Photos provided by Orien Anderson
by Anna Ferraro
Q: What did the sun say to the moon on August 21?
I know, it’s cheesy. But so are strips of plastic selling for $11.95 the morning of the solar eclipse. I think the material cost was around 30 cents. Talk about profit margin! But that’s not the only thing that felt slightly messed up about that week. In the days following the solar eclipse, we, the people of the United States were very confused about something. It’s an issue of attribution. Fortunately, it’s not something that we confuse very often. On most days, when we find something to be superlative and excellent, we give credit to the creator of the excellence. After a meal that tantalized our taste buds, we give our “compliments to the chef.” When a child shows us a piece of original artwork, we gush, “That’s beautiful! Did you make that?” And upon the release of an iPhone 8, which is right around the corner, we will sing the praises of Steve Jobs’ Apple. From food to art to technology, we know – the one who made the product or the experience deserves the credit. But when it comes to science, we miss the point.
On Monday, August 21, as millions of individuals across the nation stopped their work to catch glimpses of the moon “photobombing” the sun, a strange phenomenon occurred. We gave credit to ourselves. And it sounded pathetic. Here are some things that I heard: “Isn’t it cool that we can get glasses to protect our eyes from the dangerous sunlight?” (From a child); “NASA is crazy – live streaming an event like this … good stuff they’re coming out with these days.” (From an adult); and “These are incredible times we are living in, that we can so accurately predict the patterns of the planets.” (From a radio announcer)
Really? That’s like saying, “Such wonderful meal, I’m so pleased with myself to decide to be the recipient of it.” Or, to an artistic child, “Aren’t you fortunate that I decided to look at your artwork?” Or worse, to Steve Jobs, “You’re just glad I decided to buy your iPhone” (as if you would choose anything else). How egotistical and self-centered can we be? The fact is, humanity knows – when something is created, the creator gets the credit. Simple. And then comes science. We think we’re so big live streaming eclipses on our cute little planet. But in fact, science knows that more than 1 million earths could fit into the blazing sphere known as the sun. Okay, that’s a big deal. If the sun shifted away from it’s position in space to move away from earth, we would instantly freeze. If the sun decided to shift nearer to our little planet, we would burst into an incredible, instantaneous inferno. Big stuff, guys. Somehow, the planets don’t ever shift out of line. We’re not freezing, and we’re not burning up. We’re just running around buying glasses to watch the unbelievable sight of darkness at high noon, as one planet photobombs another.
“Isn’t it cool that we can predict this stuff?” Suddenly, our predictions just don’t have the same ring to them. As the nation sorted out the traffic jams and disposed of their “eclipse glasses,” I rubbed my head and wondered, “Shouldn’t the Creator of the planets receive the credit for this phenomenon … and what does He think about our response to all of this?”
As the prophet Isaiah queried in a millennium past, I ask, “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?” The fact is no human can make such a claim. We wax eloquent when we speak of the rolling ocean; we don’t hold it in the palm of our hands. We stand in awe of mountains; we don’t weigh them on scales.
Isaiah continues with his questions, “[So] who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord, or instruct the Lord as his counselor? Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him, and who taught Him the right way? Who was it that taught Him knowledge, or showed Him the path of understanding? Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; He weighs the islands as though they were fine dust … Before Him all the nations are as nothing.” Isaiah continues, and my smallness is equivalent to my eclipse glasses. “Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded? [God] sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.” (Isaiah 40 – emphasis added).
Scientists may debate the origin of species until the end of time, but this one thing I believe, the universe exists only through the creation and control by the Hand of a God Who is bigger than all of it. And because of that, I believe that He Who created the planets, and holds them in place, and causes them to rotate on their axis, and ordains times and seasons, and cycles and rhythms, and orchestrates the most spectacular photobombing effect of the millennium, He deserves the credit for a solar eclipse. Not NASA. Not the live stream. Not the glasses – and certainly, not us.
If the Psalmist were alive on August 21, he could have enlightened us all with his words from Psalm 19 – “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth.”
So we thank you NASA, for telling us when and how to look up at the sky. Thank you, radio announcers, for debriefing us after the phenomena. But ultimately, we thank you, God, for making the sun and moon and earth, and holding it all in place … and most of all, for granting us a glimpse of Your glory and Your deep love for us in the beauty of the heavens.