in our observable universe, houses a mass concentration of galaxies. One of those galaxies is the Milky Way Galaxy. But there are a “few” more: so far, our astronomers have counted 47,000 galaxies in the Virgo Supercluster alone.
The Milky Way Galaxy is where the Earth’s solar system is located. We Earthlings live on a planet located on one of the four spiral arms of the Milky Way. The Milky Way Galaxy contains at least 200 billion stars, and NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope has confirmed that there are 3300 exoplanets orbiting stars other than our own Sun. Thousands more are awaiting confirmation.
This is an amazing Universe. There are people who believe God created it for our enjoyment and delight, and they aren’t the ones stumbling along on city sidewalks, wild-eyed and wearing sandwich boards, warning of the coming of the end. Those are the ones you want to avoid.
Then there are people who do not believe in any god at all, and they’re jazzed by the natural world.
I’m happy to stick with enjoyment and delight, happy to be jazzed by it all.
Strickland, Ashley. “Why eclipses have inspired terror and awe.” CNN Health. Sunday, August 20, 2017.
Photo Credits: (Solar Eclipse NASA/Aubrey Gemignani); Ghostbusters, 1984; Hubble Space Telescope, Ultra Deep Field Project.