The total eclipse of 2017 is nearly here, where the moon comes between the earth and the sun, upending all we thought we understood about the universe and our place in it. Science can explain the mechanics in ways that we humans can mostly understand but the enormity of this shadow play taking place amongst the stars is somehow beyond our earthbound, mortal comprehension. Eclipses have been observed for thousands of years and the story of the sun mysteriously disappearing in the middle of the day is part of just about every ancient culture.
Eclipse myths often entail an animal devouring the sun such as the Viking sky wolves or the Vietnamese toad. These tales gave rise to the practice of banging drums or pans and shouting at the sky demons to chase them away and bring back the sun. “If you do a worldwide survey of eclipse lore, the theme that constantly appears, with few exceptions, is it’s always a disruption of the established order,” said E. C. Krupp, director of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California.
Ah, the disruption. Science assures us that the sun will in fact return but our hearts fear the never ending darkness and the uncertainty that everything we counted on to be true before night descended may not return. How like the place we as a people find ourselves: much that we hold dear is being disrupted – loss of human rights, the closing of our borders, the unjust killing of people with brown skin, and the loss of the only home we know to deadly climate change. Darkness is all around us. An eclipse takes place light years away and is moved by forces few of us can really explain yet here on earth, we experience the fear and the uncertainty deep in our mortal bodies.
In these dark days we Unitarian Universalists spend lots of energy banging the metaphorical pans – protesting, partnering and simply showing up on the side of love and justice. This is good and necessary work but it exacts a toll and our spirits need sustenance; our hearts need reassurance that the values we cherish will prevail. As we wait for the sun’s return, we must hold fast to our principles and to the practice of gathering in community.
Take time to breathe in the coming days, take time to enjoy the beauty that surrounds you and share that beauty with others. Be open and curious about new ways of engaging with difference and be gentle with your own imperfections. Sing, dance and let yourself feel the goodness that exists in our world. Practice resilience against the darkness, even when it seems impossible. Hold space for one another to be vulnerable about that which we fear.
May the strength that is present in our communities of faith guide us through this dark and difficult time. The universe moves slowly but inexorably towards justice and the sun will return, just as it always has.
CER Congregational Life Staff